Author Topic: Bike touring safety... USA...  (Read 5149 times)

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Offline optimisticchris

Bike touring safety... USA...
« on: April 27, 2017, 04:00:10 pm »

Hey Team,

I am planning a cross country bike trip in 4 years. I am trying to persuade my wife to join me. She's a bit of a scaredy cat! She is worried about how safe we would be on this venture... not just on the roads but especially at night.
So on a scale of 1 - 10 (Where 10 is: Safety was NEVER a problem. Where 1 is: I couldn't sleep at night I was so worried.)
Based on your travels in the USA, how would you rate safety as an issue?

If you have time to add some details to support your answer, we'd really appreciate the extra information.

Thank you in advance.
Optimistic Chris (& Lovely Laura)

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2017, 09:42:13 pm »
About a 9.

I can only remember a very few times I felt safety was a real issue, from drivers or people rambling about a campsite.    Most drivers were willing to pass me safely.  As an example, there's about 10 miles of TransAm on interstate (the U.S. equivalent of motorway or motorbahn) in Wyoming.  The shoulder was 12-20 feet wide, and yet almost every truck driver who could moved over into the left lane while passing so I wouldn't get the wall of air shoving me to the side.

Especially if there's two of you, you'll be able to manage some awkward situations easily.  You'll develop a sense of what's normal (honest, law-abiding, friendly, caring people); when that feeling changes, one of you watch the bikes while the other one goes grocery shopping, or you keep going to the next town, or you get a motel room that night and sleep with you and your gear behind a locked door.

There are a few specific things you can do to increase your chances of a safe trip.  One of the big ones is you don't answer questions about where you're going (on down the road 'til we find a good spot is a safe answer).  Other things are just common sense; don't do the things that would get you in a fight in a bar or pub.

Our media is full of horror stories.  For the most part, it's because we have a media market that's 2/3 as big as Europe to choose from.  I.e., a young girl was abused by her mother and kidnapped by a teacher!  Terrible indeed, but was that from around where you live or was it from 2,000 miles away?  In the U.S. media, they don't care as long as they get a response from their audience.  The range that affects a cyclist is pretty small; if you can avoid panic from a bad thing happening halfway across the country, or halfway around the world, it's a pretty good place to tour.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2017, 07:49:14 am »
I feel pretty safe on tour.  Overall the biggest risk is vehicular accident and I don't rate that as any higher for touring than riding around town at home.

Some of how risky it all is would depend on where you tour and what choices you make.  I would say that for me it is a 9.5 and the few times there was some worry it might have happened around town at home or when traveling by car almost as easily.  I consider touring to be a pretty safe activity.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2017, 10:36:49 pm »
Crime statistics are quite clear. You are much more likely to be a victim to somebody you know than to a stranger. So by going on tour and getting away from everybody you know, you're actually much safer.

Offline LouMelini

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2017, 10:59:09 pm »
Chris: You live in Wisconsin the most bike friendly touring state, at least in my opinion. My wife is originally from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. We have traveled over 2000 miles in Wisconsin during 2 tours. Do a tour there before your cross country trip to gain confidence. Your 1-10 scale would be at an 8 in our experience that would also include trips in Washington, Utah, Idaho, Montana and the Canadian Rockies. We sleep well at night. In Wisconsin I would rate touring a 10. I use Adventure Cycling Association maps as the "backbone" of most of our trips. Though there are no guarantees, you may find them helpful to put you on safer routes. You will also run into other cyclists using these routes which will provide a bit of comfort knowing others are on the same route. That's my 2 cents. Congrats on your Appalachian trail thru-hike. Julie and I completed a thru hike of the AT in 2016.

Louis and Julie Melini

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2017, 12:34:31 pm »
10 if you follow the Adventure Cycling Routes.
5 if you follow the Adventure Cycling Routes in bear country where there is a chance of furry night visitor.

4 years is too long. In 4 years you might have different plans. Go now!

Lucas

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2017, 09:50:33 pm »
Not an issue vis-a-vis daily living. In fact, maybe less than vis-a-vis daily living.

Offline DaveT

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2017, 04:30:20 pm »
Safety is always a matter of two separate (and largely unrelated issues). 1 - what is the actual chance that something bad will  happen? (this really comes down to statistics) and 2 - how safe do I feel?

As others have stated, the answer to the first question, at least in the US, is "about the same as if you stayed home" (but not nearly as fun).

Since a big part of the second question is about unfamiliar environments, practice can help. If you haven't done bike overnights in your local area I would definitely start there. Pick a place you are familiar with for the first one, then progressively try some more adventuresome destinations. This will help you get used to the daily ins-and-outs of cycle touring while keeping the newness to a more manageable level, plus you don't have to wait 4 years to get started :-)


Offline neil

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2017, 05:33:31 pm »
10
I'm from England and have cycled in over 60 countries
Only in the States do drivers sit behind for seemingly hours to overtake, cars overtake giving so much room they are in danger of head on crashing oncoming vehicles, speeding is enforced, you have wide shoulders (Ok the East coast is lacking) need I go on?
You don't know how lucky you are, yet every day I get told in the USA that it's dangerous, bizarre indeed
   

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #9 on: May 03, 2017, 10:11:17 pm »
10
I'm from England and have cycled in over 60 countries
Only in the States ..., speeding is enforced, you have wide shoulders (Ok the East coast is lacking) need I go on?

