The quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line. But if you're interested in bike commuting to work, take that straight-line talk and trash it.
The directness of your route is one of a number of factors you need to weigh, but probably not the most important.
That's not to say that a 5-mile drive should become a 20-mile bike commute for the sake of wide bike lanes. It's a balancing act, one that should make your route a safe, enjoyable and efficient trek to the office.
More: Freedom From the Grind: Become a Bike Commuter
"When I was living in Des Moines," says Carolyn Szczepanski, "it took me months of going out on the weekends and trying different routes to try to get to work. There was this major thoroughfare that was a very specific inhibitor to my getting to work safely and in a direct fashion."
Szczepanski is now the director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists, and a daily bike commuter in Washington D.C. The League is a major supporter of Bike to Work Month and educates workers around the world looking to transition from driving to biking into the office.
One of the biggest hurdles new commuters face is finding the best route. Here are some pointers the League offers:
More: 10 Tips From Hard-Core Bike Commuters
Find Friendly Roads
Make sure a majority of the roads that you take to the office are bicycle-friendly. That can mean a number of things:
- Streets with bike lanes, perhaps the most obvious indicator of bike-friendliness.
- The amount of traffic. Look for low-volume streets with few trucks and buses.
- Terrain: If a giant mountain is between you and the office, consider a route that goes around it, even if it adds a little to the distance.
- Hazards: Railroad tracks, storm drains, even poorly maintained roads can cause a daily problem for your commute. Try to avoid them.
Many big cities, like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and others have detailed bike maps to show which roads are bike-friendly. It is a great resource to help you plan your route.
More: Safety Tips for Cycling on Freeways