Author Topic: Interstate Alternatives  (Read 3367 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline circlespinner

Interstate Alternatives
« on: October 10, 2021, 10:53:21 pm »
I'm looking at the Northern Tier #4 section in Bicycle Router Navigator (just downloaded) and was surprised to see a 13 mile section on i94 between New Salem and Glen Ullin in North Dakota  The NT route uses i94 to avoid a dirt/gravel section on County Rd 139 and rejoins 139 after it returns to pavement.  One question and one suggestion. 

1) Anyone out there ridden on County Rd 139 to bypass this section of i94 and have thoughts on its rideability with a touring bike?

2) It would be nice if the ACA maps offered dirt/gravel road alternatives to interstate highways whenever possible.  High vehicle speeds and on/off ramps make these inherently dangerous roads for cyclists worth the inconvenience of a little dust between your teeth.

Thanks

Offline John Nettles

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 1610
  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2021, 12:11:16 am »
I have not ridden that section but I would say the traffic is really not that bad.  The ND DOT shows the traffic count as 6000 AADT (vehicles per day).  That is ~3000 in each direction.  Add a dual lane and full shoulder and that really is not that bad when you consider it is based on a more 24-hour basis versus the usual traffic 18-hour of non interstate roads.  I personally would not worry about the traffic.

That said, ND gravel county roads are usually pretty good.  If you are determined to avoid the interstate, CR-139 should be doable. 

As an FYI, you will have more interstate in western ND where the traffic is even less, i.e. under 4000 AADT.  Definitely rideable. 

Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 12:14:27 am by John Nettles »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2021, 06:24:55 am »
It is a judgement call when/where to use the Interstate vs some particular alternative.  I'd be inclined to choose based on how far out of the way any alternative may go and what the condition of that alternate route may be.

I have not generally found the places where AC uses the interstate to be particularly dangerous.  None of the places I have been where they used I designated roads had especially high traffic counts and the shoulders were always nice and wide.  I would actually be inclined to use the interstate a little more often than the ACA does myself.

I wonder if there could possibly be a legal issue caused by listing an alternate.  I have read that in many western states the law says that it is okay to ride the interstate when there isn't an alternate route.  Listing one might be used later as a disqualifier in court.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 10:05:43 am by staehpj1 »

Offline circlespinner

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2021, 09:28:06 am »
Thanks for the responses John and Staehpj1.

Good to know the traffic on i94 in that area is so light.  Checking the DOT is a good step for any future concerns I have.

Also, I did eventually find details on the alternate gravel route in the Bicycle Route Navigator included in the "Riding Conditions" text for the map section.  I'll now know to look there with other map sections.

Keep Pedaling...

Offline staehpj1

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2021, 10:07:21 am »
Good luck on your trip and I hope you find the best route for your preferences.

Offline John Nettles

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 1610
  • I ride for smiles, not miles.
Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2021, 11:15:21 am »
I have read that in many western states the law says that it is okay to ride the interstate when there isn't an alternate route.  Listing one might be used later as a disqualifier in court.
Many moons ago I used to know the actual law code in a few states.  As you imply is that the law always said something to the effect of "unless there is a reasonable alternative route available." 

The legal kicker is what is "reasonable"?  To a person on a mountain bike, a washboard gravel road might be a reasonable route but to a person on a carbon fiber bike with 20mm sewups, it would not.  What if the alternative is 10 miles extra.  That may easily mean an extra hour of riding.  Is that "reasonable"?  Would transportation officials require a 1 hour detour for cars unless it was absolutely required?  What if the alternative was actually worse, i.e. fewer cars but still heavy traffic but no shoulder?  Luckily, I have never been told to get off the interstate by law enforcement the couple of dozen I have ridden them.


To me, if there is a paved service road next to it (that doesn't dead end), I would think that is reasonable and usually preferred. 

Offline staehpj1

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2021, 11:27:46 am »
I have read that in many western states the law says that it is okay to ride the interstate when there isn't an alternate route.  Listing one might be used later as a disqualifier in court.
Many moons ago I used to know the actual law code in a few states.  As you imply is that the law always said something to the effect of "unless there is a reasonable alternative route available." 

The legal kicker is what is "reasonable"?  To a person on a mountain bike, a washboard gravel road might be a reasonable route but to a person on a carbon fiber bike with 20mm sewups, it would not.  What if the alternative is 10 miles extra.  That may easily mean an extra hour of riding.  Is that "reasonable"?  Would transportation officials require a 1 hour detour for cars unless it was absolutely required?  What if the alternative was actually worse, i.e. fewer cars but still heavy traffic but no shoulder?  Luckily, I have never been told to get off the interstate by law enforcement the couple of dozen I have ridden them.


