facebook twitter pinterest email

Planning Your Commute

Planning Your Commute

I’ve been a bicycle commuter for years now and it seems like a normal lifestyle to me.  I am aware, however, that to most people this way of travel is considered unusual… around these parts anyway.  But there are also lots of folks out there who really WANT to try bicycle commuting but they just don’t know where to start.  So here’s the process I go through when planning my bicycle commuting routes.  Hopefully if you’re on the edge of trying some cycle commuting, this will give you a little boot onto your bike.

A scene from my cycle commute to the bank yesterday.

Cycling along quiet traffic free streets like this is absolutely blissful!

Let’s start with Craig who cycles to work regularly.  His commute to his job at Boeing is about 3 1/2 miles each way…a perfect distance for a short daily commute to and from work.  I’m the “routefinder” in this marriage so my quest was to find the best and safest route for Craig to use on his commute. Now just forget about how Craig would DRIVE to work in a CAR; the best route there by bicycle will likely be completely different (at least is SHOULD be if one plans to follow my On The Streets strategies for successful cycling).

I always start off with the wonderful and indispensable Google maps. (I just adore Google maps.  I use them constantly for my route planning.  Most of my route planning process would have been impossible before Google commenced mapping the world for us.)  I scan the distance between our home and the destination looking for possible routes through neighborhoods on quiet streets with low traffic.  As I’m searching for the best route, I use Google’s Street View feature to check road surface, and for shoulders on streets that might be busier.  Then I switch over to Google’s Satellite View and zoom in to see if there are any little neighborhood cut-through sidewalks and alleyways that won’t show up in the regular Map view.

Peace and serenity just oozes from this image.  Can't you feel it?!

Peaceful serenity just oozes from this image. Can’t you feel it?!

And now that Google has begun mapping bike trails and lanes, I use that feature as well.  To use this feature in Google maps, click on the View drop down menu (usually in the top right corner where you switch from Satellite to Map View) and select “Bicycling.”  VOILA!!!  All of the bike trails and on-street bike lanes immediately appear in green.  It’s so exciting to see all those green lines appear.  I’m often discovering new bike trails these days that I didn’t know about.  Thank you Google!

For Craig’s commute, I was able to put together a fun little route through quiet neighborhoods most of the way.  I particularly wanted to find a way for him to avoid a certain patch along Airport Road.  This had proven to be a risky area during his earliest cycle commuting endeavors before I began moonlighting as our route finder.  This incredibly dangerous stretch includes a busy intersection juxtaposed with a convenience store gas station next to on-off ramps to Interstate 170.  Sleepy harried drivers are zipping all over the place in the early morning darkness and not a one of them are on the lookout for my cycling husband.  His closest call to date happened there.  A driver buzzed by him so closely that he was knocked over the curb off the side of the road.  The driver never even saw him.  I do NOT want Craig cycling there anymore!

How can you not hear this street calling to you?  Cycling here is like having your own personal paved bicycle trail.

How can you not hear this street calling to you? Cycling here is like having your own personal paved bicycle trail.

Unfortunately all the streets in the nearby neighborhoods dead ended at the highway.  There was no way to get through.  But as I zoomed into that section on Google’s Satellite view I noticed a little white line crossing behind the houses connecting to Airport Road past the dangerous area.  I found a cut-through sidewalk!  YAY!!  Craig has used this route ever since.  I’m so pleased that my route finding skills made his commute a lot safer.

My commuting is a little different since I’m self employed and work from home.  I cycle to the bank, the post office, my doctor’s and chiropractor’s offices, my customers’ businesses, and my mom and dad’s house every week.  So I’ve developed many different bike routes depending on my destination.

Cycling over the Interstate on the pedestrian bridge.  So fun!

Cycling over the Interstate on the pedestrian bridge. So fun!

My most oft used route is to my bank and back.  I go there at least three times a week to deposit customer checks.  It’s a 2 1/2 mile drive by car.  But you can be sure I’m not getting there THAT way!  Over the years I’ve tweaked and altered my route until it is now a whopping 8 1/2 mile round trip trek!  You see my goal is not to find the SHORTEST distance from A to B, but to find the BEST route.  In my book the BEST route means the most ENJOYABLE route and that means that I’m happily pedaling away on quiet peaceful streets with no car traffic. I will gladly cycle miles further in order to enjoy my bike rides.

My earliest routes to the bank included several busy intersections which I’ve whittled away one by one to arrive at my current course which contains almost no intersections at all and almost no busy streets.  I just love it and look forward to cycling it several times a week.

A lovely scene from my bike ride to the bank yesterday.

A lovely scene from my bike ride to the bank yesterday.

Just yesterday I pulled on all my LOL Cycle Chic cool weather layers and enjoyed another brisk Autumn bike ride to the bank.  The one busy street I can’t avoid sadly is my own four lane monstrosity that I live on.  But it is only a quick two block downhill jog and I immediately turn off that bad boy for the calm serenity of gentle neighborhoods for the rest of my ride.  The Fall colors yesterday were simply splendid and my eyes feasted on the brilliant colors as I pedaled along.  I scooted across Interstate 270 on the convenient pedestrian bridge high above the madding traffic.  Haha!  I think I’m much more fortunate than any of those poor frantic drivers passing below.  I am tranquil and clear headed as I peacefully pedal along breathing in the cool Autumn air enjoying the magnificent foliage.

I dropped off my deposit to my smiling bank teller.  They all know me.  I’m the crazy lady who bicycles there every week and wears really adorable cycling outfits with matching helmets (LOL).  Then I was off again circling around the bank into another quiet neighborhood.  I usually don’t do out-and-back routes but rather large loops.  Occasionally I’ll cycle on a busy street if I’m going downhill.  But I’ll use a quieter road for my return trip uphill.  I don’t like turning left across traffic so I’ll often ride in a big loop of all right turns.  It’s all about safety and enjoying the ride.

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree...

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree… so BEAUTIFUL!!

I cycled back across the pedestrian bridge through several more neighborhoods, passing through no less than four municipalities before returning back home.  And another wonderful bike ride is done!

So you see how easy it is?  Log onto Google maps and take a gander at your point A to point B and do some of your own route finding. I triple dog dare you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.