Author Topic: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?  (Read 1246 times)

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Offline fat_bike_mike

ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« on: April 16, 2020, 05:19:16 pm »
I'd really like to do more self-supported bike touring and I really like the ACA maps. And I'm an ACA member and big believer. One of my fears, that I need to get over, is just encountering dangerous stretches of road with not-friendly drivers. Especially given all the absent drivers these days staring at their phones. This passage from Adventure Cyclist Journal, February 2020, "Reunion", page 27.

"I’m talking about short sections of two-lane Highway 7 with barely a whisper of shoulder and a rumble strip embedded into the white line. Drivers wanted us off the road. Sure, they were unaccustomed to cyclists. But they had a good point — and they emphasized that by laying on the horn and passing within a hair’s breadth."

How often have you encountered this and how do you not let it keep you off the roads?
« Last Edit: April 16, 2020, 05:21:28 pm by fat_bike_mike »

Offline John Nettles

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2020, 05:27:15 pm »
In close to 45 years of touring, I have had maybe a couple of handfuls of times that I was nervous or intimidated and maybe half were on ACA routes.  ACA does a good job of picking relatively safe routes.  Sure there are places I personally would not go but then I am not the least bit concerned about going "off route" in order to get what I want.

Reality is there are very few places overall you should be concerned with.  Otherwise, you would read about the same stretch over and over on the journals over at CrazyGuyonaBike.com and then ACA would probably (and has) re-route the route. Obviously, any stretch can be dangerous given an inattentive rider but there are things you can do to mitigate that, i.e. REALLY bright tail lights, bright clothing, a flag, etc.

Tailwinds, John

Offline fat_bike_mike

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2020, 06:09:40 pm »
Thank you for your perspective and input - it is very much appreciated!

Offline fastrog

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2020, 11:59:36 pm »
in my transam quest i did 800 miles from yotktown in 2018 before a fall sent me home. in 2019 i made it the next 2,000 to missoula, as planned. there are some scary places, like narrow roads with rumble strips, no shoulder, etc. but despite the big-tired trucks and confederate flags, i really only felt truly scared four or five times, when i sensed intentional crowding. the big farm trucks and tractor-trailers were the worst. more than a few of them just would not give an inch, and i felt like i was leaving the ground when they blasted by. it was nerve-wracking enough that i increased my mirror time and tried to concentrate even more on the road ahead. i could see and hear when a monster truck was coming at speed. i would try to find a spot where i could get even 12 inches off the road and simply stop. doing that four or five times a day didn't cost more than a few minutes, ad saved my nerves.

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2020, 06:20:04 am »
I have not found it to be that great of an issue for me on my trips.

The issue described in the original post is something that I have only rarely experienced.  I should probably qualify that statement by saying that I expect cars and trucks to pass fairly close.  The horn thing ticks me off if it is while right next to me, but a toot from behind to warn they will pass is okay.  The laying on of the horn while rext to me has been pretty infrequent on tour.  Generally passing vehicles seem closer than they really are.  I consider 3' adequate in most conditions and I suspect a lot of the complaints of close passes are at least that far away and folks just want a wider buffer than that.

Maybe it is because I lived most of my life riding with more aggressive drivers than I meet on tour, but I have not found it to be much on an issue at all.  For years, getting brushed by a car on the way to work so the more distant passes on tour weren't really an issue.  A close pass meant actual contact.  I've never had someone brush my sleeve with their mirror on a tour or anything remotely close to that.

Strangely I have had a problem with people who were shy about passing on twisty rural roads in places like Kentucky and even refused to.  I'd wave them around when it was clear and they'd hang behind until I'd pull over in frustration.  It was as if they had never seen a bike before.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2020, 06:32:58 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2020, 01:56:18 pm »
I've had a few incidents, but like John and Pete note, they're uncommon.  Most of the complaints I've heard, like Pete, are from people who aren't used to riding on roads or streets, and they're scared when there's not a line of trees separating them from motorized traffic.

My suggestion is to acclimate yourself to riding on roads.  Start with quiet suburban or rural streets -- most of the people who pass you will probably drive on the other side of the road to do it.  After you're used to that, look for roads with a little bit more traffic.  Then try a 3-5 lane road (there's one on my daily commute) that doesn't usually need more than two lanes for the traffic.  (You'll want to avoid rush hour, of course, at least at first.)  When you're comfortable riding there, you're ready for 97% of Adventure Cycling's routes.

Do consider looking at vehicular cycling recommendations.  Start with the LAB videos, the better cycling one halfway down the page at https://www.bikeleague.org/ridesmartvideos.  Also take a look at John Allen's Street Smarts at http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm.  The ideas presented at those sites freak some beginners out, but they work well. 

In support of vehicular cycling, someone pointed out (and I've confirmed from personal experience) that most drivers give you as much room as you take.  Ride right next to the white line?  One out of ten passing cars feels like you're cleaning their window with your sleeve.  Move a foot from the white line, they'll pass with a foot to spare.  Ride three feet from the line, and they'll give you three feet of passing space.  It's counterintuitive, but it usually works!

Offline HobbesOnTour

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2020, 07:41:05 pm »
I'm going to strike a slightly different tone to most of the other posters....

First of all a lot of "danger" is subjective - what's comfortable for one is extremely uncomfortable for another.

