It’s not unusual for beginning bike commuters to make the mistake of hopping on their new bike and riding the same routes they were taking by car. Major automobile commute routes are often the most dangerous and least enjoyable routes for bicyclists, so it behooves bike commuters to identify bike-friendly routes that bypass busy automobile traffic patterns.
Do Your Research
If you’re already riding for fitness or pleasure, take advantage of those rides to scope out possible commute routes. If possible, try to fit in some rides during the approximate time of day you expect to make your commute so that you get a true sense of traffic patterns.
If you work in a large office, ask around to see if there are any experienced bike commuters riding in from your area. Fellow commuters can provide a wealth of information regarding safe routes and secret short cuts.
While not foolproof, the Google Maps “biking directions” site can be a powerful tool. Run a few queries and see what it delivers, but be sure to verify the suggested routes by pre-riding before your first commute.
Take the Long Way Home
Don’t hesitate to choose a longer route to avoid heavy automobile traffic. Circuitous routes that take full advantage of quiet backstreets and bike paths may take more time, but they can also greatly improve the quality of a commute.
The Dry Run
Once you’ve settled on a route, take a dry run on the weekend prior to your first commute. This will allow you to check the route without the pressure of getting to work on time. And if you don’t like the route, a dry run will give you an opportunity to make changes before the big day.
Leave Plenty of Time
Schedule in an extra 10 minutes for contingencies. There’s nothing that will spoil a pleasant commute faster than walking out the door late. One of the greatest benefits of bike commuting is starting your day with a relaxing bike ride; don’t ruin it by turning your commute into a race against the clock.
Mix It Up
Once you’ve established a good route and you’ve settled into a groove, don’t hesitate to mix it up now and then. Occasionally changing your route will help keep your commute fresh and interesting.
The most important thing to remember is that the route you’ve been taking by car is unlikely to be the best route on your bicycle. Taking the time to identify a bike-friendly route will make your commute safer and more enjoyable.