Author Topic: Riding on the US Interstates  (Read 19865 times)

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Offline rogermcd

Riding on the US Interstates
« on: August 26, 2014, 03:12:19 pm »
I have just heard of the tragic death of Joanna Abernathy, a fellow Australian.

She was just west of Indianapolis when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver, in the early hours of the 10th August 2014.

I have  cycled across the US twice now using AdventureCycling's routes and once across Canada ( just completed ) and once across Australia.

On my trip across the US in 2012, I used the interstate highway across North Dakota, the only state which allows cyclist on the interstates, as I understand things.

From this single experience compared to the thousands of miles on back roads, I know for  sure  that cycling on the interstate highways in the US is much safer

I would like to see AdventureCycling take this on as a campaign to get this stupid prohibition lifted right across the US.  If I were a US citizen I would certainly start such a campaign

Had Joanna been on an interstate I am sure she  would probably be alive today, not withstanding drunk drivers and the foolishness of riding at 3am in the morning

I would love to hear the views of other experienced cyclists on this topic.

More on  her tragic death here

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/aust-cyclist-killed-during-dream-us-trip/story-fn3dxix6-1227023995115
« Last Edit: August 26, 2014, 03:30:16 pm by rogermcd »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2014, 05:12:03 pm »
Many US states allow riding in the interstate.  None in the east but quite a few in the west.

Most folks have a strong preference for avoiding the interstates.  I kind of like riding on the interstate sometimes, but am not convinced that it is much if any safer due to having to cross merge areas at the intersections.

Offline rogermcd

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2014, 05:44:17 pm »
I find merging easy providing you have two mirrors.

Offline jamawani

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2014, 06:10:27 pm »
I have more than 100,000 miles of riding over the last 30 years
and I must disagree with you.

I am saddened by Joanna Abernethy's death.
She represented what is best about all of us.

But the answer is not riding on interstates.
Staehpj1 is right - many states permit interstate riding.
But it surely is not a pleasant experience -
The traffic, the fumes, the noise - all for a wide shoulder littered with stuff?

A cyclist was recently killed on a 4-lane highway in Colorado with wide shoulders.
The driver was intoxicated and drifted off the highway.

You are never going to have perfect roads and perfect drivers.
It would be nice if cycling routes had low traffic and good shoulders,
but highway departments put shoulders on busy roads, not empty ones.

I have been hit twice and have been lucky.
Both times were on city streets at fairly low speeds.
I prefer low traffic and scenic roads for the quality of the riding -
but I also feel they are safer.

Many times they are winding, low-speed, and not very direct.
People in a hurry will usually not be driving on these roads.
I also advise people to avoid cycling during peak times of holiday weekends -
when the likelihood of drunk drivers is greater.

Generally, I avoid night riding when on tour -
because even with a headlamp and rear flasher - I am less visible.
Drivers don't expect to encounter a cyclist on a rural highway in the middle of the night.

I don't have any pat answers for you -
Joanna's death is a tragic loss - yet one more cyclist.
And far too many cyclists have died.

With slim budgets and expanding costs,
I don't see highway departments building more cycling facilities.
Two things are helpful that don't cost much - -
First, the posting of "Share the Road" signs
which let people know that cyclists use the roads, too.
Second, a "3-Foot Passing Law" -
which, if enforced, means drivers give cyclists room on the road.

It's not much, but it's a start.

Offline zzzz

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2014, 07:29:50 am »
I have to agree w/ the 2 previous posters, I don't believe interstate highway access is the answer. There are too many people hit every year on the shoulder of the road when they've stopped their cars for repairs for me to think that this is a safe place to be.

I would like to see two changes to improve rider safety in this country:

1) I think people should have to undergo a driving test every time they renew their driver's license. And it should be difficult to pass. This can be done in a driving simulator (which can be very sophisticated these days) and it should include a number of scenario's involving pedestrians and cyclists. I'm sure all of us see behavior from cars on a regular basis that is shocking in it's ignorance considering the driver is piloting equipment that is so easily lethal.

2) There should be real consequences to hitting someone with your car. If the driver is at fault in a serious accident their license should be pulled for a long time and except for their work time they should be under house arrest for a long time as well. They've KILLED or SERIOUSLY MAIMED someone. There should be dramatic consequenses for that, not dismissed as "no criminality intended". Right now, if your not drunk, and it's not a hit and run, and in some jurisdictions if you're not texting, you get a free pass for killing cyclists and pedestrians.

Now, the guy who hit this poor women was reported as drunk and it was a hit and run so everything he did was already illegal as well as immoral. And you go thru life and see bad stuff happen to good people who deserved a better fate. It's cold comfort but hopefully justice will be served and 1 more a--hole will be off the road. And the rest of us left will carry on just a little more sober in the knowledge that what time you have here is precious.

Pete

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2014, 08:24:42 am »
On my trip across the US in 2012, I used the interstate highway across North Dakota, the only state which allows cyclist on the interstates, as I understand things.

From this single experience compared to the thousands of miles on back roads, I know for  sure  that cycling on the interstate highways in the US is much safer

I would like to see AdventureCycling take this on as a campaign to get this stupid prohibition lifted right across the US.  If I were a US citizen I would certainly start such a campaign

1. As noted by others, riding Interstates is permitted in many places.

2. You obviously are not familiar with highways such as the New Jersey Turnpike, which is part of I-95, or the Staten Island Expressway, which is I-278.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2014, 03:29:24 pm »
Yeah, riding on an Interstate's shoulder is no guarantee of safety. Someone just got killed on I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon while riding the shoulder:
http://bikeportland.org/2014/08/27/fatal-collision-highlights-gap-historic-columbia-river-highway-state-trail-110428

Offline rogermcd

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2014, 03:45:36 pm »
I think you are all missing my point

Firstly I never suggested that cycling on the interstate is a guarantee of safety. Of course people will continue to be killed on the interstates.  You can be killed walking on a sidewalk. The issue is riding on an interstate with its wide shoulders, with two lanes giving trucks a lane to pass and of course with no oncoming traffic must be safer.

