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Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?

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Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?

Old 05-15-19, 02:11 PM
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UniChris
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Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?

I've become a creature of MUPs and similar who mostly avoids roads. However, one of my paths has a couple of miles explicitly placed on the at least half (and often full) lane wide shoulder of a state highway signed at 50 mph or so. Initially I hated this, but I've come to be reasonably comfortable there - speeds are fast, but someone would have be be negligently driving *fully* in the shoulder to put me in danger. And because cyclists are never "in cars way" there seems to be very little driver frustration on display - where there are two travel lanes many will even change to the left lane.

I was doing a little virtual tourism of a ride I probably won't do, and noticed a stretch of a similar state highway with a wide shoulder, though in contrast to the bike signs on the one I am familiar with, I don't know if it's actually legal. When I went looking on Strava, it seems people take a winding, woods-edged country road instead. I don't think I'd be as comfortable riding that, as it requires drivers to recognize my presence, wait for an opening with good sight lines, and then pass with enough space.

This is mostly an academic question as I'm probably not going to ride either (especially as in the last 1/3 of a mile the country road stops and the highway loses its shoulder).

But is my thinking reasonable, that faster traffic not normally in the "lane" I would be riding in, is perhaps less of a risk than somewhat slower traffic traveling in the same space I would be occupying? I realize there's a lot more energy in being hit at say 60 mph vs 40, but I feel like the probability is much lower.

Last edited by UniChris; 05-15-19 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 05-15-19, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
I've become a creature of MUPs and similar who mostly avoids roads. However, one of my paths has a couple of miles explicitly placed on the at least half (and often full) lane wide shoulder of a state highway signed at 50 mph or so. Initially I hated this, but I've come to be reasonably comfortable there - speeds are fast, but someone would have be be negligently driving *fully* in the shoulder to put me in danger.

I was doing a little virtual tourism of a ride I probably won't do, and noticed a stretch of a similar state highway with a wide shoulder, though in contrast to the bike signs on the one I am familiar with, I don't know if it's actually legal. When I went looking on Strava, it seems people take a winding, woods-edged country road instead. I don't think I'd be comfortable riding that, as it requires drivers to recognize my presence, wait for an opening with good sight lines, and then pass with enough space.

This is mostly an academic question as I'm probably not going to ride either (especially as in the last 1/3 of a mile the country road stops and the highway loses its shoulder).

But is my thinking reasonable, that faster traffic not normally in the "lane" I would be riding in, is perhaps less of a risk than somewhat slower traffic traveling in the same space I would be occupying? I realize there's a lot more energy in being hit at say 60 mph vs 40, but I feel like the probability is much lower.
I regularly ride on both of these types of roads. Generally, if there's a routing choice, I love a fast road with a wide breakdown lane, because I can usually go flat out without interruption for hours. I don't mind a lightly trafficked winding narrow country road, but if it's busy, I feel like it gets dangerous pretty quick. Also, around here, the narrow country roads are the last ones to get potholes repaired, so it's definitely slower going. On the other other hand, the scenery on the winding road is usually a lot better, and it's often nice to hear birds instead of vroom vroom.

Many of my rides are a combination of both of these types of roads.
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Old 05-16-19, 04:43 AM
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I take the winding country road unless there’s a fair amount of traffic, or there are some other mitigating factors.

My thought is the wider and straighter the road is, the more comfortable drivers feel to reach for their phones to check a text, etc. Like livedarklions, I like bird sounds more than traffic, so maybe I’m just rationalizing to convince myself the country road is safer.
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Old 05-16-19, 05:50 AM
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I prefer the country road. The only rider killed around here in the last decade was on a very good shoulder on a high speed road. I ride those roads only to get from one country road to another.
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Old 05-16-19, 05:59 AM
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Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?
Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
I've become a creature of MUPs and similar who mostly avoids roads. However, one of my paths has a couple of miles explicitly placed on the at least half (and often full) lane wide shoulder of a state highway signed at 50 mph or so.

Initially I hated this, but I've come to be reasonably comfortable there - speeds are fast, but someone would have be be negligently driving *fully* in the shoulder to put me in danger. And because cyclists are never "in cars way" there seems to be very little driver frustration on display - where there are two travel lanes many will even change to the left lane...

When I went looking on Strava, it seems people take a winding, woods-edged country road instead. I don't think I'd be as comfortable riding that, as it requires drivers to recognize my presence, wait for an opening with good sight lines, and then pass with enough space.

This is mostly an academic question as I'm probably not going to ride either (especially as in the last 1/3 of a mile the country road stops and the highway loses its shoulder).

