What’s the BEST route to get to. . . .?
You’ve landed in a new city with your bike, eager to explore. But what’s the best route to get to….? Name the spot. How about in your own city? Are you able to answer that question?
I live in the beautiful city of Long Beach, California and know it pretty well. If you were to ask me what’s the best bike route to get from the traffic circle to downtown, I could give you a few routes to pick from. Do you want the most direct, the flattest, or scenic route? I’ve ridden all of them. I love exploring my city by bicycle. I know when to ignore what Google maps says about the best bike route, and when to pay attention. I know what streets are best for riding even if they don’t have a designated bike path and I know which intersections are best and which might be better avoided.
I didn’t know how important this knowledge was until I traveled to San Diego to participate in a panel at the National Bicycle Tourism Conference this past November. I took the train and brought my bike to get around town. I wasn't familiar that with San Diego and I planned my route from the Amtrak downtown station to my hotel in Mission Bay from the comfort of home. The route ended up being much hillier that I like while riding my single speed bike outfitted with paniers. I knew, as I was riding along, that there had to be a better route. But I was committed to this route because I didn't know this part of the city.
After I arrived at the conference, I asked a few cyclists for their recommend route to the train station. I could tell by their reactions that there was a better route, but it was complicated. So when it was time to return to the train station for my trip home, I got adventurous. I turned on my phone GPS, put on my Bluetooth, typed in my destination and followed the verbal instructions. I ended up finding a much flatter and more scenic route for my return trip. Mission accomplished and lesson learned!
There are ways to get to know a city from the comfort of your home. What resources are available to you to plan a route? I usually start by asking Google Maps for its suggested routes. I then review the routes using the satellite view. The satellite view gives me the information I need to evaluate the route and make sure it's one I'll feel comfortable riding on:
- Are there major intersections I will cross where there are no traffic signals?
- How many lanes do the roads have?
- Is it residential or are there lots of stores along the route?
- Is there a parallel street that looks like a better, safer choice for my route?
- Are there any designated bike lanes on or near the route?
I also search the internet for bike route maps for that city. I also order paper maps for the city I plan to visit. I look for local bike clubs and visit their websites for possible route maps. Other online resources I use in addition to Google Maps are:
- http://www.mapmyride.com/ has routes by users and gives you the ability to design a route. Routes included elevation.
- http://ridewithgps.com/ has routes by users and gives you the ability to design a route. Routes included elevation.
- http://www.bikemap.net has routes by users, official routes, ability to export map
- US Cycling Routes: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/us-bicycle-route-system/use-a-us-bicycle-route/
- Adventure Cycling Maps: http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/
Share the resources you use to plan a route. I hope you’ll enjoy happy new cycling adventures in the new year!
Kellie Morris did her first multiday, fund-raising bike ride in 2002 after a co-worker dared her to take up the challenge - the seven-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In 2010 Kellie was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: Mixed Connective Tissue disease that left her so weak she could barely dress herself. Through medication, dietary changes and exercise she was able to recover much of her strength. Kellie does most of her local trips on her trike including shopping, running errands, attending fitness classes, visiting friends and even riding to church.
In May 2013 Kellie became a certified bicycling instructor via The League of American Bicyclists LCI program. She now teaches throughout Long Beach and Los Angeles, writes the "We All Ride Bikes" column for PedalLove.org and Pedal Love podcast for KPFK's Bike Talk, and is the co-founder of the brand new Carson Bicycle Coalition.