Choosing Your Route to Work Part 1

In ancient times, it was said that all roads lead to Rome. In our day, this is a way of saying that there are many ways to reach a goal. When it comes to choosing a bike route for your ride to work, both ideas apply.

Picture of a road signpost
Wherever you’re going, chances are you can get there. Photo by Matt From London.

By the time my office moved from the university area to downtown, I had a well-worn path between my house and the bike rack near the front door. Prior to showing up at the new building on Monday, I studied Google maps, reviewed what I knew of the area, and even took a practice ride downtown on Saturday morning. Still, in my first five days of riding to and from the new office, I found ten routes not to take. Some were dangerous, some ran into dead ends, and some were just unpleasant; but the next week, I found the perfect route…and so can you.

If you have been driving to work for a while, you have probably found an ideal route, but what is right for a car is almost certainly not right for a bicycle. Fortunately, in almost every town, all roads are connected and there are thousands of possible alternates.

Why Your Bike To Work Route Should Be Different Than Your Drive To Work Route

Bikes are not cars…write it down; underline it; they are not even similar to cars. The two types of vehicles have almost nothing in common:

  • Cars are big and heavy; bikes are small and light.
  • Cars have lots of low-end torque and can get off the line quickly; bikes have only the power that you can put into them.
  • Cars have lots of horsepower and can go fast; bikes have no horsepower and (unless you’re Lance Armstrong) go slow.
  • Cars have four wide tires and take up lots of room; bikes have two skinny tires and take little room.
  • Car engines put out pollution; bike engines take in pollution.
  • Because of their weight, power, and size, cars are dangerous and need to stay away from people; because of their weight, power, and size, bikes can be ridden in close proximity to people.

All of these facts mean that your driving route should not be the same as your biking route. Here are some of the ways car and bicycle characteristics lead to different routes to work.

  • Your car’s power means you may not even notice hills that will have a big impact on you when you pedal.
  • Because of torque, you can gun the engine to get quickly across intersections in a car that may stop you cold on a bike.
  • Your car’s speed may encourage you to take the interstate even when it is a longer route, while your bicycle’s speed may encourage you to take a more direct route on surface streets.
  • With your car’s tires and stability, you may not notice the rough roads or grooved pavement that will greatly impact your bike.
  • Because you are not worried about breathing pollution, you want to drive your car on main arterials; to avoid pollution, you want to ride your bike on unused neighborhood streets.
  • Your car’s size traps it in a vehicular ghetto, while your bike’s size allows you to use paths and pedestrian plazas.

In my next post, I’ll talk about tools for finding an ideal route to work. Chances are it will be a road less traveled, and that will make all the difference.

Question: What do you think makes an ideal Bike to Work Route?