But is my thinking reasonable, that faster traffic not normally in the "lane" I would be riding in, is perhaps less of a risk than somewhat slower traffic traveling in the same space I would be occupying? I realize there's a lot more energy in being hit at say 60 mph vs 40, but I feel like the probability is much lower.
Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I regularly ride on both of these types of roads. Generally, if there's a routing choice, I love a fast road with a wide breakdown lane, because I can usually go flat out without interruption for hours.

I don't mind a lightly trafficked winding narrow country road, but if it's busy, I feel like it gets dangerous pretty quick. Also, around here, the narrow country roads are the last ones to get potholes repaired, so it's definitely slower going. On the other other hand, the scenery on the winding road is usually a lot better, and it's often nice to hear birds instead of vroom vroom.

Many of my rides are a combination of both of these types of roads.
Originally Posted by Greenhil View Post
I take the winding country road unless there’s a fair amount of traffic, or there are some other mitigating factors.

My thought is the wider and straighter the road is, the more comfortable drivers feel to reach for their phones to check a text, etc. Like livedarklions, I like bird sounds more than traffic, so maybe I’m just rationalizing to convince myself the country road is safer.
I recently replied to this thread,
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
What road do you choose?
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
All my cycling as a decades-long, year-round commuter and occasional centurian in Metro Boston ranges from dense urban, to suburban, to exurban, but no rural. I'm goal-oriented, be it miles or destinations, so I take the Road as it comes, to satisfy my Goal.

Over the years, I have described roads, so for this post I compiled my descriptions in order of cycling pleasure (paved roads only):

  • Enchanted
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
...There are certain roads I have discovered, unfortunately usually short, that I describe as “intimate,” or “enchanted”; so serene and peaceful, shady, lightly traveled, and without shoulders...
  • Exurban (no residences, no commercial buildings)
  • Residential: Urban (dense, multi-unit dwellings), Suburban (single unattached homes)
  • Light commercial (storefronts close to the sidewalk, street parking)
  • Heavy commercial (shopping malls, driveway accesses, parking lots)
  • Industrial: (dreary vistas, rough roads, debris-strewn)
But,
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
… almost every road is a good road if you ride it early enough in the day.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
PS: It just occured to me, though I don't ride in the downtown proper, I should probably add a category of "Downtown," as typified by the urban canyons and narrow, often-crowded streets of Manhattan, or the Financial District of Boston.

Downtown riding would, IMO rank just ahead of "heavy commercial."
The de facto poet laureate of the Metro Boston thread posted:
Originally Posted by sherbornpeddler View Post
Metro Bostonians have mastered a lot of the same roads. We all have very individual, favorite routes. I bet we could compile a list of favorite sections of roads where the sun, shade, swoops and turns fly by just right.

From this forum, we could rate roads with traffic and without, swoops, trails, water fountains, hill climbs, stops, historical, flora, fauna, mysterious tourists and places where they sell fig newtons.

+1 to this signature line of @MNHarv, “Just three paved feet to the right of the white fog stripe is all I need.

Could well be the Road and Commuters’ motto, or even Prayer... "Lord, Just three paved feet to the right of the white fog stripe is all I need.”

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Old 05-16-19, 05:59 AM
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Most of the larger divided highways around here have good wide shoulders on them. I like them because their grades are even. Not like a hill around here that I call "The hill of never ending perpetual sorrow" as it changes grades several times over a half mile. With an even grade, I can get into a zone where heart rate, speed and cadence all come together.

I also spend a lot of time on winding 2 lane roads. I pay attention to cars approaching from behind and try to work with them so that I interfere as little as possible. Since most of my riding is during commute times, these are often the same people that I see regularly.
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Old 05-16-19, 06:00 AM
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I ride the shouldered roads around here in the summer time with speed limit at around 80 kph (50 mph), and I have no problems with it. There aren't any 'winding country roads' around here to speak of, but there are some straight ones with no shoulder with a speed limit of 60 kph. I prefer the shouldered road.
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Old 05-16-19, 07:41 AM
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I'd choose the one that has other cyclists

windy country road w cars passing in both directions but not too many, but then some clowns with water guns assault me (toward the end of the clip)

least favorite section of my old commute (2009-10) on Route 20, Wayland, MA. (aka Boston Post Rd between Concord Rd & Landham Rd) I affectionately nicknamed "a kill zone". I was always so glad to get to the turnoff after the descent. I think this (2014) clip is from a quiet Sunday morning, not a weekday commute, which would have had much more traffic. on the return trip I would avoid that .8 mile stretch using a bypass (Greenhill Rd to Goodman's Hill Rd to Concord Rd) shortcut cuz I'd be on the other side near it. but making a left on the road w/o a traffic light seemed too sketchy




