Comparing Routes on Bike to Work Day

Chicago’s Bike to Work Week took place last week, with Friday as the grand finale “Bike to Work Day” and a big rally downtown.  I had an early meeting and could not attend.  I simply celebrated by … biking to work.  Imagine that.

Biking to work

The day was a little special, incidentally, because I met up with my friend Elizabeth for the morning ride to work.  We took the most direct, major route, which is not so bad in the morning.  There was plenty of opportunity for chatting.

Elizabeth in the morning

In the evening, Mr. Dottie happened to be leaving work the same time as me, a rare occurrence, so we met up for bike home together.

Mr. Dottie in the evening

I made him take my quiet side street route and he thought it was more stressful than the busy-but-direct route.  He reasoned that all he had to do on the busy route was stay straight and stop for stoplights, while on the twisty side street route, there was a lot of turning, plus potential car conflicts at every block in the form of four-way-stop intersections.  I can see where he’s coming from – cars have a tendency to “not see” bikes at those intersections – but I am more stressed by what I cannot control on the busy route: cars barreling behind me at a fast speed and parked car doors flinging open.

Interesting to consider the choices through someone else’s perspective.  What kind of situation do you think is more stressful?

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19 thoughts on “Comparing Routes on Bike to Work Day

  1. I dunno … I tend to go for quiet routes, especially if they’re more scenic. I can see  Mr. Dottie’s point, but agree that there’s more danger posed by busy motor traffic.

    In the end, I’d take scenery and less traffic.

    • Dottie says:

      Yeah, scenery has a lot to do with how enjoyable my ride is.  The leafy green side-streets also have the benefit of shade, which is a big deal on days like today (90 degrees and sunny).

  2. steve_a_dfw says:

    I like a mix. Some busy and direct – and some decompression.

  3. anniebikes says:

    Hmmm, I guess I’d have to see the actual routes since I’m not familiar with Chicago to make a specific choice. When I lived in Portland OR, long before the recent bike craze, I’d take the twisty neighborhood quiet route as opposed to the direct car-packed traffic lighted way.

  4. Carolyn says:

    I’m so used to going down a major street to get to work as it’s the most direct way that it doesn’t really stress me. 

    I think that it would be more stressful then the quiet street for someone who is not used to riding a busy street.  I like both, I will ride down a quiet street if there’s an option.

  5. Carolyn says:

    I’m so used to going down a major street to get to work as it’s the most direct way that it doesn’t really stress me. 

    I think that it would be more stressful then the quiet street for someone who is not used to riding a busy street.  I like both, I will ride down a quiet street if there’s an option.

  6. I prefer longer, quieter routes vs. busier, direct routes myself. Cars zooming by make me nervous – they don’t see cyclists and are very distracted by pretty much everything else!

  7. Lauren says:

    For me, the most stressful would definitely be the busy route! I can
    kind of see where Mr. Dottie is coming from, but at least on those quiet
    streets you have a bit more control over your safety – you can stop at
    the stop signs & stay stopped until the cars pass, for example
    (which would also be a giant pain in the butt haha but worth it for the
    peace of mind, if it’s that stressful!). On the busy street, you have no
    control over speeding cars and opening doors & cars running red
    lights. Eek! I’d rather take a longer route that allowed me to go at my
    own pace – which is slow slow slow :)

    • LGRAB says:

      So true! The feeling of control makes me feel much safer. I feel like I can manage the risks more on the side streets. The slower pace of both cars and myself helps a lot.

  8. carbon_fiber_commuter says:

    the illusion of safety. i wonder what percentage of bike fatalities are due to nervousness and inexperience when riding in traffic. i find it very sad that in many major cities women make a disproportionate share of fatalities. i also find it very sad that the *slow* transportation cycling movement often comes with quite a bit of F.U.D. about sharing the lane. statistically, the average american is far more likely to die from a slip in the tub than a bike accident. these statistics, of course, include the much higher rates of accidents associated with sporty cycling.

  9. StefanieA says:

    I usually take a mix, though I’m a confident rider. I feel most stressed in the loop where there are just so many things going on and on the farther out big roads where there are few cyclists.

    The side streets are more fun, and you can go your own speed and enjoy Chicago. But you also have to deal with speed bumps and seemingly random one-ways that require some advance planning.You can usually go faster on the bigger streets and be joined by several other bicyclists going in the same direction as you (safety in numbers!). The downsides are more frequent honking and playing hopscotch with the buses.

  10. I would probably prefer the twisty, but quieter roads.  I think it would depend some on my mood though, and I’d sometimes shake up my routine.  That being said – I love your dress!  Very chic!

  11. I feel really lucky that I have an option of 

  12. I feel really lucky that one of my options is to ride exclusively on bike-only paths, though this doubles the length and time of my commute and involves one very large hill. I hardly ever take that route – I go straight down the high-traffic, quick, direct way almost every time. Stress is relative in a couple of different ways, because I find running late to be really stressful, irregardless of traffic. That makes me want to go the fast way every time.

    I wish I could modify my schedule some. Getting to and leaving work an hour later (ie. working 10 – 6) would make the traffic so much better. Alas, my boss does not like this idea.

  13. I feel really lucky that one of my options is to ride exclusively on bike-only paths, though this doubles the length and time of my commute and involves one very large hill. I hardly ever take that route – I go straight down the high-traffic, quick, direct way almost every time. Stress is relative in a couple of different ways, because I find running late to be really stressful, irregardless of traffic. That makes me want to go the fast way every time.

    I wish I could modify my schedule some. Getting to and leaving work an hour later (ie. working 10 – 6) would make the traffic so much better. Alas, my boss does not like this idea.

  14. TrekRiderMark says:

    Honestly, the route is not what matters.  What matters is being on the bike.  I could be pedaling a crowded downtown street and be totally relaxed.  Some of my training rides take me out in the country some and I ride along the shoulder on a 65-mph highway.  As long as I am on my bike, I am NOT stressed.  I get stressed being behind the wheel of a car in traffic.

  15. DENNIS.HINDMAN says:

    Your prospective on what is stressful is what is probably with the 60% of potential cyclists and Mr Dottie’s view is in line with the 8%, or less of the population. I’m trying to pick up on what the 60% perceives as a high-stress level in order to increase cycling in Los Angeles at a more rapid rate and stripes on busy streets with fast moving traffic is not appealing for most people to ride on.

    I usually ride the most direct route on non-residential streets, but listening to people and observing, I’m seeing how the residential streets can be a lot less stressful for most people.

  16. StefanieA says:

    I usually take a mix, though I’m a confident rider. I feel most stressed in the loop where there are just so many things going on and on the farther out big roads where there are few cyclists.

    The side streets are more fun, and you can go your own speed and enjoy Chicago. But you also have to deal with speed bumps and seemingly random one-ways that require some advance planning.You can usually go faster on the bigger streets and be joined by several other bicyclists going in the same direction as you (safety in numbers!). The downsides are more frequent honking and playing hopscotch with the buses.

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