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Show me the way
Of course cycling looks sketchy to those who are driving or bussing it! After all, drivers (and bus passengers) are trapped on the mains! Main roads are the most challenging places to ride.... so they are either witnessing the uber confident, most experienced, or the lost, stranded & bewildered! Experienced city cyclists have a virtual street directory in their heads. They are masters of route planning and know all the streets, back-roads, pathways (and shortcuts!) outside the main roads.
In cities like Sydney, route planning is a fundamental skill for city cyclists because there are few dedicated cycleways. While the main roads are often more direct, they’re also more stressful, involving higher traffic speeds, continuous lane changes, and numerous sets of traffic lights to stop your momentum. Back roads have less traffic flow but can involve some route deviations as well as more undulating topography. Good routes provide the ‘best fit’ between directness, enjoyment, and one’s individual riding style.
Routes choices can also vary with changes in traffic conditions. For example, I’ll sometimes ride along King Street, Newtown during the day when it’s more congested but I’ll avoid it when clearways start and the traffic speeds up. However, most of the time I prefer Wilson Street because it runs parallel, has no sets of traffic lights to slow me down, and is more direct if I'm heading to the city.
In planning your route, the best way to start is to contact your local council for a bike map. Council’s such as the City of Sydney will post you a map within a number of days. There are also cyclists’ street directories such Where to Ride Sydney and Bike-It Sydney which cover most of inner Sydney. Bicycleinfo.nsw.gov.au has a catalogue of bicycle maps that can be downloaded. There are also online mapping tools such as Ride the City, Bikely, and MapMyRide which are full of useful suggestions. Alternatively, you can learn a lot from riding with other experienced cyclists including local bicycle user groups. However, sometimes it’s fun just to find your own way. You’ll probably get lost a few times, but then you’ll also discover some new ways to get around whilst you delight in exploring unknown places. Finally, if there is one part of your route that you continuously find stressful, it’s worth looking at some alternatives. Discovering a more agreeable route will make a big difference to how good you feel when you arrive at your destination.
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