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Old 05-16-19, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I'd choose the one that has other cyclists

windy country road w cars passing in both directions but not too many, but then some clowns with water guns assault me (toward the end of the clip)


least favorite section of my old commute (2009-10) on Route 20, Wayland, MA. I affectionately nicknamed "a kill zone". I was always so glad to get to the turnoff after the descent. I think this (2014) clip is from a quiet Sunday morning, not a weekday commute, which would have had much more traffic. on the return trip I would avoid that 1? mile stretch using a bypass shortcut cuz I'd be on the other side near it. but making a left on the road w/o a traffic light seemed too sketchy

Funny, I just road that stretch of 20 through Wayland for the first time going from Marlborough to Watertown last Saturday, and I didn't think it was that bad, but like you say, it wasn't at rush hour on a weekday. I usually go a little out of my way to take 117 for the same leg of a century, but 20 was definitely faster for me.
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Old 05-16-19, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Funny, I just road that stretch of 20 through Wayland for the first time going from Marlborough to Watertown last Saturday, and I didn't think it was that bad, but like you say, it wasn't at rush hour on a weekday. I usually go a little out of my way to take 117 for the same leg of a century, but 20 was definitely faster for me.
ah, 117, used to commute on that too from approx Stow to West Newton thru Watertown. much prettier with the corn fields & river, etc. but there are some narrow sections & that rail road crossing in Lincoln? (just after Drumlin Farm)was always fun (not). cars would want to pass me but then they would be in the way of the oncoming traffic, so I would have to take the lane but also indicate with my hand or an index finger for them to wait just a minute, then after the crossing moved over & waved thanks for their patience. but I needed both hand on the bars as I crossed the tracks at that weird angle watching for broken pavement. they finally put in traffic calming islands but that was after our company moved to Natick. coming down that hill from Dumlin Farm heading East I usually had good speed so the cars didn't have to slow too much


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Old 05-16-19, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
just road that stretch of 20 through Wayland for the first time going from Marlborough to Watertown last Saturday
wow that's a long stretch on 20. maybe most of it is not bad but that.8 miles was the worst of my old commute
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Old 05-16-19, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
wow that's a long stretch on 20. maybe most of it is not bad but that.8 miles was the worst of my old commute
Overall, it was pretty comparable to 117. I think a stretch like that is a lot worse at some times than others, but to tell the truth, it didn't really stick out in my mind as especially bad. I'm sur e I'd probably feel differently about it if I had to ride it 10 rush hours a week.

I deal with some city streets in Nashua that I find much worse, and I really can't avoid them if I want to get anywhere.
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Old 05-16-19, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I deal with some city streets in Nashua that I find much worse, and I really can't avoid them if I want to get anywhere.
Yeah.

If you are going nowhere, sometimes you choose the roads.
If you are going somewhere, sometimes the roads choose you.

-mr. bill

Last edited by mr_bill; 05-16-19 at 11:54 AM. Reason: clarification....
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Old 05-16-19, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
Yeah.

If you are doing nowhere, you can choose the roads.
If you are going somewhere, the roads choose you.

-mr. bill
Unfortunately, the bad roads converge on the neighborhood where I live, so even if I'm going nowhere, I have to traverse them.
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Old 05-16-19, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
... a winding, woods-edged country road instead. I don't think I'd be as comfortable riding that, as it requires drivers to recognize my presence, wait for an opening with good sight lines, and then pass with enough space.

... But is my thinking reasonable, that faster traffic not normally in the "lane" I would be riding in, is perhaps less of a risk than somewhat slower traffic traveling in the same space I would be occupying?
I suppose your logic generally holds, yes, that it'll likely be less risky (on the fact of it) to be on a higher-speed road with proper space/lanes for cyclists and slower vehicles than it could on a road (country or otherwise) where sight lines are ugly and/or no space exists for cyclists.


That said ... for myself:

I'm okay with straight-but-fast roadways, assuming there is plenty of clearly-marked riding area for cyclists. Up to a point. I've done it on roads with 50mph limits, but am not generally a fan of going that far.

I'm okay with smaller "country" (two-way rural type) roads. But I draw the line when two factors converge on such a road: 1) curves that create blind sections, combined with 2) zero "outs" for cyclists or pedestrians on that road.

So. Depends on the road. Depends on whether there are sufficient "outs" in twistier sections of the road. Depends on whether there are generally clear sight lines for approaching drivers. And, at least to me, it also depends on what the history on that road happens to be with respect to crashes.

