Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

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Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby myforwik » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:22 am

I recently tried about 5 different routes to work which were from 10km to 15km.

I found that the downhills did not make up for the uphills, and I was able to go 12km in the time it took to do the 10km route by taking a detour around some larger hills.

What amazed me the most, was that the route I had always thought was stupid, a 16km slow winding path along a creek turned out to be just as fast as using 10km of roads because of all the traffic lights and intersections. Even on my little trip to work they were adding up to 10+ minutes.

I ended up using google earth for terrain heights, and near map to see all the paths, and made a route that was as flat as possible with no intersection where I was likly to stop and cut my commute time down alot.
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by BNA » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:28 am

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Sydguy » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:28 am

I spend up to 20 minutes to get out of the CBD, stopping at red lights and taking care not to intimidate peds. These are the slowest couple of kms.

Pretty happy with the route after that point. There are faster ways to go but bit more traffic, prefer to use some quieter roads as they are less noisey and I don't have to be paranoid with every car zooming past.

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Oxford » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:38 am

next comparison you should try is geared versus SS. I found similar results flat winding Vs hilly most direct on a geared bike, but with SS, the results were reversed. mainly because you tend to hammer the hills harder on the SS.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby sogood » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:56 am

Remember, average speed is distance divided by time. And for the time waiting at traffic lights (1 minute or 2), it'll have a major impact on the average speed calculated. And going down hill may be fast, but again, it takes very little time, so impact on average speed is limited. You need a long downhill run at high speed to even out the average speed lowering effect of a slow climb.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Oxford » Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:03 pm

also depends on how the recording unit handles stops. some units will switch off after a set time in one place without moving and then only restart when mobile again. obviously this will impact how the average speed is calculated.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby queequeg » Sun Sep 25, 2011 12:51 pm

myforwik wrote:I recently tried about 5 different routes to work which were from 10km to 15km.

I found that the downhills did not make up for the uphills, and I was able to go 12km in the time it took to do the 10km route by taking a detour around some larger hills.

What amazed me the most, was that the route I had always thought was stupid, a 16km slow winding path along a creek turned out to be just as fast as using 10km of roads because of all the traffic lights and intersections. Even on my little trip to work they were adding up to 10+ minutes.

I ended up using google earth for terrain heights, and near map to see all the paths, and made a route that was as flat as possible with no intersection where I was likly to stop and cut my commute time down alot.


Traffic lights have by far the largest effect on my commute times. When all the ducks line up in a row (traffic, traffic lights, weather conditions), there can be 5 minutes difference in the overall time.
I had a chance to do a little experiment when I did the Sydney Marathon earlier this month. I was escorting the wheelchair elite guys around the course (on my bicycle), and I had to ride to start at Nth Sydney, which is also where I work. The difference is I had to be there at 6:30am on a Sunday morning, which meant leaving home at 5:30am.
There is as close to zero traffic on a Sunday morning at 5:30am as you ever likely to see, so I ditched my usual commute route and just went for all the main roads instead. I was absolutely flying along. At approximately the half way point (and also the lowest point on the route), my avg speed was 34km/h. That is 8km/h higher than usual at the same point (on the same bike). The subsequent climbs knocked that back a bit, but I arrived in Nth Sydney with a final avg speed of 32km/h, and I passed my office a good 5 minutes faster than my previous fastest time. I still got a number of red lights along the way too! Therefore, under ideal conditions the best time I can ever expect is around 45 minutes. My "usual" time for the morning commute, via the backstreets etc, is around 57 minutes (AT) avg speed of 26km/h. I sometimes detour and take a longer route with less traffic lights, and the time is more or less the same.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby ldrcycles » Sun Sep 25, 2011 1:10 pm

An example from my ride to the pistol club this morning, 25k each way, riding to the club took 54minutes, coming back took 49 in spite of a headwind. The difference was the uphills were longer on the way out. From my commuting i haven't found traffic lights to make much difference (though i only have 2 at most) but hills do make a big difference. I've found that a heavier bike (specifically my Univega with steel rims and mudguards) makes only a little difference on the flat, but is a serious impediment up hills.

Interestingly there is a section on my coastal commute where i have the option of going over a large hill or skirting around the bottom, i have found that although going over the top is quite a lot harder, it is significantly quicker due to being shorter, and the help provided by the down hill on the other side.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Lizzy » Sun Sep 25, 2011 6:42 pm

myforwik wrote:I found that the downhills did not make up for the uphills, and I was able to go 12km in the time it took to do the 10km route by taking a detour around some larger hills.


This rings very true for me. An example (albeit on a smaller scale than most, I imagine): My usual commute is 10km mainly on the flat. I house-sat, and did a 5km commute basically over two lumps. The latter felt like it took twice as much out of me and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same time, if not a little more (wasn't doing that long enough to remember to test).
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby hannos » Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:31 am

Back streets and traffic lights slow me down significantly.
For instance, From home to Belmore Rd exit on the M5 I tend to average about 34-36km/h over the 35-40km. Then I hit backstreets for the next 15-20km. This tends to drop my overall average speed by about 4km/h due to traffic lights and corners I am required to take.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby silkishuge » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:40 pm

I think the thing that affects my commute the most is distance. Hill don't really affect since I get a good 3 to 4 km down hill run on a single stretch before a 3 to 4 km ascent on a single stretch. Average speed is always around 30 to 31 km/h. I do get up to 65km/h on the down hill and over a distance of 3km, that will contribute greatly to higher average speeds on a 30km commute. Legs mainly determine that, not hills nor traffic lights as I hardly have any on my commute.

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby silkishuge » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:41 pm

hannos wrote:Back streets and traffic lights slow me down significantly.
For instance, From home to Belmore Rd exit on the M5 I tend to average about 34-36km/h over the 35-40km. Then I hit backstreets for the next 15-20km. This tends to drop my overall average speed by about 4km/h due to traffic lights and corners I am required to take.



