Returning to bike commuting: Surveying the routes

I have changed jobs once again — this time, my job is only 7 miles away! Perfect distance to leave the car in the garage and ride my bike to work once again.

My first step is to survey the routes; safety is paramount and I don’t mind riding a little more if that means that I get to my destination in one piece. I used Google Maps to check out my different choices of streets:

I can see that my choices are plenty but since I know that the area is a big thoroughfare for big rigs and the 5 freeway over-passes are rather narrow, I have to decide what it is the safest route for me to ride by first driving the different routes.

Here are the things that I look for in a route:

*Heavy Traffic- I try to avoid a very congested street; drivers tend to be a little too aggressive and they tend to disregard cyclists as vehicular traffic.

*Wide Streets- I like riding wide streets, less jockeying for lane position.

*Neighborhood quality- Besides traffic, another thing to contend with in L.A. is crime. I avoid riding through rough neighborhoods, the least thing I want to do is to get mugged for my bike and possessions.

*Freeway On-ramps/Off-ramps- Drivers are usually ramping up to get on the freeway or exiting the freeway too fast.

After settling on a route, my next step is to choose what bike to ride to work. My choice will depend on my fitness level (I’m not in shape, although round IS a shape), how much time it will take me to get to work, and the terrain. Stay tuned for the next installment…


  1. Ghost Rider

    Welcome back to “the fold”, Moe!

  2. Mark

    Don’t forget to check for parks and other non-motorized traffic paths. They can really improve the quality and time involved in a commute. Also, look places where streets nearly but don’t quite intersect. For example, two streets that dead end into each other. Often, there is a foot path or other pedestrian path between them that you can use with your bike. These can be valuable tools in finding direct routes that cars can’t (and therefore won’t) take advantage of.

  3. BluesCat

    Agree with all of the things on your list, Moe, and I’d like to add a couple of my own:

    Shopping Center Parking Lots – Actually, the back lots, behind the stores if they exist, are great for safe riding. The front lots are okay if it is the morning commute and they are empty.

    Combine Busy Crossings – if you have two heavy traffic roads you need to cross, try to find a signaled intersection where they meet; traffic will be much slower there, so you can wait and cross with the pedestrian traffic.

  4. rapps

    I found selecting (method or mode) “walking” on the Google Maps site gave the safest route and kept me off of the buy roads.

  5. Phil

    Just remember that even if you’re riding safely and plainly visible, drivers may be distracted by talking/arguing w/passengers, talking or texting on cell phones. They may also be intoxicated on drink or drugs, impaired by use of prescribed meds, exhausted (nodding off), or otherwise impaired. Ride defensively! Today I had someone pass me on the left on a residential street though I was riding in the center of the road and signaling my intent to make a left turn. I realized what was happening by 1) paying attention to my rear view clip-on mirror and 2) using my ears to listen to the sound of an engine accelerating behind me. The driver clearly didn’t care about my safety.

  6. El Gigante

    Another Los Angeles bike commuter? You are one loco vato Moe!! The other posters here have given some really good tips for finding a route and making sure its (relatively) safe. My commute is from the SF Valley to Downtown and I use a combination of bike lanes, wide streets and the Metro Red Line to make the trip. On those occasions when I get up super early and bike the entire trip, I use the bike trail along the Los Angeles River, and its very relaxing in the morning just after the sun comes up, (especially when you look to your right and see gridlock on the Southbound 5).

    The “walking” mode on Google maps is also a great way to scout different routes, especially since it can give you a mile by mile breakdown of your route. Don’t know if you are one for organized rides or not, but the “Tour De Sewer” is coming up in a few weeks, (March 6), and it looks like its pretty close to your neighborhood in Bell Gardens. Its a fund raiser for the Bell Gardens Lions Club and is a pretty fun event for riders of all levels of fitness. Here’s the link if you’re interested:

    Ride safe!

  7. Moe (Post author)

    El gigante, I rode the tour de sewer back in ’05, it rained a lot and it kind of sucked. I’m actually looking forward to riding “The City Of Angels” ride, pretty fun ride.

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