Around my area, there are several high-volume smaller roads that have zero lanes for cyclists. (They were built in an era before contemporary sensibilities came along, regarding non-motorized vehicles existing on such roads.) There are several lower-volume roads that have horrible sight lines, are twisty enough to be ugly, and on which there are many sections with zero "outs" for a cyclist (which are roads I refuse to bike on, ever). Pretty few roads exist with well-considered lanes for cyclists, with plenty of "outs" and with reasonable speeds that guard against deadly encounters. Same as most places I've seen.

In short: I rolls the dice and takes my chances, but only on roads where I feel I've got a fighting chance of not being struck that year. Otherwise, I find another way. Which works for me.
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Old 05-16-19, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Clyde1820 View Post
I suppose your logic generally holds, yes, that it'll likely be less risky (on the fact of it) to be on a higher-speed road with proper space/lanes for cyclists and slower vehicles than it could on a road (country or otherwise) where sight lines are ugly and/or no space exists for cyclists.


That said ... for myself:

I'm okay with straight-but-fast roadways, assuming there is plenty of clearly-marked riding area for cyclists. Up to a point. I've done it on roads with 50mph limits, but am not generally a fan of going that far.

I'm okay with smaller "country" (two-way rural type) roads. But I draw the line when two factors converge on such a road: 1) curves that create blind sections, combined with 2) zero "outs" for cyclists or pedestrians on that road.

So. Depends on the road. Depends on whether there are sufficient "outs" in twistier sections of the road. Depends on whether there are generally clear sight lines for approaching drivers. And, at least to me, it also depends on what the history on that road happens to be with respect to crashes.

Around my area, there are several high-volume smaller roads that have zero lanes for cyclists. (They were built in an era before contemporary sensibilities came along, regarding non-motorized vehicles existing on such roads.) There are several lower-volume roads that have horrible sight lines, are twisty enough to be ugly, and on which there are many sections with zero "outs" for a cyclist (which are roads I refuse to bike on, ever). Pretty few roads exist with well-considered lanes for cyclists, with plenty of "outs" and with reasonable speeds that guard against deadly encounters. Same as most places I've seen.

In short: I rolls the dice and takes my chances, but only on roads where I feel I've got a fighting chance of not being struck that year. Otherwise, I find another way. Which works for me.
It really is a "totality of the circumstances" kind of calculation, isn't it? I regularly ride a 30+ mile stretch of NH-111, which has a 55 mph speed limit throughout most of its length. Despite the high speed limit, I feel safe there because of the very broad breakdown lane throughout, there are no tricky exits and entrances, and all of the crossings are well-designed. There's also rumble strips through much of the length which make it very hard for a car to unintentionally drift into the breakdown lane.

The worst thing I have to deal with on that road is the inevitable jerk who sees fit to yell something out of his car or truck window. At the speed they're going, however, it generally sounds like someone yelling "mmmrffof".
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Old 05-16-19, 10:44 AM
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Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?
Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I'd choose the one that has other cyclists

windy country road w cars passing in both directions but not too many, but then some clowns with water guns assault me (toward the end of the clip)
https://youtu.be/X9c2SM1zhUE

least favorite section of my old commute (2009-10) on Route 20, Wayland, MA. (aka Boston Post Rd between Concord Rd & Landham Rd) I affectionately nicknamed "a kill zone". I was always so glad to get to the turnoff after the descent. I think this (2014) clip is from a quiet Sunday morning, not a weekday commute, which would have had much more traffic. …
Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Funny, I just road that stretch of 20 through Wayland for the first time going from Marlborough to Watertown last Saturday, and I didn't think it was that bad, but like you say, it wasn't at rush hour on a weekday. I usually go a little out of my way to take 117 for the same leg of a century, but 20 was definitely faster for me.
For the amusement of my fellow Metro Bostonians:
Originally Posted by jppe View Post
...Riding solo. Essentially going to follow Hwy 20 across the US to Boston. If anyone would like to ride any segments with me let me know.

What I've laid out calls for about 47 days of riding plus 8 days off the bike. There are some 60 mile days and some 100+ mile days
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
jppe is now in Massachusetts, and anticipates arriving in Boston on Sunday. We have made arrangements to meet in Wayland MA at this venue (see below) about 20 miles from the terminus, likely to become one of the National Shrines of his Route...

jppe has put Route 20 on the map
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
It was one of my most pleasant cycling days in 40 years of cycling, to ride with jppe, and to direct his wife in the van to various locations and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. We met at about 9:30 AM at the Wayland Depot, about 20 miles from the Atlantic Coast and we hit it off immediately....

We mapped out a route to include a few historic sites that Jeri could meet us at by car. We stopped at the Walter Gropius home, a national historic architectural landmark; rode by Walden Pond; and lingered at the old North Bridge in Concord, site of the Battle of Concord on the first day of the Revolutionary War...

We next rode to Bedford, and took the 11 mile Minuteman Bikepath to Arlington. We could ride two abreast, and I had a chance to hear all the details of his ride...We took a side jaunt to the Lexington Green, site of the skirmish that preceded the Battle of Concord, and then then rode through Arlington into Cambridge and meandered around Harvard Square…

The picture of the END ROUTE 20 sign was taken about two blocks from our condo in Kenmore Square. …We then headed straight though downtown for Castle Island on Boston Harbor.
I had asked @jppe if he wanted to continue his journey all the way down Rte 20, but I recommended the itinerary described above.





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Old 05-16-19, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Winding Country Road or 50 mph Highway with Shoulder?
I had asked @jppe if he wanted to continue his journey all the way down Rte 20, but I recommended the itinerary described above.



[/QUOTE]

Now that's a long ride on Route 20!

Think that would be way too long in Nebraska for my taste, but what an adventure.
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Old 05-16-19, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Unfortunately, the bad roads converge on the neighborhood where I live, so even if I'm going nowhere, I have to traverse them.
My home is somewhere. (And some folks who won't ride on roads near their homes transport their bikes by motor vehicle somewhere so they can go nowhere.)

But anyhow, clarified above.

-mr. bill
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Old 05-16-19, 11:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
(And some folks who won't ride on roads near their homes transport their bikes by motor vehicle somewhere so they can go nowhere.)
-mr. bill
Just a preference thing, but I try to "drive my bike" as little as possible. I'm a big fan of riding it all the way to somewhere even if that somewhere is nowhere.

Exception is my evening after-work ride, which I will sometimes drive the bike to a MUP just to avoid the rush hour traffic on a particular road where a car hit me.
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Old 05-16-19, 12:02 PM
  #21  
79pmooney
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18 years ago ... while I was riding Old 47, a winding no-shoulder two lane road, a couple were killed riding the parallel new 47 in the breakdown lane by an inattentive driver. That has always stuck with me. Here, a mile from my house there is a minor arterial with good bike lanes. Straight as an arrow as it is an old railway right-of-way. I'll ride the slightly uphill inbound but rarely the westbound coming home. I instead ride the rural-like road that parallels it, far windier with a good hill and fast downhill. Car passes are much closer, but I feel the drivers on both those lesser roads are paying far better attention. (The inbound on the second road is steep and I am not yet warmed up. Not a good start for us not-so-young ones.)

Ben
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Old 05-16-19, 12:47 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
+1 to this signature line of @MNHarv, “Just three paved feet to the right of the white fog stripe is all I need.

Could well be the Road and Commuters’ motto, or even Prayer... "Lord, Just three paved feet to the right of the white fog stripe is all I need.”
Or as one southern rocker sang,

Gimme three feet
Gimme three feet Mister
Gimme three feet from your door
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Old 05-16-19, 01:18 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
My home is somewhere. (And some folks who won't ride on roads near their homes transport their bikes by motor vehicle somewhere so they can go nowhere.)
now you sound like Thoreau

one of my favs: "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."
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Old 05-16-19, 01:59 PM
  #24  
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"It's the getting away from their wives that they really crave, even if it's only for an afternoon."

Re roads, if there's a lot of traffic, i would prefer to be on the wide road with the shoulder. You can usually get a nice wind assist from lots of cars and trucks heading your direction. All the drama and commotion seems to make the miles pass quicker. And if you're hit, God forbid, there will be plenty of witnesses.

If there's light traffic I would prefer the winding country road. I'd try to get out there early Sunday morning and have the whole road to myself.
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Old 05-16-19, 03:13 PM
  #25  
Jim from Boston
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Originally Posted by jppe View Post
Hoping to check off another bucket list item...

Riding solo. Essentially going to follow Hwy 20 across the US to Boston. If anyone would like to ride any segments with me let me know. What I've laid out calls for about 47 days of riding plus 8 days off the bike. There are some 60 mile days and some 100+ mile days....

My wife is driving our van so it's a supported ride.

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…The picture of the END ROUTE 20 sign was taken about two blocks from our condo in Kenmore Square. …

Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
Now that's a long ride on Route 20!

Think that would be way too long in Nebraska for my taste, but what an adventure.
A few weeks after his ride, @jppe (of North Carolina) sent me this picture of a newly posted sign on the opposite side of Kenmore Square.




Last edited by Jim from Boston; 05-16-19 at 03:36 PM.
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