Where to cycle safely? The Wheelsucker has some thoughts.

After years of working in Annapolis, and then a period of unemployment, the Wheelsucker is working in Washington, DC near Union Station. The additional commute time has nearly destroyed his winter training program. The Wheelsucker is apprehensive about the approaching racing season, as he is overweight and in poor form.

In an effort to find something positive about riding the commuter bus and waiting for the bus at K and 1st NE, the Wheelsucker wants to discuss a question he was asked while waiting at that bus stop yesterday evening.

While explaining to a woman also waiting for the bus, why he was waiting for the 260 bus instead of the 220, he mentioned that his car and his bicycle were waiting for him at the Davidsonville Park & Ride, so he could go for a bike ride.

That prompted her question, “Why do you ride from there, it isn’t safe.”

Is not safe is a bit of a black statement. There are degrees of safety on a scale ranging from extremely safe at one end and extremely unsafe (dangerous) on the other.

The exact risks cyclists face differ depending on where they are riding. The danger is always a motorist in a car, but the exact risks:

  • Not being seen and being hit from behind;
  • A motorist in a car not giving enough space passing and hitting the cyclist with the mirror;
  • A motorist in a car passing the cyclist while driving into a blind curve or hill and swerving into the cyclist when they see oncoming traffic;
  • A motorist in an oncoming car turning left into the path of the cyclist;
  • A motorist in a car passing a cyclist and immediately turning right into the path of the cyclist,
  • A motorist in a car coming out of a driveway and not seeing an oncoming cyclist;
  • A motorist in a car coming out of a street at an intersection, not seeing an oncoming cyclist and turning right, into the cyclist’s path etc.

Depends on where the cyclist is/what kind of roads they are on/how many lanes/how many intersections.

While it would be nice to have continuous shoulders or bike lanes (that are occasionally swept to remove debris) to cycle on, there are ZERO roads with continuous shoulders or bike lanes in the area

Solomons Island Road/Route 2, Central Avenue/214, Muddy Creek/468 and Riva Road all have shoulders in places, but those shoulders disappears frequently, which may be more dangerous for cyclists than not having a shoulder at all and the cyclist just riding in the lane all the time. There are three roads with short bicycle lanes closer to Annapolis, but they are not interconnected and all require riding on roads to get to them, unless you happen to live on that road.

The major reason cyclists ride out of the Davidsonville P&R is that one can very quickly get to roads with low car traffic. And fewer cars feel – and almost certainly is – safer for cyclists. The absence of shoulders, the blind curves and blind hills, the frequent speeding by motorists in cars, the dangerous passing, and the occasional motorist who is angered by cyclists being on “their” roads and driving aggressively against the cyclist, are all problems, but the general low volume of cars makes cyclists safer.

Safer is relative. It is safer than cycling on outer West Street in Annapolis, but not as safe as a protected bicycle lane with no intersections.

So routes from Davidsonville are chosen to get away from car traffic as quickly as possible, which is why so many routes go north across Route 50 and then turn left onto Rossback, which becomes Patuxent River Road. From there, Sands Road, Harwood Road, Wayson Road, Queen Anne Bridge Road, Polling House Road, South Polling House Road, Owensville Sudley Road, Bayard Road, are all low traffic roads, and they in turn can lead to other low traffic roads.

Wheelsucker cycling

The local cycling clubs and race teams put together routes for group rides that use these roads. Further, they try to link them with right-hand turns, which are safer than left-hand turns across oncoming traffic.

The Wheelsucker’s bus stop companion asked why he didn’t ride on the B&A trail. He told her he occasionally did for an easy coffee shop ride.

The Wheelsucker loves The Big Bean in Severna Park, which backs up to the B&A trail,

But the B&A trail is a multi-use trail with a 15-mph speed limit. It is shared with walkers, roller-bladers, people walking their dogs (with extending leashes that sometimes cross the trail), families taking young children out on their bikes with training wheels, etc. And there are numerous places where it is crossed by roads, typically with a crosswalk and a stop sign for the cyclist.

B&A bike trail
B&A bike trail

It is impossible to “go hard” cycling on the B&A trail without riding in a very risky and irresponsible manner. The Wheelsucker uses it for recovery rides, girlfriend rides and coffee shop rides. Even some of the bicycle commuters who are fortunate enough to live and work near the B&A trail prefer to ride the Route 2 shoulder because it is so much faster for them than taking the trail.

It turned out that the Wheelsucker’s bus stop companion wanted to take her young kids cycling. She lived off of Birdsville Road (Birdsville is the extension of Davidsonville Road, both are heavily trafficked with frequent speeding).

The Wheelsucker only rides them for short distances when he is fresh and has a tailwind so he can get through those sections quickly trying to minimize how many cars want to pass him. And her solution was to occasionally put bikes in her car and drive to someplace safe to ride, which was usually an area park.

This is rather unfortunate, because it continues the notion of cycling as a recreation, not as a means of transportation. (The Wheelsucker grew up in the NDG section of Montreal from ages 8-11, and was riding his bike all over the place with my friends and 2 years younger sister). On the other hand, if he had a five-year old budding cyclist child he would not let them cycle on Davidsonville Road either.

All he could do was explain the area cyclists’ rationale for routes on low traffic roads starting at the Davidsonville P&R, and discuss a few area parks.

But how long can you do laps of Quiet Waters, the park at Riva Road close to 214, or Davidsonville Park before you are bored?

And isn’t it ridiculous to have to put your bikes in the car and drive to someplace where you feel safe cycling?

An authorized Wheelsucker re-post from Random ARBT Riders blog.

About Alexander Meller

The Wheelsucker Report is written by Alexander Meller. He rides a 2009 Cannondale Hi-Mod SuperSix out of Annapolis, MD. You can read more of his posts on ABRTCycling.com.

Alexander Meller (aka The Wheelsucker)

The Wheelsucker Report is written by Alexander Meller. He rides a 2009 Cannondale Hi-Mod SuperSix out of Annapolis, MD. You can read more of his posts on ABRTCycling.com.

alexander-meller has 11 posts and counting.See all posts by alexander-meller

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