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I want to try bicycle commuting. I live about 15 miles from work and there are no bike lanes and few quiet roads to commute on. Given the following options, which would you choose?


1. Four lane, undivided, no shoulders, curbs on both sides, 40 mph. medium traffic
2. Four land, divided, large shoulders, but with major cloverleafs, 55 mph, heavy traffic
 

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Bacco said:
I want to try bicycle commuting. I live about 15 miles from work and there are no bike lanes and few quiet roads to commute on. Given the following options, which would you choose?


1. Four lane, undivided, no shoulders, curbs on both sides, 40 mph. medium traffic
2. Four land, divided, large shoulders, but with major cloverleafs, 55 mph, heavy traffic

Unless you live in an area with obstacles such as rivers or impassible mountains, my guess is that you have more options than you have listed. My commuting route has evolved over the years as I have discovered back streets/roads and routes that one typically would not take in a car. But, I understand that sometimes that you have few options -- part of my commute parallels an old resevoir and stream that has very few alternatives other than the main road.

If I only had the two options that you have listed, I would try both and see what it is like. The deciding factor for me probably would be the condition of the shoulder. If the shoulder is well paved and does not have a lot of broken glass or debris on it, I probably would opt for the second option. But, it often has been my experience that shoulders that look just fine from a car window at 55 mph often suck when you are on a bike. I do not have the option of using a shoulder on my commute -- all of my commute is on roads or streets without a shoulder or bike lane. I have had very few flats while commuting. I do an annual ride to the beach with a group of guys and about 15 miles of the ride is on a shoulder such as the one you describe. However, there is a lot of broken glass and debris on the shoulder. Each year, at least one of us gets a flat on the part of the ride that goes over the shoulder. The only way to come up with a good commuting route is trial and error. Good luck.
 

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I live 8 to 14 miles from work depending on the way i go. If i want to go on main roads its like 12 miles of fast heavy traffic. If i go on side roads its less traffic and about 13 miles. If i go over the hill threw the woods its about 8 miles but with a vary hard climb. I mainly pick the hill climb due to the no traffic.
Last night i did a 14 mile way out of the way route with hills but it was low traffic and a nice night to ride.
 

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Yo no fui.
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+1 to what Mark S said. Don't be afraid to get out a map and spy and try new routes and shortcuts. Driving the routes when on errands isn't a bad idea either.

All things being equal, I'd go with your second option.
 

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Big is relative
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The route I use in the morning takes me past two shopping centers and a mall. At 5:30am they are deserted. At 4 pm, they are places that I would never ride so I have a different route with more climbing for the trip home. Like Mark said, check out the shoulders on the highway. They might be chip and seal pavement that will rattle your fillings out. Are your routes busy in the early hours of the morning? Is there a longer route with less traffic that you could ride home? Which road has more traffic? When I rode in Norfolk, VA the traffic was heavy and unfriendly. I used the heavy traffic to my advantage since it slowed everything down.
 

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Failboat Captian
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The 4 lane, 55 mph roads with clover leaves (sounds like Rt 28 in NoVA) are crazy scary to me. Yes, huge shoulders, but like Mark said, cover with crap, lots of heavy traffic, including trucks, and lots of impatient road-raged drivers. The only way a bike could survive that, would be MTB tires, and riding at the far right of the shoulder. The interchanges would be scary because drivers aren't looking for bikes and are moving so fast, it would hard to time the crossing.. I could ride that type of road to work and it would be an 8 mile commute. Instead, I ride an MUT to some 4 lane surface streets, no shoulder, 35 mph ,lots of traffic lights, and have 10.5 miles.

I'd go for the 40mph road with no shoulders
 

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Squirrel Hunter
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Explore

Think like a kid. Go out on the weekend and go exploring. The weekend will give you some time for trial and error without the concern of getting lost and being late for work. Remember though, the weekend traffic dynamics willl be different than commute times.

