Finding the most appropriate route for bicycle travel can be challenging in many communities. When I began bike commuting in San Francisco nearly 15 years ago, it took me a while to find the quiet, flat, and pleasant bike routes.
As I describe on my bike commuting tips page:
When I began bike commuting I would travel for part of my trip on Lombard Street. Thousands of speeding cars pour onto Lombard off the Golden Gate Bridge, each vehicle filled with an impatient commuter from Marin County. Just past the intersection with Van Ness Avenue, Lombard climbs about a 15 percent grade to the top of Russian Hill. Idiot that I was, I'd dismount and push my bike all the way up, arriving at the top as a soggy mass of perspiration, only to "enjoy" a terrifying descent down the other side to my workplace.Today, commuting by bicycle in the city is easier, thanks to the efforts of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. There is now a network of signed bike routes--with a few remaining gaps, to be sure--and a great, detailed bike map available online or at local bike shops.
Eventually I learned that if I went one block north I could bicycle comfortably on Chestnut Street, which is a slower neighborhood street running parallel to Lombard. Instead of climbing the hill, I learned that I could easily ride around it on Bay Street and avoid the sweaty ascent and white-knuckle descent.
There is also an encouraging growth of online bike route mapping services, such as Bikely. Many local transportation agencies provide online bike route mapping, such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the Bay Area. Google Earth also helps identify trouble spots and bothersome grades.
An enjoyable route makes bike commuting fun. As I said on my commuting tips: "When considering your route, don't think like a motorist. Think like a cyclist. Pick the most pleasant route. Look for streets with attractive scenery. Find the friendliest espresso stop. Part of the charm of bike commuting is that the pace and ease of parking allows you an opportunity to stop and smell the roses."
Image: Paul Dorn. Signs on Market Street in San Francisco.
Visit: Fitness 101: Where can I find detailed bike maps for NYC?, Examiner.com
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips