It’s all in the route

When I first started pondering the possibility of riding my bike to work, each time I would abandon the thought because I was absolutely sure there was no way to safely get from the vicinity of SR 436 & SR 50 over to UCF.  I had driven that route a million times, knew the area well and knew it to be “bike un-friendly,” and thus gave up the dream each night in frustration.

Then, by a stroke of very good luck, my husband and I met Keri.  I made a passing mention of my desire to ride, more by way of complaining about my bad route luck than anything else.  I had zero expectation that this problem could be fixed, so I was shocked when I got an email from Keri with a route to get me to work; she even offered to ride it with me!  As I looked over the map and visualized each road, it was like a whole new world opening up.  I realized that I had deemed riding to work as impossible because I was thinking of how I drive to work.  Though it is so obvious now, I hadn’t thought about zooming out from my daily drive and looking at how smaller roads might connect and get me to work by bike.  Even as a newbie to transportational cycling, the route was a breeze and only involved about 45 seconds of an arterial road–even I could handle that.

That first route served as a key that unlocked our full potential for family cycling.  We have found that you can get almost anywhere by bike using a combination of residential roads, bike trails, and short spurts on the busier, arterial roads.  So when a friend asked me if I thought she could start riding to work, I was able to confidently say, “absolutely – let me make you a route.”  I’ve learned that, even though both her home and her work are off two major arterial roads, there is almost always a way.  I also knew that once I got her safely to work, she would be more willing to run errands by bike, more willing to start getting out with her kids, and then she would be hooked.

I’ve grown to believe good route planning is one of the most powerful tools for encouraging people to ride–far more powerful than adding 10,000 miles of bike lanes to roads everyone is too scared to ride.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not anti-facility, not by a long stretch.  Instead, I’d rather see efforts directed at teaching people to take back our residential roads and then put funding towards building more trails and bike infrastructure.  We shouldn’t need a bike path on a 25-mph road; to me, that indicates a real problem in the community.  I’d love to see people bringing bikes back to neighborhood streets and have these quiet streets complemented by a solid bike infrastructure that would enable riders to circumvent the worst arterial roads.  To me, this would be the ultimate “share the road” mentality: cyclists and motorists working together to find a good balance that leaves everyone safe and happy on our roads.

5 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    Well said, Angie!

    I think a second important tool is learning the strategies to transition those short distances on big roads or the big intimidating intersections. That can be really, simple and safe or extremely treacherous. Unfortunately, most novices who have not been exposed to some kind of education will automatically make the worst possible choices that only solidify their fear.

    Aside from a grade-separated facility (tunnel or bridge) or separate signal phases which delay everyone (but mostly cyclists), there is no way to make intersections safer through infrastructure. But a few simple skills and a little knowledge solves the problem and works everywhere.

    All of the urban core can be accessed by routes with 95% quiet streets and 5% transitions through a busy road. Outside the urban core (in sprawlando), we need more permeability to create that kind of pleasant route system.

  2. rodney
    rodney says:

    Just got back in from a 10 mile jaunt to Silver Star Rd/N.O.B.T. Tried a more “direct” route vs. zig-zagging through the neighborhoods. Aside from the headwinds to/from my destinations, it was an awesome ride.

    When I began cycling, I too had the mindset in getting from “A” to “B” of a motorist. Sometimes the most direct of routes isn’t always that pleasant on a bicycle.

    Having a mentor is as equally important as your on board tool kit. Their advice is truly most valuable. Get several if you can and become one yourself. It makes a difference.

  3. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I think the Orlando area is far better designed than eastern Volusia county. There are no side streets to go any reasonable distance, so it’s all major roads, four to ten lanes, although I think the ten-laners are more accurately nine lanes.

    It is fun to read of the illuminating moments that Angie experiences as she becomes more comfortable with riding.

  4. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    I would like to see a follow-up post from Angie outlining some of the route improvements and “more fun ways” that she’s discovered since riding the route. I’ve found many such on my own commute route.

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