Sunday, November 21, 2010

What is it about Portland?

Why does Portland understand the cyclist like no other city in this country? If you don't know what I mean, watch this video:

You see, a bike lane needs to be more than a line painted on a road. There needs to be an acknowledgment that automobiles pose a serious threat to our well-being as cyclists. A well-being we value greatly, hence the constant biking.
I'm not here to pontificate about what is a good bike lane and what is not, there is plenty of that out there. What I want to try and do is explore why Portland understands what makes a safe and inviting bike environment, while other municipalities just paint lines on roads and wonder why it's not enough.  I'm not going to answer these questions, because I don't have the time or energy to do the research. I'm just going to speculate because that takes very little time or energy.
   Could it be that Portland just has reached that point of critical mass that has pushed the city over the precipice. Now that they have enough cyclists the biking development seems to drive itself? I could imagine this becoming a very productive cycle, where better cycling facilities leads to more cyclists leads to even better cycling facilities and so on and so forth. 
  If this self-driven movement is the reason Portland is so good for bikes, then I want to know what was the seed that started the community? And how do I plant that seed where I live? I suppose this is partly why I write this blog, I feel if more people see how to bike commute in the triangle then maybe more will bike commute in the triangle, leading to better facilities to accommodate the growing biking community.
   Alternatively, Portland could have just been blessed with local government with excellent foresight and strong conservation ideology. Because of the green/progressive image I have of Portland, I am prone to believe local government has played a large role in the development of biking facilities in the city. Throw in a couple of city managers who ride bikes and WHAM, you get excellent cycling infrastructure. I am hesitant to believe even a strong local government alone could drive this development because of my time spent in Charlottesville, VA during a time when the mayor was strictly a bike commuter. I saw little good bike infrastructure develop during Mr. Cox's tenure as mayor.
   I'm guessing what Portland has is the perfect storm.  I know they have strong grassroots cycling community that pushes for new infrastructure.  They probably have a government willing and able to provide the new infrastructure, and work out creative solutions that make biking from A to B safe even for young children. Now, how do I get the perfect storm to come to my hometown?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Route #6, And Now, For Something Completely Different (Stagecoach, Barbee Chapel)

About 18 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes

Google map begins at end of Tobacco Trail because bike only routes are beta and don't support embedding

I want a dedicated bike route between Chapel Hill and Durham. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I decided to see if I could use the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) as part of my commute to Chapel Hill.  I was not optimistic, but I actually found a decent route that uses the entire north end of the Tobacco Trail, and does not require travel on a deadly stretch of highway 54.

The American Tobacco Trail is a Rails-to-Trails
project stretching from downtown Durham to Wake County
The American Tobacco Trail:
The ATT is wonderful, but at this point it doesn't go in a direction that is useful for my commute to Chapel Hill. However, I did find a route that is comparable to the Mt. Sinai route in length that incorporates a seven-mile ride down the ATT from downtown Durham to the Southpoint Crossing shopping center (note this is not Southpoint Mall, but it is nearby). The ATT is flat, smooth and free of motorized vehicles making for a super pleasant ride for the first seven miles of this commute.

The Stagecoach Shunt:
There is not a good direct route to get from the current end of the Durham ATT to Stagecoach Road. I take the combination of Highgate Drive, Audubon Lake Drive and NC751 to get to Stagecoach Road. Highgate and Audubon Lake cut through an area that looks like big development was at one point planned then completely abandoned. Except for a couple of car dealerships and some apartment complexes there is nothing back in this area. On NC751 I rode on the sidewalk until I reached the Greek Orthodox church, where I crossed the street and rode on 751 for the last half-mile to Stagecoach Road.

Audubon Lake Drive at Johnson Victory Circle Roundabout

Stagecoach Road:
Stagecoach Rd Near Barbee Chapel Rd
On the day I took this route I was running late leaving for work so most of my travel was after rush-hour.  That said Stagecoach Road was a very pleasant ride at 9:30 in the morning. The shoulders are very wide most of the way. The traffic was low and cars seemed to be very bike tolerant and friendly.  Stagecoach passes through part of the Jordan Lake preservation area and through farms, so the scenery is quite nice.

