Sunday, March 28, 2010

My route

It might seem silly to write about something like my personal bicycle commuting route, but I don't see it as my personal property. It is a representative commuter route, and various useful lessons can be gleaned from it. Recently, I used Google Maps to check the distance of my commute, and discovered that this application now included "bicycling" as an option for directions, and I did not need to make many alterations. I typed in my location and destination and Google cranked out my bike route! This was not the case in the past, and suggests good things for the future of bike commuting. It also validates the thinking behind the formation of my route--not that I especially needed it, but you might.

The first thing I was looking for was a direct route--this is commuting, not sight-seeing. Much emphasis is placed on the scenic route for biking, but in many ways this is not the commuter's priority. The second and equally important feature I was looking for was a low traffic, back street route. Obviously, traffic doesn't affect cyclists in same way as motorists, so why is it important? The answer is simple, it affects motorists and motorists affect you, the biker. This is a discussion that deserves considerable space of its own at a later time. Just take my word for it. Time and safety, these are the greatest considerations. This does not mean aesthetics are insignificant, just not the most important concern.

This is important because the alternate route suggested to me by Google and also by a Brooklyn cyclist was not much longer distance-wise, but it was longer travel-wise. The difference as stated before, was traffic and also terrain. The streets were busier. There were many major intersections, so I had to stop and start much more often. The path I am accustomed to often allows me to ride as much as a mile and a half before I must stop. Some of this is down-hill, which speeds my way to work even as it slows my way home.

Bottomline is consult with a road atlas, not GPS, and practice finding the right path. Time is affected by intensity of traffic (busyness and speed) and flow. If the traffic generally moving your way, its all good. Lots of traffic lights are going to slow you down, even if you're not one to stop unecessarily for red lights. The lights are there for a reason. Safety is a complex matter, but also pretty simple--stay out of the way! Any main road you're going to use for any significant distance has to have space to accommodate you. There needn't be a bike lane or path, but just a little extra room on the right. More about safety later.


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