Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Interstitials and informal bike routes
Last night I was exploring around downtown San Jose hunting for the kinds of bike routes and shortcuts that don't appear on maps like the Silicon Valley bike map.
I happened to be thinking of bicycle shortcuts when, serendipitously, Brian in El Paso sent me a note about his post on bicycle wayfinding. He thinks of his childhood, when he and his friends traveled along creekbeds and other avenues completely invisible to those who travel by car. Official bike maps are created by planners and transportation experts who primarily think in terms of the built environment and officially sanctioned travel corridors. The use of GPS devices can help cyclists in their wayfinding, but Brian notes that projects such as Open Street Map with its user provided content can augment the cyclist's experience beyond that provided by official maps.
This kind of local information would have been helpful during my Memorial Day visit to Sacramento. The City of Sacramento bike map gives no details on how to travel from the Amtrak station to the American River trail. There's a "TO BIKE PATH" sign at the Amtrak station that directs cyclists up onto the I Street Bridge and back down to Jiboom Street, from which you hop over barriers to get to the trail. It's a completely ridiculous way on a narrow, potholed road with heavy, fast traffic. A much easier but unsanctioned route exists. It turns out the entire area from the railroad tracks to Old Sacramento underneath I-5 is paved and wide open, but that information is not on any map.
Part of the beauty and fun of cycling is traveling the path less taken. My usual route from Santa Cruz to my home in Scotts Valley, for example, does not appear on any bike map. I ride along the the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific railroad right of way up to Felton, then I ride through the Mount Hermon conference center and then take a shortcut on an abandoned road (after the "Road Ends" sign shown above).
When I lived in Colorado, irrigation ditch roads were a marvelous shortcut -- the snow covered ditch road shown here in eastern Longmont took a mile off of my commute route. Technically, I was trespassing, but as long as you're not a jackass and don't destroy their trail and their ditch, the ditch riders are generally pretty mellow about people using their facilities.
Brian has more thoughts on these 'interstitial' spaces that make for informal bike routes. What kinds of shortcuts do you take on a bike?
All photos by Richard Masoner.