Author Topic: "Least amount of car traffic"  (Read 1279 times)

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Offline jamawani

"Least amount of car traffic"
« on: May 20, 2020, 12:35:44 am »
It was recently stated here that a person was sure to hate a route that had the "least amount of car traffic".
I politely beg to disagree. There are many routes with little or zero traffic that people love.

Let's start with rail trails:

The Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania and Maryland has become a cycling destination.
Many of the little towns along the way have camping, lodging, and dining geared to cyclists.

Same goes for the Katy Trail in Missouri - people love car-free cycling.
Not to mention that it is beautiful riding under the tall bluffs and along the river.

If paved trails are more your cup of tea, then there's the Raccoon River Valley Trail in Iowa.
Or the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes in Idaho - with a bridge across Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Low-traffic roads are low-traffic because they tend to have few towns along the way.
So services may be a little on the thin side. Granted.

But many times there is the old highway - like Old U.S. 87 in northern Wyoming.
The Interstate has all the traffic and the old road has none - plus mountain views.

Or what about the Old U.S. 50 option on the Western Express between Middlegate and Austin?
So little traffic you can change your shorts in the middle of the road.

All things being equal - - and they rarely are - -
I'll take an empty road over a busy highway any day.

Pic - Magical Riding in the Palouse Hills


Offline staehpj1

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2020, 08:17:33 am »
It was recently stated here that a person was sure to hate a route that had the "least amount of car traffic".
I am not sure which statement you are referring to, but suspect it might be one of mine.  If so I don't think that is exactly what I said.

If you are referring to the thread where the person was asking about the coast to coast route with the least car traffic, I think that missing places like the national parks would be a shame on a coast to coast tour where the goal is typically to sample what the whole country has to offer.  For most people that usually includes taking in places like Yellowstone or Glacier NP which means riding in some higher traffic areas for some portion of the trip.

I do believe that choosing a coast to coast route based on low traffic as the primary factor at the expense of other factors would be a mistake if you allowed it to impact your ability to visit places that required you to put up with some traffic here and there.

I agree that people love the options you mention.  I personally don't seek them out. I have enjoyed some car free trail options, often others I actually avoid.  While I can see someone checking out one or more of them on a coast to coast trip, I don't see them as a major factor in choosing a route across the country other than maybe the GAP and C&O as a way over the Appalachians.  I can see them as a destination and using them as part of completing a coast to coast ride to be two different things.  To that end someone might go out of their way to see them when on a coast to coast trip, but they are less likely to actually be useful in completing the route.

I did say "If I wasn't traffic tolerant I'd go backpacking or dirt/off road touring".  I stated that poorly and it may have come of as to discouraging of touring, but for me it is true.  If I want to get away from cars and traffic I either go backpacking, dirt/off road touring, or maybe canoe camping or something.  I didn't mean to imply that others should necessarily share my preference.  I do think that if they don't have some traffic tolerance that they probably need a reality check regarding riding coast to coast.  I would expect some, even a lot, of pretty empty roads on a coast to coast trip no matter which route they choose, but certainly not for the whole trip.  They are going to have a few sticky traffic situations regardless of the route.

I confess to not understanding the whole traffic issue, I have ridden on roads with traffic for the last 60 years and kind of take it for granted as something you just do. It is to me one of those many things folks seem to find intolerable that I just don't understand, like the LOUD ROAR of a camping stove that I consider a comforting purr.  It is a matter of point of view, preference, background, and personal experience, one person hears the LOUD ROAR and the other the soft purr.

Offline jamawani

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2020, 08:23:56 am »
I am not sure which statement you are referring to,

Not yours, Pete.
I can understand that people have different preferences -
but to imply that people will hate an empty road is a different enchilada.

Offline staehpj1

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2020, 09:00:43 am »
I am not sure which statement you are referring to,

Not yours, Pete.
I can understand that people have different preferences -
but to imply that people will hate an empty road is a different enchilada.
Ah I see the one you are referring to.  I think it is a matter of how you interpret the question and the answer and I didn't read/interpret it in absolute terms so I didn't see the issue at first.

Depending on how we interpret his meaning I might agree.  I think if you picked a coast to coast route solely or even primarily on "least amount of car traffic" it would likely be pretty miserable to most folks.  I know I'd be pretty miserable after 3000-5000 miles of empty roads that weren't punctuated by National Parks or other highlights.  To me yes, a coast to coast trip needs to have some long empty-ish stretches, but it also should have some bigger town or even cities, lots of tiny rural towns, some tourist stuff, and a couple majestic national park stops in order to really sample what the US has to offer.

