Author Topic: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?  (Read 1935 times)

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Offline dsupica

Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« on: February 23, 2013, 04:07:54 pm »
Hey all, sorry if this is a repost! I've done a bit of searching and couldn't find anything on this - although I may have not gotten the correct keywords.

I'll be doing a cross country trip this summer staying mostly on the TransAm path laid out in the ACA maps. I was wondering - what types of roads does the path follow? That is - is car traffic very heavy? If so, how possible is it to follow the general path of the ACA map but stick to less busy roads?

Thanks!

Dan

Offline staehpj1

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2013, 04:19:43 pm »
I'll be doing a cross country trip this summer staying mostly on the TransAm path laid out in the ACA maps. I was wondering - what types of roads does the path follow? That is - is car traffic very heavy? If so, how possible is it to follow the general path of the ACA map but stick to less busy roads?
In part the answer will vary with how traffic tolerant the person answering is.  So keep that in mind.

I found that for the most part they picked pretty nice roads, but there were sections with heavy traffic usually, but not always with a shoulder.  There was never anywhere that I would change the route to avoid traffic, but I am pretty traffic tolerant.  Google Street View is a good way to preview some of the roads.

The Trans America is a great route, but we did use alternate rods from time to time.  For us the reason was to go where it was a bit flatter more than to avoid traffic.  Sometimes it seemed like they went out of their way to do a big climb.

On the Southern Tier I used alternate routes a good bit, but again not so much to avoid traffic.  In that case it was usually to take a more direct route.

Offline jamawani

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2013, 05:39:55 pm »
Nearly all states have traffic data available - most have it in convenient map form rather than tables.
Google "State name, DOT, traffic count" and you should get a good link.
The state-produced bicycle maps vary considerably - for good to poor.
Most offer three shades of roads for suitability with little specific data.  (Arizona's is one such)
Many states also offer data for county roads, too.

For example -
Kansas - http://www.ksdot.org/burtransplan/maps/CountMaps/Districts/countmap2011.PDF
Southeast Kansas - http://www.ksdot.org/burtransplan/maps/CountMaps/Districts/d4rs10.PDF

Generally speaking, only busier roads will have paved shoulders.
One has to choose between a fairly busy road with shoulders or a quiet one without.
(Obviously, you want to avoid a busy highway without shoulders, eh?)

Another way to get magical empty roads is to finid routes with short unpaved stretches.
For example - between Archville and Beantown the main highway is 30 miles all paved -
But there is a back road that's 34 miles with 5 miles unpaved.  It will usually have almost zero traffic.

ACA tends to route only on paved roads, also avoids rough bituminous surfaces as well.
But with the bumps comes the magic - even abandoned stretches of highway with cracks and grass growing.
I rode along the Mississippi bluffs one fall on an abandoned highway - perfect!

Offline dsupica

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 02:11:03 pm »
Splendid! Thanks for the responses!


Another way to get magical empty roads is to finid routes with short unpaved stretches.
For example - between Archville and Beantown the main highway is 30 miles all paved -
But there is a back road that's 34 miles with 5 miles unpaved.  It will usually have almost zero traffic.


Is there any best way to find these magical empty roads? I'm guessing a mixture of cross referencing the ACA maps with the DOT maps from various states then using google streetview and checking. Any personal experience with finding the right types of roads?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2013, 03:36:56 pm »
The full ACA route criteria can be found here:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/nbrn/resourcespage/ACA_Route_Criteria.pdf

In my experience, the ACA gives highest preference to paved roads, but they will occasionally use short segments (a few miles or less) of unpaved roads to avoid heavy traffic on the paved road.

When considering among paved roads, the ACA will almost always pick the lowest traffic roads, even if it considerably increases the hills and distance (up to 50% longer) and sacrifices the shoulder. Most people who deviate from the ACA routes do so to decrease the hills and distance, but almost always at the cost of more traffic.

If your goal is to avoid traffic, and you're willing to use shoulderless roads to do so, then my advice is to stay on the ACA route exactly. Almost any deviation will increase traffic.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2013, 02:11:35 am »
Let me put it this way:
I biked in many parts of the world: Australia, Scandinavia and many long distance Adventure cycling routes. And last year I did the Transam. On none of this trips I have used a helmet/cycle mirror - and I was happy about my choice. Except on the Transam in the Appalachians: Cycling here has been the most dangerous for me when considering my entire cycling life. You are riding in coal mining country (to name a few Pike county in Kentucky) where the trucks are extremely pushy on narrow winding roads. Many times I pulled off into the ditch because I got a bad feeling on what was happening behind me. Also, in these areas, the local motorists do not like cyclists - sad, because it is extremely beautiful.

