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6.5 Commuting - How do I choose a route?


This article is from the Bicycles FAQ, by Mike Iglesias with numerous contributions by others.

6.5 Commuting - How do I choose a route?

From: royce@ug.eds.com (Royce Myers)

According to the U.S. Uniform Vehicle Code, drivers of bicycles have the
same rights, and the same responsibilities, as drivers of other vehicles.
This means that commuters may use any road, street or highway they want,
and that they must obey traffic laws. Some states vary from the UVC, and
of course, some countries treat bicycles diffently than the US does.

John Forester, in his book Effective Cycling, suggests that all cyclists
use the following traffic principles:

"1. Ride on the right-hand side of the road, not on the left and
never on the sidewalk.

[Note: this is specific to those countries which drive on the right hand
side of the road, like the US. In countries like the UK, you should ride
on the left side of the road.]

2. When approaching a road that is larger than the one you are on, or
has more or faster traffic, you must yield to traffic on that road.
Yielding means looking and waiting until you see that no traffic is

3. When preparing to move laterally on a roadway, you must yield to
traffic in that line of travel. Yielding means looking forward and
backward to see that no traffic is in that line of travel.

4. When approaching an intersection, you must choose your position
according to your destination. Right-turning drivers are at the curb, left
turning drivers are at the center, while straight-through drivers are
between them.

5. Between intersections, you choose your position according to your
speed relative to other traffic. Parked ones are at the curb, medium-speed
drivers are next to them, while fastest drivers are near the center of the

Transportational cyclists want to maximize safety and minimize time.
Usually the most direct route between the cyclist and work will be the
best choice, but other factors may come into play.

Facilities: Multi-use paths (trails shared with bicycles, pedestrians,
skaters and sometimes horses) are less safe than the road, according to a
recent study published in the Institute for Transportation Engineers
journal; this kind of facility is more likely to send cyclists to the
hospital than comparable streets. Pedestrians, pets and skaters are
unpredictable and require more skill to pass safely. Sidepath
intersections are very dangerous because motorists don't expect vehicular
cross traffic.

Roads with wide curb lanes are safer than narrow roads, but narrow roads
may be ridden safely by using an entire lane. Bike lanes may be as safe
as the same width roads without lanes as long as the rider is competent to
avoid their dangers (e.g., they direct cyclists into right turn lanes,
when the cyclist should normally ride to the left of the right turn
lane). In California, cyclists traveling at less than the speed of
traffic must remain in the bike lane unless preparing for a left turn or
avoiding a hazard, like parked cars, a slower cyclist, rough pavement or

Traffic: even though arterials usually faster and more convenient than
side streets, riding on side streets may be more enjoyable due to lower
traffic noise and better scenery. Some cyclists are willing to ride the
Huntington Beach multi-use path during the summer even though the fastest
safe speed is 5mph. The view is very nice.

The compromise among pleasure, safety and time is yours.

Once you set your priorities, scout a few routes. Get the best street map
you can find and highlight streets that you like. US Geological Survey
maps (1:24000 scale) also show the hills, which is handy. They're
beautiful maps, too. They look nice on a wall.

[I did not retain the mail address of contributors who posted to the group
without a sig; also, I may have missed some posts that weren't emailed to



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