Author Topic: Deciding / Finding / Parameters for Routes  (Read 2663 times)

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Offline tksleeper

Deciding / Finding / Parameters for Routes
« on: December 31, 2011, 04:49:06 pm »
Now how to type this up without writing a book ... (super long post)

I was just working on a weekish long ride from Kansas City Missouri to St Louis.  It will have portions of the Katy involved but as I was looking from the future connector of Pleasant Hill, Mo to Windsor I was once again miffed. How do you know when you're on gravel .. or truly back country low traffic low speed limit roads.  When riding from Boulder Colorado to St Louis we started out running along 36 that lasted till some place in Kansas when cars were just to noisy.  It was plenty safe with wide shoulders and all..maybe boring at worst.    Anyway sometimes it feels like routes are for the road bikes or mountain bikes never mixed.  I run 700x50 tires with fenders .. so for me less traffic and more scenery is my joy.  Finding them is a nightmare... to me in many cases single track is nicer than heavily graveled roads... I could to C&O type double track all day even in rain and rejoice ..

So how to find routes that incorporate a bit of everything.. the 20 miles of single track that cuts of a noisy highway or a sidewalk that gets your through town better than the roads while still getting where we want to go.  For me riding the shoulder of an interstate is safer than a two lane 60mph farm road with no shoulders... give me gravel there.. not car counts... if you see what I mean.. I'm not against or afraid of truly low traffic high speed roads... but how do we find them on them maps.. .the popular routes tend to be popular with cars in some cases.. If I'm wrong say so but it l looks like we simplify and put up with a busier road to save the complexity of the route at times.  What trade offs are made ...

Is there a national gravel / dirt road mapping system .. a mapping system that takes into account bike routes (google is trying but  not there yet) Not to mention those dirt farm roads.. sweet! (well when dry anyway)

Routes that may be uncomfortable for a skinny tired (under 700x32 say) .. doesn't mean I don't want new ice smooth asphalt .. just not at the expense of stuff like this..

Nothing wrong with having to traverse a railroad track without an actual crossing if it takes you where you want to go without traffic.  :)  Now how to find these wonderful cut throughs and off the chart routes between locations.

How do you do it?


Offline jamawani

Re: Deciding / Finding / Parameters for Routes
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2011, 05:55:38 pm »

YMMV - but people have different measures of what entails a good cycling route - services, shoulders, scenery, traffic levels.  I have toured more than 100,000 miles and regularly include unpaved sections into my inineraries.  Why? If you have a 40-mile paved road from Farmville to New City vs one that is 32 miles of pavement and 10 miles of dirt - 98% of the traffic will be on the paved road.  Furthermore, the speed will usually be much slower on the latter route.  Also, older county roads will rarely have the same level of engineering as state/federal highways - thus they will have lower speed limits and, generally, lower speeds.  They will have more curves and steeper grades.  That's the trade-off.

Unless you Google Streetview every mile - and some routes still have no Streetview possible - you can't be sure how much shoulder you have to use.  Then there's the issue of rumble strips on the shoulder - which can sometimes not be seen in Streetview but make the shoulder largely unusable for cyclists.  Nevada is the worst offender on this one.  Such a situation is even more dangerous than no shoulder at all since drivers will expect cyclists to be on the shoulder.  Technically speaking, I would concur that an Interstate shoulder is safer than a rural highway with low traffic but no shoulder.  But I do not tour to listen to 18-wheelers all day  and smell diesel fumes.

Most state DOT websites have AADT maps for state/federal highways.  Some state such as Kansas & Iowa even have county road AADT maps.  State highways usually have 55-65 mph speed limits.  County highways are usually 45-55 mph.  In Virginia, county roads are usually numbered in the 600s and 700s - although technically state highways.  In North Carolina they have four-digit numbers such as 1701.

I'll give you an example: Nebraska AADT Map

You could ride across Nebraska on the Old Lincoln Highway - US 30.  Plenty of towns and services.  Usually a shoulder.  Moderate to moderate-plus traffic.
Google Streetview Section: Between Hershey and North Platte
AADT - 3225

Or you could use Hwy 2 which is quite scenic in the Sandhills.  Lower traffic in the west - much higher in the east.
Google Streetview Section: Mullen and Thedford
AADT - 715

Or you could choose Hwy 92 in combination with county roads for a very quiet, stunning ride.
Google Streetview Section: Between Tryon and Stapleton
(Check out the fab Round Valley Road between Broken Bow and Sargent.)
AADT - 130

AADT rought rule of thumb for rural highways -
Under 500 - Heavenly
500-1000 - Quite nice
1000-2000 - OK, but enough traffic to require caution
2000-4000 - Moderate to moderate-plus traffic, shoulder really needed
4000+ - Heavy traffic, shoulder essential - risky without shoulder for short essential connection

Best - J

Offline tksleeper

Re: Deciding / Finding / Parameters for Routes
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2011, 06:03:40 pm »
Thanks and Missouri and other states have the traffic counts.. I also found a motorcycle route of Historic Bridges in Missouri mostly gravel.... I thought that at one time maps used to show dirt/gravel/paved via dotted lines or something.  Now I don't seem to be able to find those. 

Thanks for the info.. I'll study those a bit


Offline jamawani

Re: Deciding / Finding / Parameters for Routes
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2012, 11:55:34 am »
Yes, earlier state DOT maps that were hand created usually indicated paved vs unpaved, but newer electronic platforms no longer have this feature in most cases.  Go figure.

If you go to PDF map files that are a decade or so old, you will likely find these older formats - which still usually indicate which county roads are paved vs unpaved -- at least in rural areas.  DeLorme atlases do not show paved vs unpaved in any meaningful way - they have thicker vs thinner lines, but it doesn't necessarily mean paved or unpaved.  Benchmark Maps have far superior state atlases - and they DO show which roads are paved vs unpaved.  I do not know how accurate they are - I suspect that they have used the most recent state sources as above.