Barbee Chapel Road:
Barbee Chapel Road has a bit more traffic than Stagecoach but is fairly wide so it's never a tight squeeze for a car to get by a cyclist.  There are several housing developments along Barbee Chapel leading to the higher traffic, more vehicles entering and exiting the road and ugly scenery.
Barbee Chapel Road

Old Mason Farm Road

Finley Golf Course:
From Barbee Chapel I cut though Finley Forest to the UNC Friday Center park-and-ride lot where I was able to catch the bike path that runs along 54. I took this bike path over to Finley Golf Course Road where I turned to get away from 54 again.  Finley Golf Course, which turns into Old Mason Farm Road back by the golf course is a nice but narrow road with very little traffic because it only loops back to 54. Once at 54 I cross, with the aid of a traffic signal, (if there was not one it would be impossible to cross here).

Laurel Hill Road:
Here's your hill. Up to this point this ride is flat, flat, flat, and Laurel Hill is payback. Get your bike in low gear and get started it takes a while to get to the top. I recommend going up through this residential neighborhood in October because it smells amazing. If you're not from the south you probably don't know what a fragrant tea olive is, one ride through this neighborhood in October and you'll never forget.

Ridge Road and Manning Drive:
These are just campus roads that go with the requisite warnings about riding on the UNC campus. Watch out for students, buses and tigers of which there are many.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dirty dancing with a bike

This guy is awesome, although I can't help but think "he is gonna break his spokes doing that".  I lived in Senegal for two years and I never came across him, he is clearly in a touristy area and I visited most of them, you can tell by the number of toubabs watching and the tourist art surrounding the area.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Winter Gear Issue #2a- The Torso (base layer)

I have always worn a T-shirt as my base layer when biking, with the exception of my time in the Peace Corps in Senegal where once in a while I'd wear this god awful green mesh tank-top that I bought from a travelling vendor. But I digress, my point is: it's time to grow up. If I'm going to be serious about biking 13-20 miles a day through the winter I need to graduate from the absorbent cotton T-shirts that I wear every time I get on my bike.

So I did what I needed to do, and hate to do- I went shopping. From reading other blogs about the most important gear for winter bike riding I decided I needed a base layer that wicks moisture away from my skin, keeping my skin dry. You see our sweat is an extremely efficient method our bodies use to cool us when we're over heated. However, when it's cold out and we're not overheating, we need to move that perspiration away from our skin to prevent its cooling properties working on our bodies.

At REI I puchased two undershirts, both with "moisture-wicking technology". The first undershirt is from the REI PolarTec® long underwear collection.  I bought the mid-weight, zippered version (pictured below) of the shirt although they also have a light-weight version.

REI PolarTec® Zip-T- Midweight
I have now worn this shirt once twice on a cool morning rides, probably high 40's. I was definitely pleased with the noticeable difference in skin wetness. However, this was not really neither ride was a good test of cold weather, because half way into my ride I had my jacket and the undershirt unzipped so I could cool off. Have I mentioned that fall is not very chilly in North Carolina.  What I did not like about this shirt is how stinky it was after one ride. It was ripe after one hour on the bike.  I'll have to wait and see if was stinky because it was too warm a day for the shirt and I sweat too much or if it just stinks every time I wear it. Now with two rides wearing this shirt I am worried it is a "feature" of the shirt to become really stinky with just a little perspiration.  As a side note, my nose is not particularly sensitive to my own BO, so if I say it's stinky that means something.

