Did You Know?
Choosing the best routes for biking
Ever taken a wrong turn on your bike and ended up making your trip twice as long? If this has happened to you, you know the advantages of planning your bike route in advance.
For people new to cycling, the first point to know about route planning is that the best bike route may not be the most direct route. While your trip may end up a little longer, the additional time and distance is a worthwhile tradeoff for a safer, more enjoyable ride.
So here are some tips that may help you plan a good route the next time you hop on a bike.
- Start with the most direct route and then make adjustments to avoid the busiest roads; look for parallel side streets with less traffic.
- Look for streets with bike lanes and enough room to ride outside of the “door zone” when riding alongside parallel parked cars.
- Look for routes that allow you to cross busy streets at traffic lights.
- If you’re forced to use a road with heavy traffic, make it brief and stay on the shoulder.
- If you can, consider riding on residential streets when starting out, even if they take you a bit out of the way.
In the suburbs, finding direct and safe routes may require more creativity and flexibility. When confronted with high speed limits on suburban roads or when you encounter subdivision streets that wind around to a dead end, you need a detailed route plan and perhaps a backup plan.
Bike lanes are spreading to more suburbs, but these vary in quality and connectedness in between communities. Often, suburban bike paths are a great option during good weather. If the path is covered in water or snow, you may want to have another option available.
Finding your way
Whether you’re cycling in the city, suburbs or in rural areas, a good map is an invaluable resource.
- Active Trans’s 2013 Chicagoland Bike Map is better than ever, featuring more trail and bike route connections.
- The City of Chicago publishes a great map for getting around neighborhoods
- Municipal websites often provide maps of the bike-friendly infrastructure in suburban communities.
- The Illinois Department of Transportation has regional maps for the entire state.
Connect with others: Chicagoland bicyclists are fortunate to have unique resources for bicycling information.
- TheChainlink.org forums: Connect with other cyclists about their routes.
- Chicago Bike Buddies: Get a bike mentor who can ride with you and show you safe routes.
- Google.com/maps offers bike directions option.
- Goroo.com: A multimodal trip planner from RTA, which allows for preferences for train, bus, driving to transit, bicycling and walking.
- Chicago Bike Guide app: Allows you to design your own route, get a suggested route or discover new roads or trails to get there.
- Ride the City: Bike map app that includes Divvy stations bike paths, and bike shops.
This blog post was written by Maggie Daly, a former marketing and communications intern at Active Trans.
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