Beating the system - the cycling commuting section
12 posts • Page 1 of 1
My normal commute is great - I've only just started, so I've only actually done it 5 times over the last 3 weeks, but it's a very nice ride. For Canberra locals, I ride from Gungahlin to Barton, so it's a very nice 18km ride there, and about 20km home. There's one really ugly crossing (Commonwealth Avenue bridge), and the bike lane on the main road (Northbourne Ave) is nerve racking with buses pulling into the lane and cars not looking before they turn left - but I've just started trying to tack onto groups of riders. It didn't take me long to discover that this isn't rude - this is a "thing" in Canberra. People riding down Northbourne tend to get themselves into groups so they're more visible.
The reason the ride home is longer than the ride to work is because I'm dodging some hairy traffic (getting from Barton to the left side of Commonwealth Ave bridge).
This Friday I have to go a different route - my cars going in for a service. The new route is much, much shorter - about half the distance (from Ainslie to Barton). But after using google maps to check the bike paths, I'm crapping myself about this commute. There are hardly any bike lanes if I go the shortest way (Ainslie, Limestone, Anzac, Parkes Way, Kings Ave)
I'm not fast enough that I feel comfortable taking a lane. In hindsight, I shouldn't have booked the car in on a Friday - there's never as much traffic on a Friday in Canberra... but it's done now. (To explain this further - on a busier day, traffic on these roads stands still. It would appear to me to be much lower risk when traffic is crawling)
So I wonder - what do you do? Or rather, what would you do if you were me? (I make the question specific to me on account of the fact that I only average up to 20km/hr - others probably go faster and aren't so nervous about taking a lane).
If you ride as slowly as I do, do you add 50% more distance onto your ride, bearing in mind that 9km to 13km is about a 25 minute difference for me? Or do you just brave it in the traffic and trust that no one is going to run into you?
I'd love some thoughts/advice.
Traffic usually comes into planning when I ride, I don't go out of the way much anymore as I'm more comfortable mixing it with traffic and there aren't many routes that are really bad that I use.
Having said that, this arvo had to go a pick up a car part via a very busy signalled intersection so chose to use the footpath to avoid sitting in the right turn lane amongst all the cars and trucks. This was after two narrow sections that I could have chosen footpath, but stuck with speed, checking behind and stayed on the road to get through.
bychosis (bahy-koh-sis): A mental disorder of delusions indicating impaired contact with a reality of no bicycles.
when i'm riding solo , heaps, keep to bike paths or road lanes, don't like riding on the roads much, even in darwin,
when doing group rides it doesn't bother me, we are in a pack and easier to see so will stay on the road with the group
Traffic is pretty critical to my route planning.
For one thing, as I was reminded this morning, inhaling un-catalysed motorbike exhausts makes me feel like throwing up.
And then there's the start-stop nature of riding in traffic and the increased risk of encountering Mr Frustrated Driver who wants to ventilate by taking out his building rage by "teaching a lesson" on the nearest vulnerable road user.
Thirdly, the less congested roads are inevitably hillier, making for a better workout even if the trip is a little slower.
"People have a right to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Evidence must be located, not created, and opinions not backed by evidence cannot be given much weight." -- James W Loewen
I cycle into Sydney city in peak hour so I definitely consider traffic. I find that even the longer routes on the map actually take less time as you can ride faster and more confidently rather than sitting in traffic.
I think the sentence "I'm not fast enough that I feel comfortable taking a lane." sums it up for me. You will NEVER be fast enough to claim a lane if 20kmh isn't enough. I CAN go as fast as the cars in some sections of my commute, but I choose routes based on speed of my commute and predictability of the traffic. I hate hugging the northern side of Westmead Station because there is huge amounts of parking and turning no matter what time of day it is... but it's miles quicker than taking Queen St because that activity that I hate near the station makes the cars very edgy as well. Cars aren't expecting to have to concentrate on Queen and it makes for much higher speed evasive actions.
Realistically, traffic can be very unpredictable in some places, and you should avoid that. It's very hard to control people driving too fast and hitting your rear in some places. Avoid those ones
If you can sprint up to 40-45kmh, cars will generally offer a lot of respect because you accelerate faster than they do until you hit 40-50kmh. Once you're up to speed, just keep rolling. You'll fade, and that's OK. I had a mad run today where I basically kept 48kmh for a kilometre today on a slight downhill, and the cars were STILL unhappy when it came time to pass. I was chasing another car, and it was only one lane, so they weren't getting delayed. Your speed isn't key, your presentation is. It was clear I was moving, and they had no reason to freak out... until they had a chance to pass. (ironically, they were delayed because my headchecks revealed they hadn't picked a lane yet so I couldn't make my lane change with confidence).
Sure, traffic plays into it for me. I've added distance and time (by which I mean I both have to go further and ride more slowly) to avoid bits of road I find problematic. I couldn't swear it's any safer, but it's certainly more pleasant. Personally, I optimise my route for pleasantness and wear a bit of delay.
Having said that, I don't know that lack of a bike lane would be a dealbreaker for me. It depends on how wide the road is, the attitudes of the local drivers, how dense the traffic is (as you mentioned) and so on.
Having recently started commuting every day, traffic of all natures is a big consideration.
I recently had a minor accident due to an inattentive idiot.. was out of action for a week catching the cattle train with everyone else/ having to fix the damage to the bike as a result. It was a distinct reminder of how vulnerable cyclists are to other travelers, being motor vehicles, other cyclists and pedestrians. I now try to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible.
I deliberately pick roads with bike lanes, or decent shoulders to avoid having to ride through the traffic.
I leave at 6.10am in the morning, to avoid the worst of the traffic, being both motor vehicles, slow cyclists and pedestrians who insist on walking in bike lanes despite ideal alternative footpaths.
Don't get me wrong, will ride in traffic if required, i.e. turning vehicles etc, but would rather avoid it - one inattentive driver/impatient idiot etc = time off the bike.
Could you go Ainslie, Wakefield, Left onto Northbourne - just indicate with your right arm and do a head check at every cross street - straight down, around city hill and onto CW bridge, and then off the other side. And off to wherever you need to in Barton.
There is a lane all the way that way and while I go from the southside to down and back i have no hesitation in riding northbourne in peak hour - just because the traffic creeps along so slowly. i have a couple of hairy areas on my commute too that are fairly well know danger spots. if you keep your wits about you and expect the unexpected, you will be fine.
Most of Limestone Ave is fine but there is a pinch point between the intersection with Quick St and Treloar Cres where the lane is very narrow - if you're not confident claiming the lane you should definitely avoid that section.
There are four phases of bicycle commuting; first there's fear, then rage, then self-righteousness and finally, fun.
I chose my routes primarily on safety (and pleasant scenery) and will gladly take a more indirect route if it means safer bike paths or bike lanes with less traffic, squeeze zones and generally unsafe conditions.
I go for reduced traffic roads with wide shoulders, minimise exposure and the odds of an altercation are reduced I reckon.
I throw as many hilly sections in as fit that criteria too.
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