The second undershirt I purchased was the Under Armour Evo ColdGear® hoodie. It is a bit heavier than the PolarTec undershirt and has a hood, but no front zipper.
Under Armour Evo ColdGear® hoodie
I have worn this shirt on a few morning rides, with and without a windbreaker top layer.  I like the hood because on cool mornings I can pull it up instead of wearing my hat. On a cool 50°F morning this shirt is nice without a windbreaker, just enough to keep me from getting shivery on a shaded downhill roll. It breathes nicely so when I get warmed up I don't overheat. The hood is good down to about 45°F, below that I put on my hat. The shirt does help keep my skin drier than a normal cotton T-shirt, which has been nice on the colder mornings I've worn this shirt. Finally, this hoodie doesn't seem plagued with the stink problem of the PolarTec undershirt.

Again, I have not tested these shirts in cold weather yet, just a couple of cool mornings. It remains to be seen how they with fair in our "blustery" North Carolina winter.

Other winterizing entries:
My hat

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Route #5, The Direct Route (University Drive)

Who are these people, and why are they on my blog?

This is the current Durham County Board of Commissioners. They are in this post because of a conversation I had with Ellen Reckhow (seated) about biking in Durham and Chapel Hill.  I was waiting in line to vote early in the 2008 primary election in Durham.  Because there was a ton of interest in that election the line wrapped around the block, drawing out the politicians to meet and greet.   I had just finished talking with a guy working the line for somebody else, he was a complete bore and annoying to boot, when Ms. Reckhow approached us and asked us about our concerns...instead of just asking for our vote.

I told her of my concern that there isn't a safe bike route between Durham and Chapel Hill.  To which she told me that the route that includes University Road, Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road is a planned bike corridor between the two towns. Being that I'm now writing about bike commuting routes on this blog, I decided to ride the route this morning so that I could report on how I feel about its current state.

11.5 miles, about 50 minutes

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I almost took Route #3 this morning because I really needed a longer ride, but I've been meaning to take this route for a few weeks now, so I chose this morning.  This is the most direct route to Chapel Hill from my house, barring riding down the side of the eight-lane highway 15-501.

University Drive: Between our house and Martin Luther King Parkway the quality of University Drive varies quite a bit. For the first mile the asphalt is beat up, there is no shoulder and there are several busy intersections that make bike travel a little scary. Once you pass Chapel Hill Road and Dixon Road, University open up to a wider road more suited to the amount of traffic; there is no bike lane but there is plenty of room for bikes. The wider portion of University goes all the way to Garrett Road.  This portion of University Drive has some major intersections that require caution, but I actually felt surprisingly safe riding in this area this morning. The lanes are wide enough that cars can pass with 3+ feet of buffer, and the traffic was not that bad.

Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road: At Garrett Road the name of University changes to Old Durham/Chapel Hill Road.  The personality of the road also changes.  Here, the road becomes a narrow two lane highway with variable size shoulders.  Again, the traffic was not as bad as I had expected on this route, so the narrow road did not bother me that much. That said, I still much prefer a designated bike lane to a wide shoulder.  From Old Durham I turned onto Standish Drive.  Standish is a wide residential street with no traffic. I turned down here because I lived on Standish my first six months in the Triangle area.

I crossed through the Trader Joe's parking lot to get over to Franklin Street, which you can read about in my earlier post.

In summary, this route was more pleasant than I had expected.  It is also shorter by a mile-and-a-half than my usual route. I do however have a mini rant for Ms. Reckhow.  It looks like part of the bike corridor might consist of a good deal of sidewalk sharing. This is not acceptable for a proper bike route and I will explain why.  As a cyclist, if you want to get hit by a car, one of the best places to ride is on the sidewalk. Drivers crossing the sidewalk to pull into traffic never stop at the sidewalk to check for traffic, they pull up to the road edge with their car across the sidewalk.  I personally have hit two cars that did this to me on sidewalk/bike-lane combos, and I know of others that have been hit on the side by cars pulling out of driveways across the sidewalk. I don't know i this is the final plan for the road to use sidewalks as part of the bike route, but if not they are going to have to tear out and expand some asphalt that was just refinished in the past couple of months.

