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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
...if a road is "safe" to ride? Since I received my new bike on Wednesday of last week, I've put two twenty-five mile and a fifteen mile ride in with a friend who lives across town. This involved me throwing the bike on the car, driving ten minutes across town, and heading out from there. Last night I printed out a map for the area I live in and plotted out a few routes on the country roads just minutes from my doorstep. I drove these roads last night, and while they would be a great (hilly) and really beautiful ride, there were a lot of blind spots and sections of the roads were quite narrow (car-and-a-half).

How do you determine if a road is safe to ride? Do you ride anything and just hope for the best?

Thanks for helping out a newbie. I like this whole "riding on pavement" thing.
 

· Still On Steel
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The first thing to understand ...

... is that when you're mixing bicycles and motor vehicles, no road is entirely safe.

I say that without meaning to be a smart-ass, and I'm certainly not trying to scare you away from riding on the road. But you don't ever want to lose sight of the fact that when a cyclist and a motorist have any sort of collision, the cyclist is going to lose. Always. Guaranteed.

That said, I think it mostly comes down to each rider's personal comfort level. I know the kinds of roads of which you write, very well. Where I live there are miles and miles of lightly-trafficked county roads, full of sweeping bends and enough rolling hills to make for a really scenic and enjoyable ride. But they're all relatively narrow (two lanes, barely) and none of them have shoulders and what cars there are are all driven by local residents with plenty of local knowledge ... which means they're always driving faster than they ought to be. Luckily most of the blind sections are both short and rare, so I've never really had a truly close call; but I am keenly aware that the potential is there. When riding these sections I always try to keep all my senses on High Alert, and pedal through them as quickly as I can.

So, yeah, for the most part I do ride pretty much anywhere and hope for the best. There are, however, one or two roads that are just a little too crooked, a little too hilly, and have a little too much traffic for comfort. Those I either avoid altogether, or ride at the times of day when I know the traffic will be lightest.
 

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No road is completely "safe to ride." It's just numbers and statistics. Roads with fewer motor vehicles per hour traveling at slower speeds are safer than roads with more motor vehicles per hour traveling at high speeds.

In my experience, twisting narrow roads with lots of blind spots and one-lane bridges are one of the safer places to bike. Traffic count and speeds on these roads are usually very low, especially at certain times. (Around here, I have an entire 12-mile stretch of country road to myself after 7 pm - must be the start of a wildly popular TV show?). As for these roads being narrow, you can't use your automobile brain when judging that. Car-and-a-half is plenty of space for a bicycle to get by. Only thing that I need to watch for here: two cars stopped dead next to each other blocking the road, drivers exchanging gossip. :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses!

I'll contact the risk management agent at my insurance company and have him run a full evaluation. :D Seriously though, I suppose it is all a matter of exposure, and as long as that exposure is limited the risk is less. I think I'll drive the route a few more times at different times during the evening and note the least busy times. Thanks again!
 

· Squirrel Hunter
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Experience

abegetchell said:
...How do you determine if a road is safe to ride?
The best way is from experience. There are two ways to get this experience.

1) Trial and Error - just like when you were a kid deciding what was too hot to touch, from what height you could jump without breaking a bone... Could be kind of dangerous on the road with your bike and cars.

2) Learn from Others - hook up with a group of experienced riders and draw upon their knowledge of routes as well as hints for riding with cars. Local groups are often the best way to gain experience riding without the steep learning curve of doing it yourself. I am always amazed at some of the questions asked on these forums that could be answered quickly and accurately if you just turned and talked to the rider next to you.

Riding on the road can be safe, you just need to educate yourself on how to mix cars and bikes.
http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm
 

· Still On Steel
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After posting my initial reply, the second point that KUWJ made ... seeking out other riders in your area ... occured to me in a slightly different form. At least around here, most roadies tend to ride on the same roads; everyone seems to know which ones are best/safest, and which ones to avoid. I think the motorists who regularly travel those roads have learned to expect us to be there, because they see us all the time, and that makes for safer riding. So by asking around and finding out where other cyclists typically ride, you can become one of those riders that motorists are already used to seeing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Allez Rouge said:
After posting my initial reply, the second point that KUWJ made ... seeking out other riders in your area ... occured to me in a slightly different form. At least around here, most roadies tend to ride on the same roads; everyone seems to know which ones are best/safest, and which ones to avoid. I think the motorists who regularly travel those roads have learned to expect us to be there, because they see us all the time, and that makes for safer riding. So by asking around and finding out where other cyclists typically ride, you can become one of those riders that motorists are already used to seeing.
Good advice indeed. The riding I have done has been with a friend who rides three to four times a week, does some club rides, and knows the roads that cyclists take advantage of. It's obvious when we ride, as we always seem to get waves and plenty of room. I've looked up my local cycling club, and plan on attending a group ride, but don't feel I'm quite ready for that given my inexperience on a road bike. I thought about hitting a B/C club ride, but I'd like my fitness level (I'm wiped after a twenty-five mile ride) and skill to increase before I do one. My goal is to find a couple of loops right outside of my door rather than have to pack up the bike and drive across town to get a ride in; I already have to do that with my mountain bike. :)
 

· Still On Steel
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abegetchell said:
My goal is to find a couple of loops right outside of my door rather than have to pack up the bike and drive across town to get a ride in
I can relate; and this is where that personal comfort thing comes in (or might). I live on a very busy, two-lane, semi-rural highway. It's posted for 55, so of course everyone drives 65. And there are no shoulders. I've ridden on it for short distances, but it's not a road I like to be on any more than absolutely necessary. Fortunately I only have to go the equivalent of about one long city block to turn onto a county road that sees only light traffic. From there I can pedal for miles and not see more than 10-20 cars per hour. Or fewer, depending on the exact route and the time of day.

I used to load up my bike and drive 15 miles to the nearest on-ramp of the Natchez Trace Parkway, at which point I'd lock the car and do an out-and-back ride of however far I wanted to go that day. Now I clip in at home and ride TO the Natchez Trace Parkway. It took me a couple years to work up to this level of comfort, but now I don't think anything about it.

Point being, don't rush things, just work up to it gradually, and you'll get there.
 

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From there I can pedal for miles and not see more than 10-20 cars per hour. Or fewer, depending on the exact route and the time of day.
This brings to mind another good thing about very low-traffic roads, even if they're twisted and narrow: you can hear a car approach quite some time before it passes or meets you. IMHO, another safety plus.

As an aside, that early warning tire hum also allows you take a leak without having to find a hiding place. Plenty of time to pack up before someone sees you. :D
 
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