To me, if there is a paved service road next to it (that doesn't dead end), I would think that is reasonable and usually preferred.
I have ridden some interstate that had an alternate that most would consider reasonable just for directness and better grading over a pass or hilly terrain.  Cops drove by and never batted an eye.

Once we crossed from a state that it was legal into one where it wasn't and a cop pulled us over.  He said he got a complaint or he wouldn't have bothered us.  We asked him what a good alternate route would be.  He said there really wasn't one and to just keep going.  He gave us his name and said to tell any other troopers he said it was okay.  We looked at the map and there was a great road that was perfect running parallel to the interstate so we took it.

Offline jamawani

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2021, 03:26:18 pm »
FYI -

Interstate riding is generally legal in the West and illegal in the East.
East is everything east of the Mississippi plus the 5 states just west - MN, IA, MO, AR & LA.
There are a few bridges in the East - like I-495 in MD/DC/VA - that have bike lanes or permit bikes.
But, in almost all cases, bikes are not allowed on controlled-access highways in the east.

The history of the construction of the Interstate Highway System differs east and west.
In the East, there is almost always the parallel "old highway" - not so in the West.
Because of difficult terrain or cost savings, the Interstate was built on top of the old highway.
Usually a parallel 2 lane segment with shoulders - then upgrading the old route to interstate standards.
So, there is no nearby paved highway. Or the old highway was allowed to deteriorate to rubble.
(Route 66 / I-40 in most of northeast Arizona, Old US 10 / I-94 in eastern Montana)

In the West, bikes are allowed in all states except Kansas & Nebraska.
And there are plenty of paved, adjacent roads in both of those states.
In states where interstate riding is allowed, bike are prohibited on most urban/suburban interstates.
But there are lots of paved alternates - and who wants to ride on urban interstates anyhow?

The iffy western states are California and Colorado.

In Colorado you can ride some rural interstates -
I-76 east of the Denver metro
I-25 south of Pueblo and short segments between Front Range cities (why?)
I-70 in eastern Colo. and west of Glenwood Spgs.
You cannot ride I-70 between Denver and Glenwood Spgs.
There are bike trails generally paralleling I-70, but you have to go over Loveland Pass on US 6.

California is another story - The default law is that cycling on freeways is prohibited.
That certainly makes sense in L.A. and San Francisco. But not for miles of rural interstate.
Also, California - like most western states - built rural Interstates on top of the old roads.
Almost 1000 miles of rural interstate have been designated for bicycle use, but - - -
many local police and state patrol personnel are not aware of that distinction.
Bikes are allowed on some - not all -  of the Bay Area bridges.


https://dtdapps.coloradodot.info/bike
https://www.cabobike.org/touring/freeway.htm
« Last Edit: October 11, 2021, 03:29:08 pm by jamawani »

Offline ray b

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2021, 10:49:24 pm »
Well summarized.

In general, interstates offer good pavement in exchange for wind, sun, poor quality air, and an opportunity for conflict at every on- and off-ramp.

That said, out west, they are at times, the only option for pavement, and in many cases are far preferable to busy, tourist-ridden, shoulder-less, two-lane routes that now seem to be the rule in places like central Colorado and NW Montana.

And to keep the thread on track, still waiting to hear from someone who's recently done Morton County Road 139 west of Salem..., though of course, it only takes a few weeks or a few big fast trucks to change the nature of a gravel road.

(Looking at the map, I agree with those who recommend trying it out. Looks like there is ample opportunity to bail to the highway if needed.)
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline adventurepdx

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 544
  • Riding bikes in and around Portland, Oregon
Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2021, 03:18:15 pm »
My guess is that ACA would not route onto a freeway unless it was legal to do so.

As Jamawani points out, in the majority of Western states it is legal to ride a freeway outside of metro areas. Here in Oregon bikes are banned from Interstates in the Portland Metro (I-5/I-405/I-205/I-84) and a section of I-5 in Medford is also off limits to bikes. (Interestingly enough, you can ride on the freeway section of US 26 west of the Jefferson St exchange, and that's pretty urban. OR-217 is also open to bikes and that's all urban.)

I'd rather ride a gravel road that parallels an interstate as long as the gravel road isn't horrible. I'm guessing that ACA still weights towards interstate shoulder over gravel because touring bike tires used to be fairly narrow. Nowadays many people tour with wider tires that can handle gravel/unpaved OK, but ACA may still think in that old paradigm.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #10 on: October 12, 2021, 05:14:33 pm »
My guess is that ACA would not route onto a freeway unless it was legal to do so.
I think we all can agree to that.  I mentioned legality only to surmise that just maybe mentioning an alternate route just might be used by someone to undermine the legality of riding on interstates.  I may have been looking for a problem where none exists, but I know that there is a lot of anti cycling sentiment among some of the state legislators out west.

