Comments from the Latest Cycling Touring Trip
The third cycling touring trip of the year is now over. It started on August 28th, 2012 as I left Calgary, AB behind. It ended seventy-two days later on November 9th with a train ride from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, B.C. I sort of miss not doing the last segment by bicycle. Other priorities cut out those last three days of cycling. Still, I have done this segment of the trip a number of times using a variety of routes. Nevertheless, the cycling touring trip covered 4,100 kilometres and the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California with the southern terminus being Santa Barbara. The southerly cycle was by bicycle with the northern portion being a combined mobility trip of trains and cycling. Time was a limiting factor on the northernmost section as the wonderful fall weather that I had been enjoying from the start of the trip now threatened to turn to winterly conditions, including the oncoming of fog in the morning hours as the length of daylight decreased quickly.
The next few blog articles will reflect on some observations from the trip on network and infrastructure design toolkits that affect cycling touring.
Federal Government Funding Programs for Cycling
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The trip showed the effectiveness of federal programs that mandate that a specified portion of grants for any road construction or rebuilt be spent on cycling facilities. While the cycling facility design toolkit being used on these builds may not appeal to non-cyclists, the end product will appeal to more confident and more risk-taking people who now cycle to use arterial roads with bike lanes.
Reflections on cycling in the States, I started to expect that every hamlet, village, town, or city, no matter the population, would have bike lanes guiding me through it. In rural roads, I expected either to see marked bike lanes or paved shoulders allowing for confortable cycling. Definitely, the federal transportation program had a very positive effect on cycling facilities. It is amazing to think back and reflect on the limited distances that I cycled where there was not a bike lane or cycleable paved shoulders.
Being able to cycle on bike lanes was great. The widths of the cycling facilities ranged from meagre to very comfortable. Sometimes, the 1.5 metres bike lane widths were measured from curb faces making them uncomfortable. Frequently, the concrete extensions were great storage places for dirt, branches, garbage, and other obstacles, making this space useless for cycling. Frequently, the road asphalt did not extend to the curb face. Unfortunately, having both asphalt and concrete surfaces in bike lanes also brought poor cycling conditions with safety issues as the meeting of these two materials may be unsmooth, may have difficult raised humps, or separate and ready to eat up a wheel.
Generally, the bike lanes were designed to the second wave level with frequent, undesirable conditions at intersections where bike lanes would disappear when newer cyclists needed them the most. So, for determinant, skilled, or risk-taking cyclists with limited fear, these second wave design bike lanes provided separation from cars and an acceptable cycling environment. Certainly, these facilities would not draw out motorists from their cars to cycle instead. This was evident by the number of people cycling. Third wave cycling designs are needed to increase cycling traffic beyond the current cyclists.