This is definitely the shortest route from Durham to Chapel Hill so it is an ideal route to work up for biking.  I think it could be a great route that will encourage biking between the two towns, but REAL bike facilities should be installed, not dangerous half-assed facilities.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Winter Gear Issue #1- The Head

I live in North Carolina, it doesn't get very cold here. However, for a couple of months out of the year it is a little chilly for biking.  This year I'm going to attempt to continue to bike commute through the winter. This will be the first in a series of posts where I describe the gear I wear to protect myself from the cold, and how well it works for me.

As the title suggests this post will be about my hat.  Thanks to Kyra I have a hat I really like for winter biking. A couple of years ago she bought me a fleece Carhartt hat with a pull-down face mask. As a side note, I think Kyra bought the hat to push the online order over the free shipping price limit. Turns out that little afterthought purchase turned out to be a great hat for biking in the cold.  I like this hat a lot because it is both warm and thin, so it fits in my helmet without squeezing my brains out my ears.  The face mask can be pulled down for very cold days, or tucked into the hat for days that are merely chilly.

This hat has worked well for me.  It isn't cold enough to use it this year, but I have worn it on a couple of mornings.  In the past couple of years I have worn the hat when I ride to and from the bus, a short 1.5 mile ride. On this short a ride this hat is entirely sufficient to protect from North Carolina cold (The lowest of low is usually around 20°F or -7°C).  We will have to see how it holds up to longer rides in the cold.

Other winterizing entries:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My New Obsession

I went in to Cycle9 yesterday to try out a Surly Long Haul Trucker.  I rode the 56 cm bike out to Mapleview Farms Ice Cream; I absolutely loved the feel of the bike. Now I have to decide how I can afford $1100 worth of bike.  I don't think I could get  a lot of return if I sold my Specialized Sirrus, maybe $150-200, that barely scratches the surface of the LHT price-tag.

My current bike gets me to and from work just fine, but I suffer from constant flat tires, mostly caused by rough road and skinny tires. My current bike has also been plagued by wheel issues since the day I forgot to lock it down properly on front of the bus.  Damn grad school had me seeing double that day I was so overworked. The bike half fell out of the bike rack and the back wheel got unrepairably bent. The new wheel I bought from The Bicycle Chain was not true to begin with, and never was right.  I do have a new wheelset now that has its own issues, such as they are nearly impossible to get tires on them without tearing up my hand, and I had a problem getting the tire bead to set in the hook, (I have resolved that issue).

Long story short, I want big wheels with bulletproof tires.  I want to forget about my wheels for two years. Except for tire inflation I don't want to have to deal with wheel issues.  I especially don't want to spend anymore time on the side of the road pulling tubes out of wheels and fighting with tire irons to get my bike rolling.  I think on top of being a well equipped commuter bike, the Surly LHT can give me wheels that will stand up to the beatings I can give.

So now, what can I sell to make it happen.  I wonder how much I can get for my Yamaha V-star that currently wont start.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Maryland Bicycle Law Has No Teeth

I came across this story in the Baltimore Sun about a three-foot rule being enacted in Maryland. That is, Maryland has a new law that requires drivers give a three-foot buffer when passing a bicyclist on the road. Now, I don't live in Maryland but I am interested in cyclist's rights everywhere.
Advocates for bicyclists scored a big win this year when they persuaded the Maryland General Assembly to adopt a measure requiring drivers to leave a 3-foot buffer when passing a bicycle.
On the surface I think this law is a great idea; however, when you dig into the specifics it seems as if the law has no teeth. The article goes on to point out that cyclists have the responsibility to pull over and make room for cars if they are going 15 mph or more below the speed limit. Then there is this last little tidbit from the article:
Now let's say the bicyclist is in the wrong — blithely hogging the travel lane while slowing the motorist to 20 mph under the speed limit. In that case, the buffer rule does not apply. But drivers who would prefer not to spend their day explaining that to police after a collision should keep their distance anyway.
I want to dissect the logic here because the way I read it, in most situations the law would not apply. Lets say you are like me, a lowly bike commuter, riding to work day by day, just trying to get by.  What I'm getting at is I'm not Lance Armstrong, I am almost always riding at least 15 mph below the speed limit. So instead of giving me rights, this law takes away my rights to the road in almost all situations. Laws like this have to be written without caveats that give drivers loopholes to escape prosecution for reckless behavior. Otherwise, the laws don't really do anything to protect cyclists.

