So you want to know where to ride? Where is it safe to tour with a bicycle? Since bicycles are becoming more popular worldwide, motorists and pedestrians continue to increase their awareness of cyclists. So, where NOT to ride is more the question. 

Having toured for decades and ridden since I was a kid, I only officially joined the cycle tourism industry a few years ago. In just a few short months, I made contacts with folks from Bangkok, Thailand to Buenos AIres, Argentina. Nearly everywhere on the planet Earth, you’ll be able to find cyclists. Think there isn’t any cycling in Antarctica?  Think again!

PicturePhoto: Bicycle Network Australia – Bike to Work, Antarctic Division

However, the majority of cyclists in the United States have concerns about traffic safety and therefore carry the same issues with them as they travel to other parts of the globe. So if you find yourself in a foreign land with a bicycle, how do you know where to ride safely?

Tours advertise safe & quiet small roads so…
“Google” around for some bicycle tours in your destination area and use their routes. But BEWARE!!! If you want to travel on those safe, small roads across famous passes of Europe, so do thousands of others cyclists, motorcyclists and tourists in their motorcoaches. Your specific destination may not have those quiet, small roads. Think California’s Highway 1 – it is what it is!

Also, acquire a high-quality paper map of the area where “they” tour. Study the map key and use a magnifier to see all the map detail. For example, you’ll find Michelin maps tell you nearly all the detail you’ll need to find your own, isolated, quiet small road for Europe. Look for barely visible roads, especially those highlighted in green as a scenic route.

Assess and define your concerns realistically then…
Take some time to put it all in perspective. Are you concerned about bodily injury to yourself? To those cycling with you? Are you concerned someone else is concerned for you? What steps can you take to ensure a safe & fun ride? What steps can you take to alleviate any fears on the part of others? Consider lights, mirrors, reflective clothing, horns and other visibility or auditory aids. Have you mapped an adequately safe route? If you have not been able to eliminate or reduce any fear associated with your ride, you may need to change your plans.

Do local research to fine-tune your plans when…
Planning to ride your bicycle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris during rush hour? Maybe all those cars will be too much and you need to eliminate that from your plans. But maybe you’re planning to be there when the Tour de France arrives and it is perfectly rideable. Considering riding into heavily visited and busy Verona, Italy? Incorporate riding there on an early Sunday morning when the town is still drowsy. 

Websites and searches can help you find local bicycle shops and clubs. Those local cyclists can address the timely, specific factors you’ll need to know to fine-tune your day! National, and continental, cycling routes continue to be developed in a number of countries including the U.S. (check out, U.K., Switzerland and France to name a few. And if you’re looking for a casual, easy ride consider local parks or day-tour operators.

Safety in Numbers so…
Observe where other cyclists are headed. Ask them where they’re going and how they’re getting there. In many cases you’ll discover you have the same plan but every now and then, if you stick with another group you’ll discover a superior route. Ride with or near the other cyclists since being around other cyclists lets motorists know of your presence as well.

Adapt an adventurous attitude…
After evaluating where you want to ride and your expectations, go for it! Riding a popular bicycle path? Watch out for dog leashes, baby strollers and rollerbladers. Cycling on a two-lane highway with semi-trucks, fine-tune your senses to detect (hear, see, smell) any potential danger and keep your wits about you. Single-track, gravel roads or whatever surface or route type you choose, being “psyched” and mentally attuned to face the challenges you’ll encounter is a best practice. 

Selecting the best route options using these keys and matching it to your best attitude and skills gives you the “safe” route. Now GO FOR IT!

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