I think this gets to be a problem when we are getting into absolute terms either on one hand interpreting John's statement or on the other a coast to coast trip with the "least amount of car traffic".  If you leave more slack in either or both the problem lessens or goes away.

Offline hikerjer

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2020, 12:30:31 pm »
"I'll take an empty road over a busy highway any day. -  seems like a no brainier to me, but then we're all different.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2020, 04:28:07 pm »
My response is tempered by a surprising number of people (surprising to me, at least) who have an incredible fear of riding on road! with traffic!  While I'm fine riding on city streets to get out into the country at home, or riding through towns and (small) cities on tour, I've encountered other cyclists who seem traumatized by the experience.  Some will say, "That truck blew right by my elbow!" when that truck gave them six feet while passing; or "The woman in that white SUV was honking all the time she was passing me!" when there was a polite, but unexpected, toot from 30 feet back.

The result is that such cyclists limit themselves to 100 miles here, or 100 miles there, where trails such as the ones jamawami listed exist.  Then they want to do a cross-USA trip, and can't believe there's not a network of separate bike facilities all the way across Kentucky, Missouri, and Montana, to name a few TransAm states.

ACA seems to be feeding this impression with their stated goals for fund-raising.  Perhaps they can get a route designated through Pike Co., KY (to pick on one example), but I can't imagine a grade-separated bike route through that county (or several others I could name) in my lifetime, or my childrens' lifetimes.  IIRC, Adventure Cyclist had an article touting 40,000 miles of bike paths across the U.S -- 40 years ago!  And some people, usually from wealthy states or areas, believe it's in place now.

I feel sorry for such people.  Their absolute refusal to adapt to conditions other than what they have at home leads them to miss experiencing, well, conditions other than what they have at home; which is the point of bike touring, at least to me.

Offline hikerjer

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2020, 05:50:41 pm »
"My response is tempered by a surprising number of people (surprising to me, at least) who have an incredible fear of riding on road! with traffic! --- whoa there, my friend/ Many of us ,myself included, are not the least intimated by riding in traffic. Do it all the time and it usually doesn't bother me. There are, of course, exceptions.  But given the choice of riding a road with little traffic and one with a lot, all things considered, I'll take the least traveled. That doesn't mean that I'll go a significant number of miles out of my way for a lightly traveled road, but sometimes the distance is worth the piece of mind and sometimes it's just common sense.  As with most things, it depends on the situation and circumstances.

Offline John Nelson

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2020, 09:18:03 pm »
I never thought my comment would be so controversial. Pete and Pat get it.

First, let me say that I absolutely love low traffic roads. I seek them out fanatically. I love them and do most of my riding on them.

But my comment was made in the context of a coast to coast ride. And that makes all the difference. To get to the best places to ride, you have to be willing to spend some time on less than perfect roads. You cannot piece together a great coast to coast ride exclusively on low traffic roads. If your ONLY criteria is traffic, you’ll never get to the fantastic places to ride that John mentions.

Offline hikerjer

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2020, 09:53:46 pm »
I agree totally with John's comments.  There is no way one is going to be able to do a coast to coast ride without encountering some heavy traffic and even dangerous roads. It's just part of the ride. One just has to decide what your risk and comfort level is. As we all know, it's varies tremendously from individual to individual.

Offline jamawani

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2020, 11:04:48 pm »


>>There’s no standard way to measure "least amount of traffic."
Actually - - there is. It's called AADT - Average Annual Daily Traffic.
It's measured both long-term on main routes and short-term on minor routes.
Obviously the detailed data is more reliable. Also, the detailed data is broken down by day of week and hour of day.
Highways leading to Glacier National Park have very different July AADTs than those in January.
Idaho Hwy 55 south of Banks has heavy traffic - concentrated on weekends and afternoons.
But if you ride midweek early in the morning it is relatively light.

>>Furthermore, anytime you have two criteria, each will suffer because of the other.
>>“Best route” or “Least amount of car traffic”. Pick one. You can’t have both.
Ahh, you can have your cake and eat it too. (Although "Best route" is a rather nebulous term.)
What one tries to do is to optimize between scenery, services, and traffic. Shoulders, if needed.
How much traffic are you willing to tolerate to get to Branson, Missouri?
For some people Branson is not worth the hassle - others are willing to put up with a lot of traffic to get there.
Can you ride Going to the Sun Road without dealing with lots of traffic?
Yes, if you leave at sunrise, stay the day up top, and ride down in the evening.
In Indiana, between Warsaw and Columbia City there are three paved, direct routes.
You can ride US 30 with 10,000 cars, or the Old Lincoln Hwy with 2000, or an empty Old Trail Road.
Services in both cities - and a few in between - but wholly different experiences based on route choice.
Most cyclists who rode all three would easily pick the latter.