 Baltimore Sun Story

Friday, October 1, 2010

Route #4, The WTF was I thinking route. (Cornwallis, NC-10)

27 miles, about an hour and 45 minutes

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So a couple of weeks ago I took this route home because I was feeling feisty when I got on my bike in the afternoon.  Needless to say, I was not feeling feisty when I collapsed into the armchair upon arrival at home. While 27 miles is not a particularly long ride, I did this at the end of my workday, after biking in 13 miles in the morning. I felt good but exhausted after the ride. The route is similar to the Mt. Sinai route, but makes a wider detour than Mt. Sinai Road.

Martin Luther King Boulevard: I described riding on MLK Boulevard towards UNC in the Route #2 post. However, this road is whole different ballgame when you're leaving town. Heading out there is almost as much bike lane as there is going into town, so that is nice.  In contrast to the fast ride toward UNC, leaving town is almost all uphill. The route starts with a steep grade that tires you out for the shallow uphill grade all the way to the edge of town.

Eubanks Road:  I wrote about the horrors of Eubanks Road in Route #3. Fortunately, when you head out farther on Eubanks, you'll find all of those horrors are in the first mile, with the exception of the landfill traffic. Past the bus terminal, UPS depot and construction the roads are in better shape and 70% of the large vehicular traffic has turned off the road. Beyond the railroad tracks Eubanks Road is more like a country highway than an industrial intersection.

Old 86:  This road was a pleasant road to ride on. The shoulders were not very wide, but traffic was low and there were not many blind curves to deal with.  There also were very few crossroads which are often problem areas for cyclists and cars.

New Hope Church Road:  A nice wide country road with minimal traffic, and was relatively flat.

Old State Highway 10:  This is not really a bike friendly road.  There are wide shoulders, but there is a 55mph speed limit meaning traffic moves at about 65mph. I prefer to stay off of roads like this when I bike. I intended to get off highway 10 earlier than I did, but Cornwallis was not clearly marked on 10.

The Penis in the Pasture
Route 751: Instead of taking Cornwallis which I missed because of poor signage, I ended up going down Route 751.  At this end 751 is a nice road for riding, unlike the section of 751 called Hope Valley Road. The shoulders had ample room, and there was little traffic to speak of.

Kerley Road
Kerley Road:  I like Kerley Road a lot. It is low on traffic and high on scenery.  Surrounded by rolling farms and thick wooded areas it makes for a pleasant destressing roll. And as you approach Erwin Road you will see the strangest sight, the Durham Tower apparently plopped down in the middle of the woods. The Durham Tower, or as it is known locally, The Penis in the Pasture, already looks out of place from 15-501, but from this angle it looks absolutely ridiculous.

From Kerley I cross Erwin onto Randolph Road for less than a mile onto Pickett Road, which you can read about in Route #1.

Happy Riding!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Beautiful Day For a Ride

So I took a bit of a drenching on my ride home this afternoon. I took my usual route, which is about an hour of riding, plenty of time to get soaked through.  There is nothing like a shower, some dry clothes and a hot cup of coffee (I'm going to put some cocoa in mine) after a ride like that.

I got to turn on all of my blinking lights and plow through the pouring rain. I decided I would also sing at the top of my lungs since nobody would be outside listening to me. Yup, I'm that crazy guy singing and biking in the rain.  I am pretty ill prepared for rides like this, I'm sure there is a way to get from point A to point B on a bike, in the rain, without getting drenched but I don't know of it. Fortunately, it isn't cold in North Carolina at this time of year.

