Finding the best route can sometimes be a challenge.
For those of us who live in the urban core, there are plenty of options — from quiet residential streets to multi-lane arterial roads. The best route among those choices is often more about personal preference than safety. A confident cyclist can ride on most any surface street. Some days you may just want the most direct route to hammer all the way, some days you’ll want to relax and enjoy some scenery. The beauty of bike commuting is that it offers a chance to interact with the community on a more personal level.
If you live farther outside the metro area, you may be faced with more daunting high-speed arterial roads. Finding a more pleasant route might require adding extra miles to an already long commute. Another option might be to drive part way or use Lynx for part of the route.
In any case, it’s a good idea to ride your route on a Saturday, to assess the quality of the roads (they look and feel much different on a bike) and to get a feel for the time it will take.
Helpful traffic control devices — When planning a route through quiet streets, it’s important to make sure you can cross or make left turns onto busier roads. Find intersections with traffic lights. If you are unfamiliar with certain intersections, using the satellite feature on Google Maps or MapMyRide can give you a clue (look for white stop bars on the main road).
NOTE: Most traffic lights will detect a bicycle if you stand on the loop. In the City of Orlando, the “sweet spot” is marked with a bicycle stencil. At intersections without a stencil, look for the pavement cuts and place your bike over the center cut (see photo on right).
Annoying traffic control devices — Those quiet residential bikes routes many of us find appealing often have numerous stop signs. Cyclists are not exempt from stopping at stop signs, so if they get on your nerves, it might be good to find another route. Another issue with quite residential routes is motorists often do not really look for crossing traffic before rolling through stop signs.
Road conditions — Some road surfaces are quite awful. A road with washboard pavement, rough bricks or lots of potholes can be painful. Sometimes cyclists have to abandon a preferred route simply because the road surface is inhospitable. (The City of Winter Park has ruined many a bike route with rough bricks.)
Multi-lane roads — It may seem counter-intuitive, but a multilane road is often safer and more convenient for cycling. These roads are usually more direct than meandering though residential areas. If you ride far enough left to claim your lane, motorists will simply change lanes and pass. You’ll get lots of passing clearance and you won’t feel like you’re impeding traffic. The road surface conditions are often better on the main roads. Motorists on intersecting roads expect to stop and look carefully before entering the road.
Multi-use paths — There are several useful paths, depending on where you live and work. These make a nice escape from noise and exhaust. Sometimes they even offer a short-cut. Just remember to be respectful of other users. Treat a path as an opportunity to relax and slow down, otherwise you may become frustrated with pedestrians. They have as much right to be passed safely and respectfully on the path as you do on the road.
Report surface hazards
If you find problems on your route (non-functioning loop detectors, potholes, drain grates, filthy bike lanes, etc), you can report them to Metroplan Orlando. Here is the Bicycle Spot Improvement Report Form.
These maps show metro area bike paths as well as which roads have bike lanes, shoulders, wide curb lanes, high and low traffic volumes.
Connect the Quiet Streets
This is a collaborative map for metro Orlando cyclists to note existing or potential opportunities to connect networks of low-volume streets. Many “secret” connections have been identified, making this map an aid to route planning. Visit the collaborative maps page. Learn more about connectivity.
Allows you to map your routes and then enter ride data in a fitness journal. Join the CommuteOrlando group and add your route! You can also make a kmz file and send it to Mighk for addition in the MetroPlan Google Earth file.
Google Bike There
Google maps has a “bicycling” feature that will show you the trails, bike lanes and bike routes in the area. Beware. I have found that it shows a lot of bike paths that are nothing more than common sidewalks. Google will also map a route to go by bike. This should be taken as a loose suggestion to get you started, but double-check the roads it chooses.