Talking about the M5 reminded me of the M2, my average speed is strongly dependent on the number of flats I get. :( Its otherwise smooth saling with a superb draft. Going through the tunnel at 65km/h etc.....

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Last edited by silkishuge on Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Sydguy » Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:42 pm

The question is does your pistol club have a cycling jersey? Might get less agro on the road.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby ldrcycles » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:00 pm

Sydguy wrote:The question is does your pistol club have a cycling jersey? Might get less agro on the road.


LOL, might be worth a look :)
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Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Comedian » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:31 pm

My commute is up hill, down dale, and mixed mode - on road, bike lane, and off road path. There are some lights and intersections too.

As a result my best averages are quite low (<30) compared to many on this forum.

Nothing I can do about it as there isn't much in the way of alternatives.
Once you can climb hills on a bike it's all downhill. :mrgreen:

Hopefully I'll know what that's like..... one day. :shock: :lol:

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby silkishuge » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:44 pm

Comedian wrote:My commute is up hill, down dale, and mixed mode - on road, bike lane, and off road path. There are some lights and intersections too.

As a result my best averages are quite low (<30) compared to many on this forum.

Nothing I can do about it as there isn't much in the way of alternatives.


+1 reagarding bike lanes/paths. I used to commute on a bike path when I was living in Melbourne but it was slow going. It used to cut pass a park where kids were running around and dogs which were not suppose to be off-leash who were. In the end, I was brought down by a dog and decided to get back on the road.

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Xplora » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:59 pm

IMO it really depends on what kind of speeds you "can" pull, and "want" to pull, when thinking through the effect of hills and traffic lights (and bike paths and possible flats etc). I think if you are really only trying to pull 20kmh you will benefit from staying on the backstreets and bike paths, and should avoid lights at all costs, because stopping is going to hurt your average speed considerably. It also matters if you're trying to go a long way (I reckon 10+km) because averages are much more important over the longer distances. You can miss a light on the 45 minute ride and it won't destroy you overall, but your 5km commute could be in serious trouble with a red or two.

I have picked up a couple serious hills and two/three traffic lights on my inbound commute, and a ton of minor hills and messing around in my outbound commute. I tend to run 25 minutes inbound over 8km, and 35 minutes outbound over 10km. I think. The hills don't speed me up at all on the outbound because its so much more flat, whereas the inbound has long downhills that get me to 45-50kmh without much trouble for a fair distance.

Every commute route is different though, with its own challenges. I think it can't be understated that you cannot get a good training effect from easy routes either.... you might struggle up those hills every day, but you'll recover faster in time and will be able to smash the flats and downhills much harder because of that extra work.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Phil » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:08 am

When I leave in the afternoons, it can teake me in excess of five mins to move two hundred meters.

Lights/cross traffic kills my times worse than the Freo Doctor ever will.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Mugglechops » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:28 am

Comedian wrote:My commute is up hill, down dale, and mixed mode - on road, bike lane, and off road path. There are some lights and intersections too.

As a result my best averages are quite low (<30) compared to many on this forum.

Nothing I can do about it as there isn't much in the way of alternatives.



I am lucky to avg 23km/h on my normal 40km round trip commute. And I have zero traffic lights.

I think I need to pull my finger out and start riding harder. I do ride with a mate and we spend the whole ride having a chat, so I am not exactly out of breath.
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Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Comedian » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:31 am

Mugglechops wrote:
Comedian wrote:My commute is up hill, down dale, and mixed mode - on road, bike lane, and off road path. There are some lights and intersections too.

As a result my best averages are quite low (<30) compared to many on this forum.

Nothing I can do about it as there isn't much in the way of alternatives.



I am lucky to avg 23km/h on my normal 40km round trip commute. And I have zero traffic lights.

I think I need to pull my finger out and start riding harder. I do ride with a mate and we spend the whole ride having a chat, so I am not exactly out of breath.

Mate if your happy why hurry? The average commute speed in the Netherlands is 15kph. :)
Once you can climb hills on a bike it's all downhill. :mrgreen:

Hopefully I'll know what that's like..... one day. :shock: :lol:

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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Mugglechops » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:36 am

Comedian wrote:
Mugglechops wrote:
Comedian wrote:My commute is up hill, down dale, and mixed mode - on road, bike lane, and off road path. There are some lights and intersections too.

As a result my best averages are quite low (<30) compared to many on this forum.

Nothing I can do about it as there isn't much in the way of alternatives.



I am lucky to avg 23km/h on my normal 40km round trip commute. And I have zero traffic lights.

I think I need to pull my finger out and start riding harder. I do ride with a mate and we spend the whole ride having a chat, so I am not exactly out of breath.

Mate if your happy why hurry? The average commute speed in the Netherlands is 15kph. :)


It still helps my fitness as I rode 150kms last Saturday and still my avg was 23kmh in pretty bad weather
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby ColinOldnCranky » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:43 am

myforwik wrote:I found that the downhills did not make up for the uphills


+1 :roll:
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby gdt » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:38 am

I wish I could dig it up, but there was a study which concluded that stopping at 1 traffic light is equivalent to 1 additional Km of riding. I always felt better at stopping on red lights after that, since those that blow through are obviously less hard than me :-)
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby myforwik » Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:31 pm

Takes me almost 10 minutes to get 2km from my work because of all the lights, in a car its alright because if you do the 70km/hr they are all timed nicely, but on a bike you hit every single one.
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Re: Effect of hills and traffic lights on commuter times

Postby Golliwog » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:20 pm

When my commute along the Brisbane river got interrupted by a detour through the city it literally doubled my commute time :(
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