Choosing streets to bike

M Street bike route
As I said yesterday, I choose primarily two-way, two-lane streets to walk on, because they offer a quieter and calmer place to enjoy walking, looking around, and finding businesses to frequent. When bicycling, I’m more likely to be going someplace specific, and more likely to be in more of a hurry. If given the time, I’d almost always rather walk than bike, but bicycling certainly saves a lot of time, and so I bicycle more than walk.

The first criteria for choosing streets to bike on is traffic speed. In the grid, nearly all of the streets are posted 25 mph, but traffic speeds vary widely from 20 to 40 mph. When a street is designed for 40 and then posted for 25, motor vehicle drivers respond by going 40. Again, this is a street design issue. I am not afraid of 40 mph traffic, and I am OK mixing in with it – I’m a vehicular bicyclist, but why, when I don’t need to? So I pick other streets.

First preference is quiet streets with a design or signing welcoming to bicyclists. Best example is M Street in East Sacramento, my usual route to and from Trader Joes, and also when I jump off the parkway at Sac State and continue into downtown/midtown. Streets like M are the closest Sacramento has to bike boulevards or neighborhood greenways.

Second preference is narrow streets without bike lanes. Why? Because the traffic moves slowly on these streets, sometimes below the posted speed. Since I’m now treating stop signs as yield signs, the more frequent stop signs on these streets don’t slow me down very much, there are few vehicles to take turns with except at two brief times of day. Parking along these streets helps a lot, particularly when it is diagonal, because parked cars create friction that slows drivers.

Third preference is streets with bike lanes. But often these are higher volume, higher speed streets. If I’m really in a hurry, these are the streets I use. Fewer stop signs and fewer signals make for a faster trip. In that sense I’m making the same decision as car drivers.

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