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Safe Routes

Old 09-04-19, 04:43 PM
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spinconn
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Safe Routes

I don't do touring so this is just a matter of curiosity for me, but how do you pick a route to tour that is safe with respect to traffic? Do you have some source other than paper or on line maps that gives you some advance idea on traffic density, road surface quality and shoulder width, or do you just pick where you want to go and just grit your way through it, whatever comes along?
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Old 09-04-19, 05:04 PM
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Nearly all state departments of transportation have traffic volume information online.
It is usually referred to as AADT - average annual daily traffic.
Some states now have interactive map apps.

Here's the state map for Kansas - with all state and US highways -
https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdo...untmap2018.pdf
Kansas is unusual in that it also has county road AADT numbers. Maybe 25% of states do this.

The map is color-coded for levels of traffic.
Traffic tends to be lighter in western Kansas with less population.

My general rule of thumb -
Less than 500 - Magical
500 - 999 - Comfortable
1000 - 1999 - Some caution
2000 - 3999 - Getting busy, shoulders nice
4000 or more - Busy, shoulders needed

I prefer empty roads without shoulders to busy roads with shoulders.
Also, even when busy roads have wide shoulders, these can disappear on bridges and overpasses.
Which makes for a pretty dicey situation.

Some states have shoulder information - but this is less trustworthy.
The Montana bicycling map is an example -
https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/docs/bike_map.pdf
Note the shoulder width colors and the indication of rumble strips.

If the rumble strips are in the middle of a moderate shoulder,
then the shoulder is larger useless - - BUT - -
drivers think you should be over on the shoulder.
So it is actually more dangerous than no shoulders.

You can use Google Streetview, too, to see if there are shoulders
and to ascertain whether rumble strips are nasty or not.
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Old 09-04-19, 05:05 PM
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Google Street view is terrific for reviewing potential routes.

Oregon has cycling routes. From Hillsboro (West of Portland) to the coast has three charming ways shown. Well in most places you have a nice wide shoulder, lots of room. Speeds still posted at 60 mph, so you have to use caution, but in areas, those routes are narrow bridges. Long bridges, no shoulder, so you have to mantain your lane and pedal as hard as possible to avoid backing up too much traffic.

It's interesting to look at Garmin routing and Strava Heatmaps.

Of course, Google Street View won't help if you are touring Germany (privacy laws don't allow such a thing) but was fun to look at cycling routes near Stuttgart to see what Google came up with (most off the main road, but locals know the back ways which Stava will show).
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Old 09-04-19, 05:07 PM
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I find the Google Maps Bicycle function more amazing every year I've used it.
Now you can pick a route and put your phone in Airplane mode and it still works.
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Old 09-04-19, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Nearly all state departments of transportation have traffic volume information online.
It is usually referred to as AADT - average annual daily traffic.
Some states now have interactive map apps.
Thank You!

Didn't know that AADT name, but tried "Texas AADT Map" and found it.

https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/d...ning/maps.html
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Old 09-04-19, 06:35 PM
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As others have said, use Google Maps. I use the basic view to get a general look at the streets from the sky, they zoom down to street level if I think there's anything 'odd', to see the shoulder width, road surface type, odd-looking intersections, trashy roads, bad neighborhoods, etc. Works quiet well to locate problem areas so you can choose an alternate route if possible. It doesn't work all the time, but it does help you locate the majority of the spots you want to avoid.
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Old 09-04-19, 07:51 PM
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I was thinking about the same question as the OP myself and after reading the thread, I found the comments helpful but hard to visualize how to do this systemically.

Perhaps what we need is a case study scenario to discuss, thus having a reference point to focus upon.

Here is the actual scenario for which I am currently trying to come up with a plan:

Start/end: Columbus OH to Madison IN.

Time: depart downtown Columbus at 4 am day 1, hope to arrive in Madison in time to shower and meet friends for dinner day 2

Caveats: this is about 200 miles give/take. This distance is easily in my wheelhouse, Id prefer a 120/80 or 110/90 mileage split rather than the inverse. I plan on packing light and overnighting in a cheap motel so the route needs to take that into account.

There is an abundance of great bike trails in the area and I prefer those to roads when available. The route should go through Dayton so I can meet a buddy for lunch and, importantly, should include a good day 1 hotel stopping point, proximity to good beer at said overnight stopping point is also worth taking into consideration 😋

When you enter the start/end points on Google Bike Maps, the route from Columbus to Dayton is obvious and, awesomely, almost entirely on rail trail paved paths. From there, Google bike routes suggests:

A) going south through Cincinnati (more bike trails) and basically following the Ohio River West or

B) go further west from Dayton then head south after Richmond, eventually following route 421 South.

My own research suggests an option C, basically avoiding most of the bigger towns and following a route that splits between the first two mentioned above and with the overnight in Oxford, OH.

Perhaps by discussing this specific scenario we can better describe safe route finding tips (and I can specifically benefit from your collective wisdom).

Last edited by Jeremiesmith77; 09-04-19 at 08:14 PM.
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Old 09-04-19, 08:22 PM
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Plus 1 to Jamawani's post except I like shoulders after 3000.

Another source to use are states' bicycle maps. A lot of states still use a pdf of their bicycle map which typically shows the color coded roads indicating the traffic counts and hopefully shoulders. A lot of AADT maps are going to GIS which requires you to click onto each road segment so it takes a LOT longer to determine a route over a large area.

Tailwinds, John
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Old 09-05-19, 03:01 AM
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Awesome tips in this thread. Thank you to all who have posted.

And good to know about Germany having privacy laws that even apply to google. Their country keeps sounding more appealing every time I learn something new about it.
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Old 09-05-19, 04:19 AM
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Wow, this is exceedingly helpful info. Thank you very much. I can use this to find new daily road rides. I may get interested in actual touring armed with this knowledge, after I actually get experience putting it to use.
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Old 09-05-19, 05:33 AM
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For actual touring , planning for a tour initially, using trip journals and the like, at least gives you an overview of how an area is. I personally don't see it as realistic to do Google street view everywhere, too much time, so actual tourers accounts help a lot.

But yes, there are times you just have to grit your teeth, use your mirrors wisely, and sometimes just take a minute and go off to the side of the road and let big bunches of cars trucks past, no big deal and with a good mirror and common sense, it works and not stressful.

Also, your mileage may vary. To one person it's all fine and to another they think it's the end of the world.
Being able to hold a line very well, and being confident in your bike handling skills are all crucial and helpful skills that go a long way to properly assessing danger and being ok with a given situation.
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Old 09-05-19, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Jeremiesmith77 View Post
Perhaps by discussing this specific scenario we can better describe safe route finding tips (and I can specifically benefit from your collective wisdom).
The first step I would do for your option C is to see what roads in the area are visible on Street View. You can look at the nature of the area(s) you pan to pass through. (E.g., rural farm land, housing developments, etc.) You can also check for shoulders and get at least some idea of what traffic might be like. Once you get a better idea of the route, I would then map it using something like Ride With GPS that creates an elevation profile. Your scenario suggests that you have already determined that there is lodging in Oxford. If that's not the case, I would search Google Maps for "motels near Oxford, OH." I would also check for food sources along the route.

My second tour across Pennsylvania started in Vienna, OH, because you can rent one way from Avis and drop off at the Youngstown, OH, airport. I wanted to ride the Allegheny River Trail south from Franklin, PA (had determined that there was camping along the trail just south of town), and then pick up PA Bike Route V. That left me with the need for a route from Vienna to Franklin. I used the above approach to develop a route. Worked quite well. Lots of rural, low-traffic riding. Not too hilly (but certainly not flat). Sufficient food and water sources along the way.

Last edited by indyfabz; 09-05-19 at 05:43 AM.
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Old 09-05-19, 06:37 AM
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Strava Heat Map
Strava colors in roads based on 2 years of uploaded ride GPS recordings. (700 million miles per year, just in the US!)
SW Ohio map click the bicycle icon, and click Labels to show street and town names.

