Planning and Thoughts on Safety

Planning The Ride

  • We started our planning with American Cycling Association maps for the Northern Tier. These maps are well thought out and have a lot of detail information in them.
  • We quickly realized that there were some deviations that we wanted to make, so I picked up AAA maps for each state and province, mapped out our ride, then cut the maps down so that they contained only our biking route.
  • At this point I found a website, Ride With GPS Mapping, where I could lay out our ride for each day. We were looking to average about 65 miles a day so this provided a starting point. From there I could look at the amount of climbing, towns along the way, scenic attractions, and overnight locations. Then I finalized each day on the mapping program. We changed the route several time while on the ride, and I was able to go into Ride With GPS, map the changes, and see the impact on our ride. I am using this same method to plan the North to Alaska ride for next summer. The website is super/duper.
  • We used the GPS on our cellphones to find specific locations when we were in a given town. This worked very well.
  • I kept track of the specifics for each day on my Garmin Edge 800, and uploaded the data as frequently as possible.
  • Frequently people made suggestions about different roads to take. We learned quickly that a short detour over good road to a car driver can be an out of the way route with roller coaster hills. We also learned that a Tuesday evening bicyclist may consider his route through the country to be a nice ‘scenic’ way to go, but again, it may not be the best way for a tired loaded biker trying to reach the next town to pedal. Let the listener beware.

Thoughts On Safety

  • We rode on all types of roads: interstates, US 2 & 4 lane highways, state 2 & 4 lane highways, county roads, and through cities. Some roads had nice wide margins, some had narrow or no margins, and a few had rumble strips in the middle of the margin making it difficult to avoid debris.
  • Regarding entrance/exit ramps on interstates: When riding interstates or limited access highways we would ride up the exit ramp until we could quickly cut directly across, or ride as far beside the entrance ramp as necessary to ensure good visibility before cutting across. We rode on some very busy highways but always felt comfortable navigating the ramps.
  • When riding on roads with very narrow margins I tended to ride to the left of the edge markings, rather than try to stay on the small edge to the right which might be broken and crumbling. I felt that a car had a better chance of ‘noticing’ me and not side swiping me.
  • Overall, I considered my bike a moving vehicle and preferred to operate it as such.
  • I always made sure to use hand signals when making turns, and made left and right hand turns from the appropriate lanes of traffic.
  • I never rode up beside a line of traffic stopped at a stop sign/light, rather I always stopped behind the last car in line and moved forward as appropriate. I felt this would minimize the chance of someone making an unexpected right turn into me after I had ridden up beside them.
  • I always accelerated as quickly as possible through intersections to minimize becoming an obstacle.
  • I always made wide sweeping turns at an intersection, rather than short cutting the corner. This allowed cars to easily make a turn on my left side. Early in my riding career I short cut a corner and a car went around me on the right then almost side swiped me; no accident, but a learning opportunity.
  • I stayed off of sidewalks.
  • I was the most nervous riding bike paths through large cities and tended to avoid them when ever possible. Cars go one direction and most moves can be anticipated. On the bike paths there were runners, skaters, and bikers going all different speeds and directions, getting on the path and turning off the path without warning, cutting in and out from sidewalks, and running stops signs and lights. In my case, I felt far safer riding my bicycle through Toronto, Montreal, or other large city on the streets rather than on the bike paths.
  • I also tended to be nervous in bike lanes because of cars pulling into traffic or making right turns to a side street. Drivers tend to look for movement in the lane of traffic where cars are moving, not a small lane next to the curb where their vision may be blocked by parked cars.
  • I personally believe that no one will hit me on purpose. That being said, an accident will happen in the blink of an eye through someone’s inattentiveness: mine or someone else’s. I want to be obvious to automobile drivers not obnoxious to them.
  • Note: Everyone has their own comfort level when riding on the road in traffic. What is my comfort level may be terrifying for someone else. Each person needs to find their own stride when out on the road.

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