I'm looking forward to pushing my rides into winter this year.  I ride my bike year-round, but usually during the winter I head to the bus stop with my bike.  I'm going to try and bike all the way to work, at least once or twice a week, through the winter this year.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Biking in Ethiopia

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My wife and I are planning an international adoption through Ethiopia. The process requires two visits to Ethiopia within six weeks of each other. We are talking about touring Ethiopia during the intervening six weeks instead of making two trips. I have come up withe idea of doing our in country travel by bike.

It seems like a doable plan except for serious logistical planning that would go into it might interfere with serious logistical planning that goes into the adoption process.  So while this pie-in-the-sky idea lingers in my mind, I wonder how realistic an idea it is. I do have one advantage of being a former Peace Corps volunteer, meaning we may be able to contact the Ethiopian Peace Corps community for help finding places to spend the night, eat meals and get reliable translation of local languages whether it be Amharic or otherwise.

The other issue with touring by bike is making sure both Kyra and I are in the best physical condition to complete the trip.  Ethiopia is a mountainous country with many a dirt road. Additionally, the season we are in Ethiopia is dictated entirely by the adoption process. I have not looked into the climate of Ethiopia, but I would guess like much of sub-saharan Africa it has a rainy season, which would be a difficult time to bike around the country.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A mini rant

Dear Lady who cut me off at Mt. Moriah Rd,

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     Your little stunt today could have cost a life,  so here are some tips for sharing the road. First off a cyclist going straight at an intersection does have the right of way if you are turning right across the cyclist's path. If the cyclist is already in said intersection you do not have enough time to sneak in front of them and turn. If you absolutely must cut the cyclist off, for God's sake use your goddamn turn signal so s/he knows you're planning to be an asshole, it could make the difference between a pissed off biker and a dead biker.

Thnx Bye

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Route #3, Mt. Sinai, aka my favorite route

17.9 miles, about 1 hour and 10 minutes

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As indicated by the post title, this is currently my favorite route to ride between home and work. That may not be as true returning home because Martin Luther King Boulevard going out of Chapel Hill is mostly uphill.
      Anyhow, this route starts out the same as the rest of my routes. I take Pickett Road out to Randolph then Erwin. However, when I get to Erwin I just cross over and keep going out Kerley Road for a few hundred feet to Mount Sinai Road.
Mt. Sinai Road

Mt. Sinai Road: I love biking on Mt. Sinai Road despite the large hill right after I turn onto the road. The shoulders are not super wide on Mt. Sinai, but traffic is low, and the cars seem to be very used to bikers. In fact I tend to see the most cyclists when I take this route to Chapel Hill. Most of the people out here look like recreational bikers, not commuters, because only idiots choose a longer route for their bike commute.  I am a self proclaimed idiot, I love to experiment with longer commutes.  I prefer less stressful routes even if they add a half hour to my commute. 

Millhouse Road: Mt. Sinai Road crosses Route 86 and becomes Millhouse Road. There is a barbeque joint on the corner that is always fired up in the morning when I bike by. It almost makes me want to start eating pork ribs, it smells pretty good. Millhouse is a nice quiet road that has wide bike lanes on the second half. The first half on Millhouse has no shoulders, but little to no traffic, there is nothing back here but a horse farm and a Waldorf School.

Eubanks Road: Eubanks is the worst part of this ride, but it's short so I can accept it. Eubanks is in a state of major disrepair, on top of that there is a constant flow of buses, UPS trucks (there is a distribution center on Eubanks), garbage trucks (Orange County Landfill is farther up Eubanks) and construction vehicles (there seem to be some developments going up). This combined with no shoulders and heavily cracked pavement forcing you to bike into the lane make this a tense section of road to bike on. Like I said though it is less than a mile long, so mount a mirror on your helmet or handlebar and watch for large vehicles before you swerve around that giant crack in the road.

UPDATE: Eubanks road is being repaired and widened, see new post.

Eubanks Road connects to Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the rest of this ride plays out like the end of Route #2. So connect to that post to see the rest.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Route #2, Whitfield road to MLK boulevard

Total Distance 14.9 miles, about one-hour ride.