Quote
I'd rather ride a gravel road that parallels an interstate as long as the gravel road isn't horrible. I'm guessing that ACA still weights towards interstate shoulder over gravel because touring bike tires used to be fairly narrow. Nowadays many people tour with wider tires that can handle gravel/unpaved OK, but ACA may still think in that old paradigm.
That trend toward wide tires isn't universal, some folks are touring with ultralight gear on road bikes with skinny tires or touring bikes with not so wide tires.  I might choose different tires depending on the tour, but I have fairly recently gone coast to coast camping and cooking with 25mm tires (actually started out wth 23mm until they wore out).  The guy I rode with was on similar tires.  Neither of us regretted our choice.  I didn't pay too much attention, but I think most of the people we met were running the old standatd 32mm tires.

I have run fat tires when I planned a mixed surface tour.  They were great for that type of trip.

The thing is that when they map a road route the probably should make an effort to stay on paved roads unless it is billed as a gravel tour, maybe with gravel options.  At least that is how I see it.

All of that is based on my experienceunsupported and with various camping styles, but you also have people moteling it or van supported so they may be carrying little to nothing and want to ride performance road bikes.

Offline zzzz

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #11 on: October 12, 2021, 08:40:20 pm »
Not to be a scold and it’s not an interstate per se, but Ca 58 as your nearing Tehachapi is part of the Sierra Cascades route and it is a major 4 lane highway at that point with as much traffic as any interstate. And as soon as you get on it there’s a big sign “No Bicycles on Highway”. Your only on it for 5-6 miles and I was passed by a police car during that time who apparently felt he had better things to do then hassle a cyclist. I only bring it up as the ACA maps are not always a guarantee that it’s legal to ride every mile of the route.

And speaking of interstates and the Sierra route, most of the little stretches of Interstate I’ve been on have been fine, however I-84 between Cascade Locks and Hood River Oregon was pure misery.

Offline adventurepdx

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 544
  • Riding bikes in and around Portland, Oregon
Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2021, 08:44:39 pm »
That trend toward wide tires isn't universal, some folks are touring with ultralight gear on road bikes with skinny tires or touring bikes with not so wide tires.  I might choose different tires depending on the tour, but I have fairly recently gone coast to coast camping and cooking with 25mm tires (actually started out wth 23mm until they wore out).  The guy I rode with was on similar tires.  Neither of us regretted our choice.  I didn't pay too much attention, but I think most of the people we met were running the old standatd 32mm tires.

I wonder if it's a generational thing. Folks my age or younger seem to be into bikepacking with wide tires. Sure, there's a few people who might tour on a road bike, but it's rare. Then again, most people bikepacking are going to stick with bikepacking routes, so it doesn't matter that much to them that ACA routes are 99% pavement. For me, I like to do a mix of gravel and paved, so I'll use things like ACA routes where I can.

Offline adventurepdx

  • World Traveler
  • *****
  • Posts: 544
  • Riding bikes in and around Portland, Oregon
Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2021, 08:48:50 pm »
Not to be a scold and it’s not an interstate per se, but Ca 58 as your nearing Tehachapi is part of the Sierra Cascades route and it is a major 4 lane highway at that point with as much traffic as any interstate. And as soon as you get on it there’s a big sign “No Bicycles on Highway”. Your only on it for 5-6 miles and I was passed by a police car during that time who apparently felt he had better things to do then hassle a cyclist. I only bring it up as the ACA maps are not always a guarantee that it’s legal to ride every mile of the route.

I heard that when ACA planned the Sierra Cascades Route, they hired the guy who originally wrote the Pacific Crest Bike Trail book, which came out around 1990. But he didn't actually bike the route again, just used a car to do recon. Don't know if it's true, but I can believe it, as some choices on the SC didn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Or when they provided a "gravel alternative", it was practically unrideable (if you didn't have at least plus tires) loose pumice.

And speaking of interstates and the Sierra route, most of the little stretches of Interstate I’ve been on have been fine, however I-84 between Cascade Locks and Hood River Oregon was pure misery.

I've ridden that section numerous times. I wouldn't call it "pure misery", but it's not a lot of fun. It's at least fast to get through. They're hopefully going to complete the section of the Historic Columbia River Hwy bike path through there in the near future, so you won't have to ride that anymore.

Offline zzzz

Re: Interstate Alternatives
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2021, 09:12:25 pm »
The trouble w commenting with anything one experiences on a route like this is your sample size is 1. I will defer to you as a local that I-84 at that stretch doesn’t always suck. The morning I was there it was nose to tail heavy truck traffic and the shoulder was covered in debris and the wind was howling out of the east. It’s not a long stretch but riding into a 30 mph headwind it wasn’t “fast” to get thru.

I actually really liked the SC route, it was one of my favorite tours but it’s not for everyone. And I presume you're referring to the alternate route near crater lake, I did not take that.