Since I posted on this topic previously, I have learned a few things.
As far as I can tell, there is not a way for mere mortals to suggest edits or corrections to the Biking layer of Google Maps. The suggestion of Jeffco Blvd. as a bicycle friendly road probably did not come from the city of Arnold, since this indication extends well beyond the city limits.
I recently rode a stretch of US-61/67 south of Arnold. There was a shoulder for most of it, and in all, it wasn’t a bad ride.
There is a Trek store here in Arnold, and on the Trek web site, there are several recommended bike routes, many of which start and end at that store. Most of them travel on Jeffco for miles.
I have just been been reading recommendations about positioning on the road, which is what inspired me to write this post. Apparently, I have been uneducated most of my life. I knew that cyclists were allowed in the traffic lanes, but I have always regarded this as the exception rather than the rule. I have always tried to ride in the shoulder, or if necessary, the gutter. If the space between the white stripe and the edge of the asphalt was six inches, I tried to ride in it. All of this is wrong.
I should never be riding in the gutter. It is unsafe, for the reasons I described in my previous post. Instead, I should be riding in the travel lane. This is what I should be doing for any road that doesn’t have a spacious and safe shoulder.
Shifting to that behavior will be a significant mental hurdle for me. I am well aware that most drivers don’t like it. It will become another factor in deciding where to ride.
So what does make a road without dedicated bike lanes bicycle friendly?
- Shoulder – There should be about 3-4 feet between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, and there should probably be about 2 feet of pavement between the cyclist and the edge of the road. Thus to ride in the shoulder, it should be at least 5-6 feet wide. If it tends to contain dangerous debris or storm grates, it needs to be even wider to allow the cyclist to maneuver around the obstacles. It should be smoothly paved. There should be no rumble strip where the cyclist would ride or cross.
If there is not an adequate shoulder, then the cyclist should ride in the travel lane. What makes a road without an adequate shoulder bicycle friendly?
- Congestion – This, in my opinion, is probably the most important factor. More vehicles translate directly to more danger. Even more significantly, congestion causes increased tension, competitiveness, and rage among drivers. It decreases the options available to drivers to steer clear of cyclists.
- Multiple Lanes – Multiple travel lanes allow drivers to change lanes to avoid and pass cyclists.
- Speed – If a cyclist is riding in the travel lane, then the cyclist’s ability to match the speed of vehicle traffic makes them more or less compatible with the vehicle traffic. Also generally speaking, greater speed translates directly to greater risk.
- Attitude – This is impossible to quantify, but important nonetheless. Some drivers have good attitudes about sharing the road with cyclists, and some do not. Just as it is true that different areas are populated by people with different political, socioeconomic, and educational makeup, so it is that different areas will have a lesser or greater portion of drivers with bad attitudes toward cyclists. It is even possible that the attitudes of individual drivers may shift depending on their location or other roadway factors.
So the ideal road is a multi-lane road with low speed, low congestion, located in an area with progressive attitudes about transportation. Around here, that would put me in the city. Unfortunately, city riding isn’t exactly compatible with my cycling goals. Such roads are flat, and they involve many stops.
Uncongested multi-lane highways are probably the next best choice, and a better choice in terms of climb and the number of stops required.
So considering these factors, is Jeffco a bicycle friendly road? I would say it’s a bit too congested most of the time, especially in the “downtown” part of Arnold. It does have multiple lanes. The speed isn’t terrible; the posted speed limit is 40 mph in Arnold, and while drivers tend to exceed that in parts, they aren’t able to exceed it during congested times. That leaves attitude, which isn’t great in Arnold, but I guess it’s not as bad as some other parts of Jefferson County, such as Imperial.