Saturday, November 21, 2009

a tale of two roads/routes

A family bike ride can be made or broken by route selection. Saturday afternoon we went for a ride to a regional fast food establishment that people are kind of crazy about. Without much thinking (on my part) we took a major arterial road, with a bike lane to the restaurant. I take this road every day as part of my commute and find it very easy to ride. But riding with a bike trailer and spouse, I found it to be quite a different experience. Not nearly as enjoyable. I could see it in my wife's eyes that my hasty route selection had made for less than idyllic ride.

Cause let's face it... when we go for family rides we're all in search of that "blissful" ride with the sunshine, birds chirping, butterflies dancing, and all other utopian notions that accompany the fun that comes when the entire family is on the bike.

After we ate - I started to rethink our route home. While we could've easily retraced our steps and hustled home... I didn't want to do that. Sure, going back down the road with a bike lane was direct, but was that how I wanted to ride home? With very little effort, I devised a route that took us through the city center, and along a residential road almost all the way home. As you can see from the picture, the residential road took us slightly further south than we wanted, but the peaceful ride more than made up for the 1/4 mile detour. George squealed in delight on the way home. My wife added her vote of approval, the ride home was "the family ride" feel we were looking for.

Some thoughts for next time and family route selection:

Bike lanes are good for individual riding, commuting, and direct trips. They are not as nice for family riding because of traffic volume, and it is difficult, if not dangerous to ride two abreast.

Residential roads are nice. The traffic is slower, and cars expect to travel at slower speeds. We had a minivan drive patiently, slowly behind us for several blocks without trying to pass us (though they could have if they were in a rush). I doubt you'd get the same offer on a major street. The less direct/detour is far worth it. Let's face it, if you are on a family ride, are you really in a rush anywhere? The residential roads allow you to ride next to your family members in a much more calm environment.

Routing has never been easier with online mapping tools like google maps, google earth, and mileage tracking sites like gmaps pedometer (our route linked) that allow you to share your routes (or record them for future use).

What are your experiences with family bike route planning?


Dawn D. Lion said...

my experience is the same - biking with kids makes you hyper-aware of your route. I agree with the bike lane/ residential thing for a family, although when I'm solo with a trailer I sometimes choose a bike lane if its a good one.
One plus for the residential route would be less emissions fumes - I'm sometimes a little worried about that with the level a baby rides.

david said...

yeah dawn, i'll always choose a bike lane if i can get my grubby little mitts on them. there is a great debate as to whether or not they make riding more safe. i think they are a good thing because at the very least, they show that this space has been designated for bicyclists above other users of the road.

this logic, and every other type of logic gets thrown out the window when you are riding with children.

residential roads are great, and if you are lucky you can get some that go more than a couple of blocks before dead-ending. the other problem with some residential roads, is that they don't give you a signal at major arterial roads... so you are either left to fend for yourself, or go up/down the block to find a crossing with a light.

Dawn D. Lion said...

In STL they have roads I would call "aterial residential" which seem to be main thoroughfares for bicyclists. They still have lights when they cross main roads, but have less stop signs - 2 way stops yield to them.

Ben & Carly said...

I have to agree with the above comments, choosing a route has become much more important since my children came along. I just can't weave in and out of traffic like I used too. I have found that I need quite a bit more of a space cushion when I am using my bike trailer and since my six year old and four year old have started riding along beside me I have had many a mom-panic-attack when we come to a busy street. I would always rather take the long way if it means breathing easier and enjoying their company. kids are so easily distracted enjoying the things that make bike riding so wonderful, and that's how it should be. This is why the country is so appealing to me, open quiet roads with endless route possiblities.....hopefully someday.