Being from England I can understand why you don't know anything at all about the USA.  Speeding is more common than not speeding.  Yes speeding tickets are given out by the cops, but its a tiny, tiny fraction of the speeders.  The vast majority of the USA roads have no shoulders at all.  Some have shoulders, but most do not.  Interstate highways and other big speedways have wide shoulders.  But its not legal to ride on those roads.  Shoulders and riding are somewhat opposite.  If there is a shoulder, its probably not a good road to ride.  If there are no shoulders, its probably a good road to ride.  Shoulders are generally only put on big major high traffic roads.

Regarding the original question, riding a bicycle in the USA is fairly safe.  Some roads and/or places are not safe.  Don't ride there.  But most roads and places in the USA are safe for bicycling.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2017, 03:46:42 am »
10
I'm from England and have cycled in over 60 countries
Only in the States ..., speeding is enforced, you have wide shoulders (Ok the East coast is lacking) need I go on?

+1. Compared to Europe I see police cars everywhere in USA and it makes you feel safe. They are patroling everywhere. If you come to a small place with lets say 2000 inhabitans you will VERY likely see the police patroling the streets. Also, you will see the police cars patroling the small count(r)y roads. I have never experienced such presence in Northern Europe.

Offline neil

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2017, 07:11:13 am »
10
I'm from England and have cycled in over 60 countries
Only in the States ..., speeding is enforced, you have wide shoulders (Ok the East coast is lacking) need I go on?

Being from England I can understand why you don't know anything at all about the USA.  Speeding is more common than not speeding.  Yes speeding tickets are given out by the cops, but its a tiny, tiny fraction of the speeders.  The vast majority of the USA roads have no shoulders at all.  Some have shoulders, but most do not.  Interstate highways and other big speedways have wide shoulders.  But its not legal to ride on those roads.  Shoulders and riding are somewhat opposite.  If there is a shoulder, its probably not a good road to ride.  If there are no shoulders, its probably a good road to ride.  Shoulders are generally only put on big major high traffic roads.

Regarding the original question, riding a bicycle in the USA is fairly safe.  Some roads and/or places are not safe.  Don't ride there.  But most roads and places in the USA are safe for bicycling.

Hi Russ
I kind of assumed that the 60 countries and a brief synopsis implied that I have been to the USA

Yes I come from England....but have spent maybe 18 months cycling about half of the States, including up the Atlantic Coast, up the Rockies from Salt Lake city to Vancover, down the pacific Coast on a 7 month tour. As a volunteer leader for CTC Cycling Holidays (akin to the holidays offered by ACA) I have led 5, 3 week tours in Oregon, Yellowstone, Washington/Carolina, New England and Colorado, so guess I do know what I mean.

Shoulders are on the more minor roads as well in the States, (not just major roads) more prevalent on the west than east coast. They are also good to ride in nearly all cases. The main issue is debris. The shoulders are often wide. (In the UK we have few shoulders)
Interstates can also be ridden though only when an alternative isn't available. We had to use one in Oregon last year but i wouldn't recommend it.

Americans who are only used to American roads are unaware of just how good the riding is in the USA compared with the rest of the world snd i've listed some of the reasons. The main point I make is that the average american driver is supremely courteous. I could go on and on about how good the States are......

   Neil
« Last Edit: May 04, 2017, 07:31:20 am by neil »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2017, 07:39:11 am »
Yes I come from England....but have spent maybe 18 months cycling about half of the States, including up the Atlantic Coast, up the Rockies from Salt Lake city to Vancover, down the pacific Coast on a 7 month tour. As a volunteer leader for CTC Cycling Holidays (akin to the holidays offered by ACA) I have led 5, 3 week tours in Oregon, Yellowstone, Washington/Carolina, New England and Colorado, so guess I do know what I mean.

Shoulders are on the more minor roads as well in the States, (not just major roads) more prevalent on the west than east coast. They are also good to ride in nearly all cases. The main issue is debris. The shoulders are often wide. (In the UK we have few shoulders)
Interstates can also be ridden though only when an alternative isn't available. We had to use one in Oregon last year but i wouldn't recommend it.

Americans who are only used to American roads are unaware of just how good the riding is in the USA compared with the rest of the world snd i've listed some of the reasons. The main point I make is that the average american driver is supremely courteous. I could go on and on about how good the States are......
Interesting to hear your take on this.   I agree that on my tours I found a rideable shoulder more often than not.  It does vary with the location, but I have not usually found it hard to find nice rideable roads in most of the US.

On courteous drivers...  Again it varies with the location, but I have actually found that I was surprisingly often annoyed at how timid some of the drivers were about passing.  Some hang back behind and refuse to pass unless they can completely leave their lane and cross the double yellow line with all 4 wheels.  Personally I figure that in most cases giving me 3' of clearance is adequate and I prefer that cars don't make a big show of swinging super wide around me.  I really hate it when they pass super wide and annoy or scare drivers coming the other way.

As far as interstates go...  I actually like to ride on the interstate across some of the more desolate parts of the American West.  My first choice is fairly often roads with the US designation, like US 90.  I do like to mix it up with some small rural roads, some US highways and even some interstate depending on the area.

Offline neil

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2017, 09:19:48 am »
Only in the USA do cars hang back for miles. I had one last year that even put on the hazard lights.

I had an interesting E mail exchange with the editor of adventure cycling last year about how safe America really is for cycling. On trips i can almost guarantee that someone every day will tell me how dangerous it is. I always refute this, a case of fear breeding fear.

  Neil


Offline KKTice

Re: Bike touring safety... USA...
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2017, 11:33:23 pm »
I rode the Northern Tier this past summer/fall.  2 guys, 2 gals.  We never felt unsafe anywhere along the route.  Even riding 4,500 miles, no close calls, or nervous moments.  Only one guy who yelled derogatory words at us. 


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