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So this second route that I have taken a couple of times gets me off of Erwin Road sooner than my usual ride. It is a bit longer due to the shunt over to Martin luther King Boulevard on Whitfield Road. Honestly this route doesn't really make me feel any safer while I'm out there.

Whitfield Road: Whitfield Road has more traffic than I expected it would. I'm not sure where everybody is coming from or going to, but there tends to be a fair number of vehicles driving this road.  On top of the traffic, there is not much of a shoulder for the entire length of Whitfield.

Martin Luther King Boulevard: The one thing I learned from taking this route is that MLK Boulevard in Chapel Hill is very well equipped to handle cycling traffic. There are dedicated bike lanes on both sides of the road for almost the length of this ride.  The grade is sloped mostly down toward the UNC campus, but gently so your not flying down a steep hill. This does make for a very quick ride end to end.  The slowest part is the last half mile or so, which is a bit of a hill.  If you're lucky you'll catch the green light at the bottom of the hill and momentum will be your friend for the first part of the climb.  I travel this route faster than the heavily used busses, i.e. if I see an NS bus at Eubanks Road headed toward UNC, I will get to work before the bus gets to Manning Drive.

 From the intersection with Franklin Street my ride through campus is the same as my usual route.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Usual Route (Erwin Road)

13.1 miles, about a 50 minute ride.

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So I'll start by describing my usual route to work. I'll be the first to admit this is not an ideal bike route. However, I have noticed more the number of bikes along this route rising since I started riding it three years ago. I used to pass the occasional rider once a week or so, now I am almost guaranteed to see another rider on every trip.  Here are descriptions of the four main parts of the trip.

Pickett Road
Pickett Road: Pickett is shoulderless, but traffic is relatively slow and there are few cars.  Traffic can be a problem around Garrett road and near Durham Academy at the beginning of school hours.  The surface is super nice because it was paved at the beginning of the summer 2010, unfortunately they neglected to widen it a little for bikes when they repaved.

Erwin Road: Erwin has a fairly wide shoulder, it's not a bike lane, but it is absolutely necessary for the speed and volume of the traffic you will encounter on Erwin. Erwin is definitely the route of choice for auto commuters avoiding 15-501. My ride includes only about 10 minutes on Erwin, which is too much if you ask me, I don't like biking on this road.
Erwin Road

Franklin Street: If you live in Chapel Hill and ride your bike, you've biked on Franklin Street. This the main artery through Chapel Hill. Coming from Durham, I ride Franklin almost from end to end. I join at the east end of Franklin where it begins as a four lane 35 mile per hour clusterfuck with all sorts of businesses and side streets on both sides. There is no bike lane and the gutter has some crazy storm drains that I'm sure could catch a bike wheel. Traffic is heavy during rush hour and cars are turning on and off, so you have to be very alert here.
     Eventually, you get past the business end of Franklin Street, and head toward the residential/campus end. After you cross Estes Drive you are past most of the businesses/malls but now you head up the eponymous hill. It's not that big a hill, my GPS data says about a 200 ft climb, but some days it seems to go on forever.

Campus: The final section of this route is through the UNC campus, which I will define as the top of the Franklin Street hill just described. The Franklin street speed limit drops as you approach campus, down to 20mph. I go right up to Columbia Street on Franklin. Franklin is kinda crazy on campus, but traffic is slow. You do have to dodge unloading delivery trucks, busses and thousands of students. The entire route through campus including Columbia and Pittsboro Streets is littered with busses, trucks and students. Trucks stop in the middle of Pittsboro street to unload goods for the Carolina Inn. There is also a good deal of construction through campus that robs us of our bike lanes.

As I said at the beginning, this route is not ideal. I will post some of my longer commutes that are safer, but longer.  They are also prettier routes!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

American Tobacco Trail

Kyra and I went on a leisurely ride this morning down to Woodcroft, on the tobacco trail.  It seems as if Durham has just repaved the entire length of the trail. It was a beautiful morning for a ride, and many folks were out with the same idea.