Friday, September 9

The Path Less Traveled Revisited

My shortest and most efficient commute involves 93% roads and 7% multiuse path (MUP). The roads are side streets for the most part, though a few sections are fairly busy on any given day. I used to pass three elementary schools at prime dropoff time. I've slightly altered my route to bypass one of those schools.

I have the option of a commute which is 9% roads and 91% MUPs. I have to ride 0.7 miles to the Ralston Creek Trail and take it to the Clear Creek Trail and then the Clear Creek Trail to its western terminus where I pick up the US 6 bike path and take it all the way to work. Other than the initial 0.7 miles there are only a few short stretches where side streets are used to tie together sections of the CCT.

So why do I use the route that is 93% roads? Because the 91% bike path route is twice as long at 18.3 miles and because the cyclo-specific route involves 177 additional feet of climbing, but in truth is more punishing because the climbs come shorter, but steeper and in greater numbers with a few extra feet.

And then there is an intermediate route that I take on days when I don't want to deal with traffic, but I still want to get home or get to work within a reasonable amount of time. I jet to the CCT via Ridge Rd and then take the trail all the way into Golden and then jump off onto Illinoising through the School of Mines campus to bypass the heinous climbs of the US 6 trail. I reverse for the commute home. And days when I'm just not in the mood to fight with traffic on the way home I typically take that way.

That route is approximately 60% roads and just under 11 miles. So while its a bit longer than my short commute and involves more interaction with cranky motorists its still significantly shorter than the longer MUP. I can really crank on the way home along the CCT because I usually have the wind at my back coming out of Golden between the mesas. I'm still avoiding the busier roads and only on roads for short sections at any given time. I'm still minimizing my presence in traffic while maximizing my speed and efficiency.

My mindset is not out of step with the greater cycling community either. I see a lot of cyclists on my route each day. My route is a common route. I'm not the only one trying to stay out of the path of moto-fascists.

Despite my best efforts to avoid confrontation, stay out of the way of motorists and just not get creamed it seems as if trouble finds me. And so I revert back to my "Be Visible" post. I ride with many lights and I command the space around me. I put myself in the best location in the road to maximize my visibility.

And sometimes that takes more guts than you would think. There are times I take the lane and then think: Here we go! This is IT! And tense up against the impending destruction bearing down on me. I never just swerve in front of a car leaving the driver with no time to react or no room to maneuver, but I know there are idiots out there who would hit a cyclist for spite and then make the absurd claim that they didn't see them.

So as you go to and fro out there be safe. Be visible. Be vigilant against the dangers that bear down on you and be consistent so others can predict what you're going to do.

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