Look for shortcuts such as a hole in a fence seperating two neighborhoods. A short stretch on a sidewalk. I ride backwards on a one way street (that has not traffic) for a 1/4 mile just to avoid the four lane deathmobile section squeezed under a bridge. Moving your time up or back just 10 minutes can make a huge difference (works for the car too). While the parking lot in front of the grocery and strip mall may look like a nightmare the service drive behind can be a nice, quiet place to sneak around an auto mess.
 

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Sticky Valentine
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Keeping up with Junior said:
Think like a kid. Go out on the weekend and go exploring. The weekend will give you some time for trial and error without the concern of getting lost and being late for work. Remember though, the weekend traffic dynamics willl be different than commute times.

Look for shortcuts such as a hole in a fence seperating two neighborhoods. A short stretch on a sidewalk. I ride backwards on a one way street (that has not traffic) for a 1/4 mile just to avoid the four lane deathmobile section squeezed under a bridge. Moving your time up or back just 10 minutes can make a huge difference (works for the car too). While the parking lot in front of the grocery and strip mall may look like a nightmare the service drive behind can be a nice, quiet place to sneak around an auto mess.

Exactly. Good advice.

Take a weekend afternoon and cruise around the neighborhoods, alleyways, side streets, etc. and see what you find. You might be surprised at how many options you have that will be a longer route but where you'll feel more secure with less fast moving traffic.





joe
 

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No Crybabies
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tough call

Bacco said:
I want to try bicycle commuting. I live about 15 miles from work and there are no bike lanes and few quiet roads to commute on. Given the following options, which would you choose?


1. Four lane, undivided, no shoulders, curbs on both sides, 40 mph. medium traffic
2. Four land, divided, large shoulders, but with major cloverleafs, 55 mph, heavy traffic
As others have mentioned, I think you have to consider the precise conditions at the time you will be riding, the condition of the pavement, etc.

First, I'd definitely look at other options, even if for part of the route.

Second, whatever you do, with these options, being seen from the rear will be vitally important. Wear bright yellow or orange; put a flashing light on the back of your helmet; get a Dinotte tail light which can be seen 2 miles away.

I'd probably want to run really stout tires, like Armidillos, too, as it will be more important to stay well over, probably riding through lots of debris.

I have ridden along highways with cloverleafs, but with wide shoulders. The shoulders are a great comfort for that portion of the route. However the on ramps and off ramps can be pretty spooky. My strategy has been to leave the shoulder early, and just get into the through lane. That way, traffic from rear may be less likely to try to pass and swerve over in front of me. As for the incoming traffic, same thing. In short, act like a car.

Oh, you absolutely must have a mirror, so you can assess your risks and options as you go, with either option.

If the 4 lane with no shoulder route has little traffic, like early in the morning, I'd take that route, but probably take the lane most of the way. While doing that can aggravate drivers, if the other lane is mostly available, they'll just move over and pass. In very congested traffic, they tend to get upset, though.

There must be other routes, though. Take a look on Google Earth or with the image version of Google Maps to start with. You may be able to mostly figure this out sitting at your computer.
 

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Failboat Captian
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Keeping up with Junior said:
Think like a kid. Go out on the weekend and go exploring. The weekend will give you some time for trial and error without the concern of getting lost and being late for work. Remember though, the weekend traffic dynamics willl be different than commute times.

Look for shortcuts such as a hole in a fence seperating two neighborhoods. A short stretch on a sidewalk. I ride backwards on a one way street (that has not traffic) for a 1/4 mile just to avoid the four lane deathmobile section squeezed under a bridge. Moving your time up or back just 10 minutes can make a huge difference (works for the car too). While the parking lot in front of the grocery and strip mall may look like a nightmare the service drive behind can be a nice, quiet place to sneak around an auto mess.
Things like the satellite view on Google maps is a great way to start the search for a different route.
 

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Resident Curmudgeon
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13,390 Posts
Try going to www.mapmyride.com. Once you're there map a new ride. It's a very easy site to use although the maps it prints are poor. You can zoom in very closely so you can spot side streets & alternate routes.
 
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