Amy Harcourt, guest blogger and expert on bike commuting is back for her third post in a series on bike commuting.
Amy is co-founder of Bikes Make Life Better, a consulting firm that helps leading organizations to develop impactful sustainability initiatives through the use of well-planned and executed bicycle and transportation programs.
This week Amy’s taking us on a trial bike commute. (–kvt)
You’ve got the bike and the basic gear. Now you’re ready to give bike commuting a try.
If you want to ride your bike to work (or the store, park, gym, etc.), plan your route ahead of time and test it out.
The best tool for mapping your route is Google Maps, http://maps.google.com, using the Bicycle transportation mode. Just as with other modes, it will give you a map and turn-by-turn directions. If there are multiple options, Google will give them to you and all of them will be bike-friendly routes.
You’ll notice that in the “bicycle” mode, the map includes different green lines. Dark green lines are bike trails that do not permit motor vehicles. Light green lines are streets with bike lanes. And dashed green lines show other streets that are recommended for cycling. If you forget this key, you can find it by placing your cursor over the “traffic” icon in the top right corner of the map.
Google cautions that bike routes are “in beta” and includes a “report a problem” link for cyclist feedback. Every now and then, I find that the map doesn’t quite match reality, which is why you want to do a test ride.
Test your route when you’re not rushed to get to work, like on a weekend. Check to make sure your planned route doesn’t include any surprises. Look for road hazards, one ways streets, construction or anything else that seems important to your commute.
As I test a route that I’ll ride regularly, I nearly always find little ways to improve it. After taking the planned route, I might cut over a street or two to find a quieter route. Or try a shortcut. It’s only with experience that you’ll make improvements. No map, no matter how good it is, will do this for you.
Another great way to find the best routes is to ride with other people – particularly those who do it on a regular basis. Bike-to-Work Day is an ideal opportunity for this.
So map your route and give it a test ride. Or find others to ride with. The more familiar you are with your route, the more comfortable you’ll be. And the more comfortable you are, the safer you’ll be on the road.
Tell us how your test commute went in the comments section below. And join us for our final installment focused on safe cycling.