Updated July 2018
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.
Maps don't account for your personal preferences, of course, nor do they note factors such as construction detours; they should be considered more a starting point than the final word. 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. In Franklin County, we are also fortunate to have the Columbus Metro Bike Map, designed by MORPC with input from local cyclists. The map color codes roadways by their "Level of Comfort"—green, yellow or red—and identifies CoGo Bike Share stations, trail heads, COTA Park & Ride locations and more.
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! Each month, Yay Bikes! offers our educational How We Roll rides for FREE to members, and we encourage you to check them out.
ASK FELLOW CYCLISTS
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, join us on a Year of Yay! ride 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 feel more at ease having practiced it.
In Central Ohio there are a surprising number resources available to support you when it’s too __(hot, wet, tired....fill in the blank...)__ to ride all the way—like MORPC’s Park & Pedal locations, COTA’s Bike & Bus program or Zipcar’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. Many of these resources can do double duty to save your *ss in an emergency, as well!
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. We at Yay Bikes! are happy to help—it's kinda literally what we do—so join us and jump in!