On a recent trip through nine states I was horrified at some of the routes and situations that ACA maps put me in. On the Atlantic Coast route I had to go onto forest roads to get away from Highway 17 in the Carolinas. It was scary enough with a shoulder, but when the shoulder disappeared......!!

Many bridges were horrifying too - a high kerb, narrow shoulder filled with all kinds of debris and invariably a high wind.

In some of the bigger urban areas entry or exit often involved crossing several lanes of fast moving traffic.

Now, for some balance I did no research on my routes other than buying the maps. Mea culpa.
Also, my touring experience was only European - a very different environment.
When I finally reached Texas I was very pleasantly surprised at how safe I found it, despite some crazy speed limits.

The advise above to practise is very good. Increase your exposure at a pace you can deal with.
Be prepared to pull up/off if it looks like traffic will pass too close. On that, a mirror is a vital piece of equipment in my book.
Avoid cycling in the dark. Too many flaws in road surface can be hidden in the darkness.
Avoid rush hours. As a part of that allow yourself leisurely days so that waiting for traffic to die down doesn't put you under pressure.
Practise a method of destressing. I'll do it regularly after an unpleasant experience - pull off, do some breathing exercises and leave the experience behind.

I did have some unpleasant experiences with drivers but outside of the moment they did little harm. Dogs, on the other hand had a far more serious effect!

Good luck!




Offline canalligators

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2020, 01:54:36 pm »
Agree that the incidents of bad places to ride are relatively rare on AC maps.  They try to avoid those, in fact they re-route sometimes to better places.  I've also seen places where the route used side roads but the highway was a safe choice too.

Sometimes there is no alternative.  I'll cite US 93 west of Whitefish MT.  Busy, intolerant drivers, no shoulders. 

I wonder if AC could annotate places like that, so we could avoid busy traffic times?

Offline John Nelson

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2020, 11:06:40 pm »
I wonder if AC could annotate places like that, so we could avoid busy traffic times?
I don’t know about most people, but if I happen to be at a spot on Saturday, I’m not likely to sit around very long because I think it might be safer later. Most uncomfortable places probably aren’t much more than an hour long, and I won’t change my plans over an hour. I usually adopt a “let’s get it over with” attitude.

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2020, 06:48:41 am »
I wonder if AC could annotate places like that, so we could avoid busy traffic times?
I don’t know about most people, but if I happen to be at a spot on Saturday, I’m not likely to sit around very long because I think it might be safer later. Most uncomfortable places probably aren’t much more than an hour long, and I won’t change my plans over an hour. I usually adopt a “let’s get it over with” attitude.
Someone might choose to start their morning earlier or later, or maybe decide when to stop for lunch base on that info.

I have found that the ACA maps leave bigger roads for smaller ones in many cases that I assumed were supposed to be more scenic, but I thought only meant climbing an unnecessary hill or two.  after following choices I didn't care for too many times, I often look at their maps and stay with the more major road.  It isn't always easy to tell why they go the way they do, but after a while I think I have gotten pretty good at knowing when to second guess them.

Offline John Nettles

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2020, 09:41:59 am »
I wonder if AC could annotate places like that, so we could avoid busy traffic times?


I think they do occasionally, at least in the Logistics section where you buy the map.  However, like Pete, after years of experience, you sort of get a sense of if the road coming up is heavy with traffic or not.  Yes, my sense is off some times.

For me, I have found one of the times to avoid riding is before 8:45am or between 3pm - 4pm when school is in session since the students are speeding off to/from school and they are not the most attentive drivers around.  Also, when going into a major city (1+ million), I try at minimum to enter on the reverse flow of traffic, i.e. enter in the early afternoon, or better, enter or exit on a weekend with Sunday being the best.   

Speaking of Sunday, I try to avoid riding between about the 20 minutes before local churches start and then again about 1 hour & 15 minutes later when they get out.  Amazing how there is a mini-rush hour and then quiet again.

My final suggestion is if your route goes through a big city, look at the route on Google Maps' Streetview prior to leaving and if you are uncomfortably with how it looks, see about an alternative such as the popular routes of Strava's heatmap.

Tailwinds, John

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2020, 10:14:15 am »
I'll add that in my case that almost without exception when I depart from the ACA route it is to stay/go with more major roads often one with a "US" designation and in some cases in the west even one with an "I" designation.

Offline BikePacker

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2020, 07:09:01 pm »
I really like the ACA maps. 
One of my fears....encountering dangerous stretches of road with not-friendly drivers.
.....and how do you not let it keep you off the roads?
I really like the ACA maps, as well, and use them as central info sources for all tours I can.
Regarding your Q "...how do you not let it keep you off the roads?"....
While I am in the minority... I always ride fat tires specifically so that I can get off the pavement
and into 'the rough' whenever doing so mitigates risk of being injured by a vehicle by continuing to ride on the pavement. 
Fat tires also help me get back onto pavement from being off pavement.... I used to find that sometimes a little tricky with skinnier tires.

Offline hikerjer

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2020, 09:17:55 pm »
Lots of good advice. I guess I would just add that one of the best thing to do to protect yourself from dangerous drivers coming from behind - you don't always hear them - is get yourself a good review mirror . I wouldn't tour without one.

Offline BikePacker

Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2020, 08:57:45 am »
a good review mirror . I wouldn't tour without one.
Amen.