Lucas

Offline John Nelson

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2013, 09:57:05 am »
I will agree that coal trucks on winding, narrow roads can be a bit scary. But I only encountered about two per day, and only for a few days. You can hear them coming 10 minutes away--mirror not required. I did pull off the road once to let one go by, but I had plenty of warning. There was an increase in coal truck traffic coming into Hazard, KY from the east, but there's a wide shoulder at that point. It's not ideal, but you get through it. For me, dogs here were more of an issue than trucks. The Appalachians are worth it.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2013, 11:24:31 am »
I'd rank suburban moms in minivans and SUVs around some of the larger towns at rush hour would be my least favorite traffic.  Wheat trucks in Kansas would be second, due mostly to a couple bad (one very bad) experiences.  Logging and coal truckers were almost always professional and as polite as they could be to us, given road conditions and their loads.

Therefore, try to avoid rush hours and late afternoons on weekends, especially holidays and graduation at UVa.

I think cyclist's perceptions of truck drivers is more a litmus test of their response to motorized traffic in general.  If you're scared of a car, you'll be really scared of a truck.  Or perhaps it's the case that if you've learned and accepted vehicular cycling, the professional truckers (who probably see more cyclists than most motorists) respect your bicycle driving, and give you the space you need.  Hug the white line when there's no shoulder, and they figure you've already got all the road you need.

Offline mucknort

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2013, 01:00:29 pm »
Regarding the Coal Truck comments. While riding a modified Northern Tier route, my family and I always waved to the logging trucks driving toward us in the Northwest. Since these truckers are usually driving a loop these these same trucks that would be approaching from behind in a little while.  It seemed that this behavior led to trucks giving us wider room when passing, and often we'd get honks or waves from the passing trucks. I feel that by giving friendly waves to oncoming trucks, they possibly were noting our presence on the road through their radio communications to other trucks. If nothing else, I think we might have been spreading good karma for other cyclists. We certainly got positive responses from the oncoming truckers.

Offline MNRider

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2013, 09:04:13 am »
Speaking of the Norther Tier, be very cautious about the western end of North Dakota. There is a huge oil boom on and the roads are carrying much more truck traffic than they were ever designed for. You will frequently encounter wideloads of oil field equipment and the oil industry has a sense of entitlement in the region so even law enforcement doesn't really mess with them. There is also a major lack of housing in the region so most motels and campgrounds are clogged with oil workers. I've even heard that Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Medora (one of my previous favorite family vacation areas) is no longer family friendly and has become a party place for rowdy oil workers who are often young single men with big pickups and lots of disposable income. The crime rate in that area has boomed as much as the oil industry and the LEOs can't keep up. Ignore the oil industry propaganda about how much good they are doing for the state. Plan your trip so that you can make it through that area in a single day without an overnight stop if possible. From Bismarck on, ND is still a great place for cycle touring.
Those who say it can't be done should stand aside for those who are doing it

Offline John Nelson

Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2013, 10:25:21 am »
Speaking of the Norther Tier, be very cautious about the western end of North Dakota. There is a huge oil boom on and the roads are carrying much more truck traffic than they were ever designed for. You will frequently encounter wideloads of oil field equipment and the oil industry has a sense of entitlement in the region so even law enforcement doesn't really mess with them. There is also a major lack of housing in the region so most motels and campgrounds are clogged with oil workers. I've even heard that Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Medora (one of my previous favorite family vacation areas) is no longer family friendly and has become a party place for rowdy oil workers who are often young single men with big pickups and lots of disposable income. The crime rate in that area has boomed as much as the oil industry and the LEOs can't keep up. Ignore the oil industry propaganda about how much good they are doing for the state. Plan your trip so that you can make it through that area in a single day without an overnight stop if possible. From Bismarck on, ND is still a great place for cycle touring.
Although the effects of the oil boom can still be felt with the new routing, it is much, much better than it was with the pre-2012 routing of the Northern Tier. The oil boom affects most of western North Dakota to some extent, but is much diminished the farther south and east you go. I was through Medora and spent a night at Theodore Roosevelt National Park last summer, and both areas were delightful. There is a major oil depot going in at Fryburg, 14 miles east of Medora, however, so there is some oil truck traffic on the NT route for about seven miles westward from Belfield. It's not bad. You may find housing expensive in the area, but that was not a problem for me since I was camping. Camping spots at TRNP were easy to come by.