Overcoming Conventional Thinking

There’s nothing scary about empty pavement.

Choosing the big “scary” road — instead of the bike route or smaller “quiet” street — can sometimes net you much less traffic.

Cast your preconceptions aside, and come ride with me.


Topic 21: Overcoming Conventional Thinking

Strategic thinking to avoid heavy traffic

Most of us have preconceptions about certain roads that keep us from using them. It’s not unusual for those preconceptions to lead us to choose routes that are actually more stressful than they need to be.

This is a personal example of how I put an end to a very uncomfortable traffic situation by using a busy commercial highway.

Here’s the layout:

  • This road is a great biking road
  • This one is like an alley with, very little traffic. It didn’t even used to have a centerline
  • This one is fairly easy to ride on, but the light at this intersection collects a LOT of traffic
  • This one — well, you’d be insane to ride a bike on this road!

My ride home took me to a left turn a couple blocks north of this major intersection. Naturally, I used the roads that seemed easiest to ride on.

Unfortunately, the timing of the green light here almost always caused me to be at the front of the queue here. In rush hour traffic, the two-minute red light would collect dozens of cars behind me. So many cars, that I sometimes couldn’t change lanes for my left turn, forcing me into a cumbersome alternative turn in the mall parking garage.

One day, I noticed that at rush hour there was not much traffic waiting to turn left from the highway at this intersection.

I changed my bike route.

Turning right onto the highway with a green light here, I was able to use this road with only the traffic turning onto it with me.

By going directly to the left lane, I didn’t need to change lanes to prepare for my left turn. I made my left from one of two turn lanes, each with only 4 or 5 cars.

Those few cars would pass me very quickly after the turn. Then the other signal phases would hold the traffic, giving me an empty road all the way to my next left turn.

This was life-changing!

By using a state highway that no one in their right mind would ever ride a bike on, I was able to reduce my exposure to traffic and eliminate the one major stress point from a rush-hour trip.

The experience profoundly changed my understanding of what was possible — not just for biking around town, but for making it really easy and low-stress.

In the next lesson, we’ll take a closer look at applying our CyclingSavvy strategies to planning a route.