Cities have way more activity, so they show bright white on a zoomed out view. As you zoom in, it rebalances the colors to match local popularity.
Some roads may be gravel or may be steep. And some are just the best way out of town, not necessarily the nicest road.

It's biggest help for me is to route around roads that cyclists avoid. If some roads nearby have lots of activity, and the one road is dim, then cyclists are avoiding it.

Route Builder

(You need a free strava login to use this.)
Strava Route Builder uses the heat map data to choose a route. It will go out of the way to pick the most popular roads. I use it with the heat map colors turned on in the sidebar settings, and often drag the suggested route to different good roads.

It is way better than Google Maps bicycling option, which just picks the most direct route, often on quite busy main roads. (perhaps they've improved it in the last year or so, but when I tested it, it was pretty bad at routing. Good for a quick check of mileage, though.)

For long days, I need water and food stops, and avoiding too many very steep hills. It won't do that automatically, of course. It's "avoid hills" button takes it to the extreme, really avoiding any amount of hills, and picking less optimal roads.

Columbus-Madison

PM me for more details.
You should ride through Cincinnati. Cincinnati to Madison is hilly, so do longer mileage the first day. meeting in Dayton? I'd just ride the Xenia to Dayton trail out and back.

You can likely save some miles by heading toward Hamilton OH instead of Cincinnati.

But just about all the good routes will be longer than 200 miles. A good route from Cincinnati to Madison is about 80 miles, and hilly. Doing the whole ride in two days will be hard.

testing Route Builder:
I just clicked the end points, and it made a reasonable route.
Bike trails to Cincinnati, then through KY to Madison. The route would need some adjustments to skip some steeper hills and have a water stop, which are fairly rare in rural KY.

route builder screen shots:

Just the end points:


Dragging KY section over to Lawrenceburg IN.

It takes the best route to Lawrenceburg, Route 8 along the river, to the nice Anderson Ferry crossing, then along Hillside Ave instead of busy Rt 50
There's alternate routes out of Aurora IN. the river road is kind of busy. The interior roads can be hilly with steeper climbs, but very nice to ride, smooth and quiet.


Last edited by rm -rf; 09-05-19 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by spinconn View Post
I don't do touring so this is just a matter of curiosity for me, but how do you pick a route to tour that is safe with respect to traffic? Do you have some source other than paper or on line maps that gives you some advance idea on traffic density, road surface quality and shoulder width, or do you just pick where you want to go and just grit your way through it, whatever comes along?
As others have said, in the age of the Interwebz, I start with Google maps or with Ride With GPS (RWG)...with caveats. RWG has a cycling button on the route planner which will route you to roads with less traffic. It works quite well. But I only use RWG as a planning tool to get a general idea of a route.

Once on the ground, however, I may through out the plan entirely. For on the ground, I'll use Google maps on my smart phone for day to day riding. I'll pick where I want to spend the night...usually from the Alstays Camp and Tent app...and route to that location. But here's a big caveat: I don't follow Google maps slavishly. Often, in an effort to get you onto the lowest volume roads, Google maps will route you to places where you might not want to ride a bike. One particular example was on the Delaware River from Milford, PA to Stroudsburg, Pa. The phone app gave me a route that was 44 miles long and climbed into steep hills. Right in front of me was the Federal Road (US209) that ran right along the river for 33 miles. There was essentially zero traffic on the Federal Road just outside of Milfort and wide shoulder so I took the river road and saved about 10 miles and a whole lot of climbing.

