Whether you’re headed to work or the grocery store, your goal is to plan a route that maximizes both safety and sanity. To that end, here are some strategies we suggest:
EVALUATE YOUR PREFERENCES
Assuming you had the knowledge and confidence to ride any street, which features would you prioritize? Some cyclists prefer the most direct path, while others are more sensitive to factors including traffic volume and speed, terrain, presence of bicycle infrastructure, levels of (or perceived levels of) neighborhood crime and more. Sometimes the same cyclist will prioritize different features on different days, depending on how they feel! So, not to leap straight from “planning a route” to “planning multiple routes in both directions”, BUT if you can find not one but several routes to/from your destination you’ll have options when it comes time to hop on the bike.
There are numerous options for mapping a route online and in the app store, but the best for transportation cycling remains trusty ‘ole Google Maps. Select the bike icon, type in your start/end points—remembering to route the reverse trip as well—and you will be given several good route possibilities. Keep in mind that these are good suggestions but likely not perfect suggestions! Google doesn’t account for your personal preferences, of course, nor does it note factors such as construction detours. Consider its results more a jumping off point than the final word.
INCREASE THE ROUTES ACCESSIBLE TO YOU
If all the routes available to you seem impossible, it may be time to expand your notion of an accessible road. Because when you know the rules and how to safely negotiate traffic by bike, many routes you thought impossible suddenly aren’t. You’ll be amazed at the roads you can ride comfortably when you know what you’re doing!
ASK FELLOW CYCLISTS
While mapping tools are a great starting point, nothing beats local cyclists’ personal recommendations. Cyclists have at their immediate recall all the thousands of miles they’ve ridden, including all the hazards and workarounds they’ve discovered. Also, they are typically keen on sharing (and sharing and sharing…;) their knowledge, so you’ll quickly be able to access all sorts of golden nuggets. Join the conversation on our Facebook page or, even better, ride with us to soak up our collective expertise!
It may make sense to drive a route before you bike it—especially if you’re making a relatively high stakes trip, like a work commute. But driving and bicycling couldn't be more different experiences, so don't be discouraged by how you imagine it will feel from within your car. Invite someone with experience riding similar roads to join you the first time, as it will be more fun and they'll likely have lots of good advice. If you plan to travel during times when the car volume will be high, practice your chosen route on a weekend, or perhaps mid-day. Even if you can’t mimic the precise conditions you’ll encounter on a your “real” ride, you’ll be better off having practiced it.
In Central Ohio there are a surprising number resources available to support you when it’s too __(hot, wet....fill in the blank...)__ to ride all the way—like MORPC’s new Park & Pedal locations, COTA’s Bike & Bus program or car2go’s car share program (perfect to pair with a folding bike!). It is likely possible for you to bike at least part of your way to a destination, no matter how far away or how challenging the traffic conditions. Keep ride services in mind as well—Uber is a great option for emergencies, and MORPC’s Guaranteed Ride Home program (free registration required) will cover cab fare from work if you’ve bike there and need to get home quickly.
You will not sacrifice any mythical hardcore cyclist street cred by choosing less trafficked streets or meandering bike paths, or EVEN by driving/ bussing part of the way and biking the rest. Explore potential routes casually by bike and choose the one(s) that make the most sense given your level of skill, comfort in traffic and daily logistics!
JOIN YAY BIKES!
Yay Bikes! has a number of resources available to support your ability for find routes that work for you. We offer:
- Year of Yay!—Our monthly urban adventure rides introduce you to new routes and fellow cyclists.
- Yay Valet!—Our special event bicycle parking is staffed by friendly, experienced cyclists who can answer your questions.
- How We Roll—Our 5-person on-road education course introduces the rules of the road and allows you to practice them in the safety of a group.
- Ride Buddy (link pending)—Our workplace commute encouragement program, piloted during summer 2015, provides intensive one-on-one support to people replacing car trips with bike trips.
- Facebook and newsletter—Our social media and regular communications offer access to a passionate community of local cyclists, as well as an abundance of "bike life" information.
We hope to hear from you soon! Or even better—to see you soon on a ride!