I get it, John.


Pic - Old Trail Road
« Last Edit: May 20, 2020, 11:06:26 pm by jamawani »

Offline John Nelson

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2020, 12:25:33 am »
Again, context.

There is no AADT for the TranAmerica Trail.

Offline hikerjer

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2020, 12:43:23 am »
A couple of factors that have to be factored in are what type of traffic and the speed of traffic. If it's moderately heavy traffic that consists primarily of large semi-trucks, then I consider it a bit more dangerous than where traffic is somewhat heavier but consists primarily of normal size vehicles. Speed of traffic is also an important factor. Case in point - Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park can have heavy traffic and while shoulders (another factor) are non-existent, I feel relatively safe riding it since traffic's generally moving pretty slow.  It's not like cars are moving past you at 70 mph. More like 25-30 mph.

Offline staehpj1

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2020, 07:38:35 am »
Just a few points...
There are quite a few riders who seem to be obsessed by their fear of or at least annoyance with traffic.  Otherwise there wouldn't be posts (mostly in other forums) about over the top tactics to deal with passing cars like wobbling a little as a car approaches, rigging up pool noodles sticking out the side of their bike 3', and other even more nutty ideas.

On a coast to coast tour any of the likely routes have a lot of pretty empty roads by my standards.  It would be hard to avoid them if you wanted to.  If your standards require roads more empty than that it is pretty easy to accommodate on any of the major routes a good bit of the time.  If nothing else you could be on very empty roads across a lot of the time in the middle of the country at almost any latitude without much planning by just paralleling any standard route on smaller country roads.

If someone really hates riding in traffic they are going to need to get over it and deal with it or they will be miserable a good bit of the time on any coast to coast route.  IMO riding coast to coast just involves riding with traffic and isn't something for folks who don't want to do that for a significant portion of their trip.  They may choose to ride empty roads as large a portion of the trip as they can, but they will need to deal with significant traffic some of the time.

After giving it some thought, I have my doubts that there is really much sense it picking which general route you choose based on traffic.  Other factors weigh much more heavily and any of the routes have room to go off route and find more solitude.  Also if we consider ACA routes, on the more empty route (the ST), I think that the emptiness limits choices in a few places and limits you to one choice that is a pretty sticky situation.  So it is hard to say which major route is better in that regard and it may not be the one with less traffic over all.  I guess the only safe statement I could make is that if I wasn't at least somewhat traffic tolerant I wouldn't do any coast to coast route that I know of.  The good news is that most folks can get used to traffic a little when riding every day on a 3000-5000 mile trip.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2020, 07:43:52 am by staehpj1 »

Offline BikePacker

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2020, 08:03:44 am »
A sorta outside the box trans am to accomplish max safety/min. traffic + most fun route selection cycling:
Employ 'Longitude Linking.'

E.G. ~ If one were choosing to consider this notion, here is how one could 'craft' such an approach.....
Start at the east coast side of the ACA Southern Tier - St. Augustine.
Travel west to either Baton Rouge or dog-leg northwest to Jackson MS. 
Stop.
Pick back up at any of the following longitude equivalent vicinities:
Memphis, St. Louis (Think Katy Trail : ), Springfield IL, or Madison WI, etc. .....

Craft your route per your selection of max safety/min. traffic + most fun.

Here is a USA Longitude Map Link: http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/united_states/usa_ref01.pdf

Yes ... this does not work for the 100% "non-stop end to end coast to coast tour."

Meanwhile ... the reality is .... doing a "non-stop end to end coast to coast tour"
frequently may well have a least a point or two of breakage in the non-stop 'continuity'
where a river must be crossed and the bridge
just no way, no how offers a way for the cyclist to cross it and the cyclist gets a ride by vehicle across the bridge
and then re-starts on the other side....
or, say, the cyclist must take a ferry across the water.
In such case(s), one does not even have what I am saying is "Longitude Linking," necessarily,
unless, of course said river crossing point is offering a 'switch back' configuration (grinning).
« Last Edit: May 21, 2020, 08:13:49 am by BikePacker »

Offline staehpj1

Re: "Least amount of car traffic"
« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2020, 08:22:00 am »
A sorta outside the box trans am to accomplish max safety/min. traffic + most fun route selection cycling:
Employ 'Longitude Linking.'
Getting a ride across a bridge is one thing, but jumping up and down to "longitude equivalent vicinities" is a bit of a stretch.  Then again we all get to make our own rules as to what our own rides are to be.  It would be a creative way to connect more rail trails and other car free trails.  I can also see it being a transportation nightmare given that the goal is to get to traffic free places not major cities.  It doesn't sound at all attractive to me, but it may be someones cup of tea.