There are other examples. The key is to be flexible. If your route says take a 10 mile detour but the shorter route looks good, endure what the short route may (or may not) throw at you.
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Old 09-05-19, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Also, your mileage may vary. To one person it's all fine and to another they think it's the end of the world.
Being able to hold a line very well, and being confident in your bike handling skills are all crucial and helpful skills that go a long way to properly assessing danger and being ok with a given situation.
+1 to YMMV. I rode Cycle Greater Yellowstone's supported tour last year, and I was floored at comments. The ride description in the handbook as well as the web would tell anyone who read either, "These roads are open." But after the first day, it seemed like a full quarter of the riders had read neither. "OMG, there were TRUCKS!!! on the road!" "OMG, we must ride on the shoulders!" But I thought traffic was light, well-behaved, and rode the shoulders where they were good mostly so I didn't have to listen for traffic coming up from behind me; in other words, for my own convenience.

Sure, there are roads cris-crossing the counties near home. But you hit western states like Wyoming, and there is a road that goes from point A to point B. Maybe two, if you add in 30 miles or so. You can't close that road for bicyclists, so if you want to bicycle from A to B, you've got to ride with traffic on that road. Fortunately, traffic's usually pretty light. (For me, anyway.)
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Old 09-06-19, 11:18 AM
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For one you have to watch what the state maps are telling you and what they are not telling you. In Minnesota they don't tell you the shoulder is 4 foot wide but all but the first six inches along the white line are nothing but rumble strips...aka their is no shoulder to ride on. The MN state bicycle maps don't tell you that, you learn that when you go there and ride and have nice traffic volume with 25-45 mph cross wind while being on the downwind side of the traffic and you are also now dealing with no shoulder to ride on.

For me, I decided where I am going to ride to, hope on ridewithgps and point and click and the on the start and finish point and let ridewithgps decided the shortest route. I may tweak it a bit trying to find a less hilly route while still keeping the mileage down. I may also tweak it if I know I have to stop in a particular location. Otherwise I just ride the ridewithgps route. I don't mind riding with the traffic. In 18,000 miles of cross country travel I have not had any kind of trouble with cars at all. I ride the highways and generally federal highways all the time. I don't worry about the small stuff...then again it is all small stuff. It does help that I am sitting right not at just under 124,000 miles of on road/pavement biking since mid-May 2011. I'm used to riding with the traffic thanks to riding in NH where the traffic never stops.
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Old 09-06-19, 12:42 PM
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For me it is a bit different for a short ride vs. a more extended tour of multiple weeks or months.

For that more extended tour, prior to leaving:
- I will create a rough distance/time "budget". This is based in part on a rough google auto "avoid highways" distance, keeping into account elevation gains and climate.
- I will read some trip reports of people who have done similar trips. Sometimes there are larger scale tradeoffs e.g. "staying at higher elevation avoids heat/humidity as expense of some more climbing"
This doesn't mean I have detailed routes/distances/stopping points but I'll have a rough idea of how many weeks it might take and what the distances are.

When I am underway, I'll generally track my progress against the budget. I will also look at more detailed route alternatives as they come up.
- For a good chunk of them, there is mostly one obvious route. So I will just follow it.
- Occasionally the route becomes a bit more harried/busy. In a lot of cases I'll grit my teeth, use my mirrors and just ride through
- Among the critical points are typically entries into largest cities (e.g. cycling into Guadalajara or Mendoza or Vladivostok or Lima...). For those, I will often have journals of what others have done and how they described the experience. I will also on selected basis look at Strava Heat Maps to see what local cyclists are doing. In some cases, I'll have a conditional plan. So for example, entering Lima was one of my more harried big city entries where I:
* Took a side "serpentine" road at first. From others trip reports, I knew it would have "no bicycles" signs, but also that others had ridden it
* Took the main Pan-American highway into town, expecting it to be busy but also expecting to bail once it became too busy
* Bailed perhaps 10km before city center and went on local city roads I had checkout out in advance. There was a lot of slow stop/go traffic but eventually made my way through it
For departure from Lima, I did similar investigation in advance to look for route alternatives.

Most cities are not as tricky as Lima - and most riding is not through these types of big cities, so I'll stick with rough defaults I've found.

Within the US, I'll look at some of the same techniques described above (though rarely resort to street view). In addition, I'll often look up from individual DOT offices to see a list of construction projects - since that can take what otherwise would be a reasonable route and make it more difficult to navigate.
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