Cycling to/from New Places

So, as I mentioned previously, I’ve just moved house and that means a new ride to work and other destinations. It can be a bit disorienting at first to work out the best way to/from each place. So how do you determine how to get there by bike?

A map is a good place to start; it could be a simple paper map or an electronic one. Here on Cycling in Christchurch we have a webpage of handy advice for where to ride, including various map links. One method that’s starting to get more useful in Christchurch is Google Maps‘ cycle route directions. Just enter your start and end destinations, click on the bike logo and get some directions for riding there.

Hmm, would I really want to go via Moorhouse Ave for much of my trip to work?

The only problem with Google Maps is that it depends on how good the information is that Google has on cycle facilities. Slowly the various bits of Christchurch’s network have been added, so you can see most of the cycle lanes, pathways and other “bicycle friendly roads” available around the city. But still there are occasional quirks in the system, so you need to take the suggested routes with a little bit of care.

In my case, the initial route by bike suggested by Google included a large chunk of Moorhouse Ave and Deans Ave; not that friendly. But my actual preferred route is via Strickland/Antigua Sts and alongside Riccarton Ave. If you select the suggested blue route with your cursor you can drag it to other streets to force the route to go certain ways. However, even doing that, Google appeared to have gaps in available cycle routes along Antigua St (maybe because of all the recent road closures there?) and on Tuam St by Hospital Corner (because the cycle links weren’t coded there).

Luckily you can report any problems directly to Google to fix up, or you can even try to resolve them yourself using Google Map Maker (e.g. I went and added the missing link on Tuam St) {sadly, MapMaker is no longer; all you can do is report changes/errors to Google}. The end result is that my actual route is only 9.7km (vs the originally suggested 10.5km), including Tennyson St cycleway and the Hagley Park paths. I’d suggest that you try out a few different options using Google Maps and then perhaps compare them on the ground.

If you’re not sure about your new route, you might want to try it out first on a weekend to make sure that you are completely familiar with it. This is also a good way to work out how much time it might take, especially if your destination is time-critical. As well as distance, Google Maps gives an indication of biking travel time but I find they don’t necessarily match your riding pace. A word of warning: a weekend ride may not quite prepare you for the traffic during rush-hour (or the delays you might encounter trying to find gaps in this traffic).

Talk to your friends, workmates, new neighbours etc as well and see if they suggest any preferred places to ride. And there’s no rule that says you can’t change your route if you don’t like the first one (you might even use a slightly different one for the return trip, perhaps because of a tricky intersection). Christchurch is largely a grid-based network, so usually there is a reasonable alternative route not too far away.

A growing number of cycle destination signs are popping up around Christchurch to help you find your way

A major life-change like moving house or changing workplaces is often a great opportunity to change how you get around. Travel behaviour planning often focuses on these scenarios to get people to look at whether they could use more sustainable travel options. Given that workplaces and residential areas in our city are continuing to shift around during the rebuild, and with the planned citywide roll-out of cycleways, many people’s travel habits could change over the coming years.

What are your top tips for finding your way around a new place by bike?

6 thoughts on “Cycling to/from New Places”

  1. Personally I like to have several routes to get the places that I want to go (although I probably have ‘main’ routes. A part of me that likes to explore so I enjoy going down street that I’ve never been down before including streets with no exit signs on them. While I have met with quite a few dead ends (!) I’ve also discovered quite a few useful walk and cycleways that connect “dead end” streets up if you are not in a car. As you mention it is also good to bike with others to see how they get around.

  2. I always look for pleasant routes, not necessarily the shortest. I’m happy to extend the trip by 10-20%, even for a regular route like commuting to work, if it means taking quiet roads and going through green spaces. When I’ve had to choose a new regular route I figure it out on the map but once I start riding I tend to discover it’s not so ideal, usually because of traffic volume or tricky intersections, so I’ll experiment until I find something that works better.

    1. Simon, I totally agree, I will avoid traffic for greater safety and more green space, although this sometimes has the effect of attracting me to Hagley Park then having to take the Blenheim switchover, when I normally take LIncoln Road, now increasingly filled with cars, which I feel is safer.

  3. Nothing better than a ‘serendipity moment’ whilst riding a bike,discovering something quite by accident (bad word, but you know what I mean). Also happy to take the longer route if it is safer or more pleasant. Have learnt when riding with another it is a good idea to sort out the route prior and stick to it. Nothing worse than a change of plan in the middle of an unfriendly traffic environment

  4. Ha! I followed someone into Bradford Park last week who looked like he was reconnoitering, he went the long way and I next saw him a block back down Strickland St 🙂

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