I didn't know that a few other states permit riding on the interstates but the issue is that  all states should allow this. What happens when you pass state borders where riding on the interstate is permitted and find you can't continue into the neighbouring state?

I think that the choice should be left to the cyclist, not some bureaucrat behind a desk. 

A three foot rule is impossible to police apart from being totally impractical. No truck passing a cyclist on an undivided single lane road, facing an oncoming vehicle will slow down. They will simply continue giving the cyclist inches. To give the cyclist three feet in this example they would have to slow down. I have never in all my experience in three countries and four continental crossings seen a truck slow down when overtaking me

RV vehicles are actually more dangerous than truck because drivers of these vehicles don't know what they are doing, mostly.

Why not let the cyclist make the decision whether to use the interstate or not.

This is my point, possibly not made  clearly in my original posting.



Offline zzzz

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2014, 05:13:56 pm »
You are right. I missed your point. I thought you were saying that it's safer to ride on the interstate as opposed to the idea it should be a choice. Since I wouldn't do it I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other.

And you're also right about the RV's. The 2 really close encounters I've had on tours have both been RV's. Small sample size but that's still 100%.

But do you really want to stand by the statement that in 4 continental crossings you've never once had a truck slow down when overtaking you? Riding a bike exposes you to a certain amount of danger that you would not face in a car, as your fellow Aussie's recent death all to clearly illustrates, but let's not make it out to be worse than it is.

I'm going to make up some numbers here but they represent what it feels like to me out on the road after 40 years and well over 100k miles on a bike. Probably 40% of the time I'm passed and there's a bad sight line or oncoming traffic ahead the car eases off the gas 50-100 yards behind me to assess the situation for a safe pass (AKA: the proper way to pass a cyclist). Then there's another 50% who stay on the gas till they're quite close and then hit their brakes hard when they realize they can't see around you or somebody's coming the other way (AKA: the stupid way to pass a cyclist). Now that still leaves a 10%± group of drivers that stay on the gas despite the fact they can't see what's coming the other way or there's not enough room because of car traffic ahead (AKA: the should be considered criminally negligent way to pass a cyclist) and that's plenty bad enough.

Pete


Offline rogermcd

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2014, 05:18:16 pm »
I do stand by my statement that a truck has never slowed down behind me but mostly because I get off the road when they approach and another vehicle is oncoming. I don't trust truck drivers in this situation


Car drivers are better. Most will slow down


Offline BikeFreak

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #10 on: August 28, 2014, 02:05:04 am »
On my first trips across US, I learned the following from locals:

1. Avoid riding in weekend evenings.
2. Avoid riding just after payday which might be the last day or the first weekday of a month.

Lucas

Offline rogermcd

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2014, 02:06:23 am »
Good advice

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2014, 09:25:16 am »
I do stand by my statement that a truck has never slowed down behind me but mostly because I get off the road when they approach and another vehicle is oncoming. I don't trust truck drivers in this situation


Car drivers are better. Most will slow down

So you jump off the road when a truck comes up behind you unless you have a wide shoulder, but stay on the road if it's a car, and that makes truck drivers more dangerous?

I guess I've seen enough interstates with road construction (and no shoulders), bridges across major rivers (with no shoulders), in mountainous terrain (with little shoulder), or widened to the point that there's little shoulder left, that I can't buy your assertion at interstate riding is going to be safer.  For SOME rural interstates that may be the case, but remember that the speeds are typically going to be higher on an interstate than a road or surface street.  Look at the skid marks and tire tracks in the median or off the side of an interstate's traffic lane, and ask if you want to be there when somebody ran off the road doing way over the speed limit.  Add in having to navigate entrance and exit ramps in more settled areas, and I'd prefer to skip the interstate even if I could ride on it.

For the most part, I've found the AC routes to be well planned.  There's a few areas where you have to be on that road to get there, but they've done a good job of identifying low traffic roads, with generally good sight lines, and if there's not good sight lines the road twists enough that most traffic won't be flying low.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2014, 02:08:11 pm »
Again, all interstates are not created equal. I have ridden on I-80 in Wyoming, I-94 in North Dakota, I-90 in a couple of places in Montana and I-84 in a couple of places in Oregon.

That's a lot different than, say, trying to cross the Goethels Bridge into Staten Island, NY, which has only two narrow lanes, no shoulder and plenty of big rigs. That's a lot different than riding on the New Jersey Turnpike, where you very well might find the shoulder blocked by a disabled vehicle and a concrete wall preventing you from getting around it on the right and thus having to venture into the travel lane with vehicles flying past at speeds of over 80 mph. I could go on and on.

The blanket suggestion that all interstates should be open to bikes is not supportable from a safety (or any other) perspective.

Offline JDFlood

Re: Riding on the US Interstates
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2014, 05:04:22 pm »
I live in the state of Washington and used to live in Arizona. They both allow riding on the Interstate, and on occasion when I am really in a hurry I do ride on them. But it is miserable with the noise and differential velocity with cars and trucks. I agree is should be legal everywhere. But there are so  many better causes to fight for, doesn't seem to be worth the effort. That is my personal feeling. I guess especially since I don't remember being in a state that prohibited it.