When considering your cycling route, don’t think like a motorist.
Think like a cyclist. Pick the most pleasant route.
If you are used to driving around your community you probably travel the same routes regularly. These routes may well be convenient in a car but may be the most dangerous and least enjoyable on a bicycle.
Finding the roads which are quieter, less hilly and with fewer major intersections will make your ride safer and more enjoyable. Sometimes the best cycling route is a little longer but when it allows you to enjoy a relaxed ride the extra distance is worth it.
If you are already cycling for fitness or pleasure, look around when you ride to check out how your route could help you to access the store, the library, the doctor’s office and other places you wish to visit on your bike.
Friends and colleagues who already commute by bicycle can often provide a wealth of information regarding safe routes and secret short cuts.
If your route has challenging intersections consider alternative ways to get through them. Try walking your bike across the pedestrian crosswalk (yes, it is illegal to ride in the crosswalk).
Maybe you can cut through a parking lot to avoid the intersection altogether. If your timing is flexible, try to avoid the rush hour traffic, which can cause drivers to become frustrated and inattentive.
When you ride in town consider picking your route so you make more right turns and fewer left turns. This is easier and safer for you and less irritating to drivers. As a cyclist you have the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle but it is important to be as considerate as you would wish others to be.
Part of the charm of bike commuting is that the pace and the ease of parking allows you an opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
Look for streets with attractive scenery. Find the friendliest coffee shop with a bike rack. Smile at others who are cycling or walking, as social connection is so much easier than through car windows at 50 km/h!
Try the bicycling directions http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/biking-directions-added-to-google-maps.html or one of the several bicycling applications for smartphones. You can also consult http://earth.google.com or www.bikely.com to research your trip.
Check for bike route maps at local bike shops. In a small community you can check out alternative routes by car first if necessary.
Margaret Harris, president of the Comox Valley Cycling Coalition, writes Shifting Gears. It appears every fourth week.