A major factor in bicycle safety is choosing which streets to use. The average Missouri town is bisected by a highway such as Kirksville’s Baltimore St/ Bus Loop 63. Many potential cyclists won’t consider using their bike to go to Walmart, for example, because Baltimore has heavy traffic and no bike lanes. While I confidently use Baltimore when I need to, it’s not pleasant so I avoid it when I can.
Luckily, it’s easy to get to Walmart and nearby businesses without using Baltimore. New St. parallels Baltimore and arrives a few feet east of the Walmart parking lot. Northtown Rd/ Hwy P is not an easy road to bike either, but it’s less than a quarter mile—and only a tenth of a mile if you jog over on Meadow Crest.
Our roads are classified into categories based on the type of use. Residential streets serve the residents of that street, and their visitors. Minor arterial streets are lined by residences and a few businesses. Major arterial streets are not ideal for residences because of the traffic, but are good for businesses which thrive with more traffic. Residential streets feed into minor arterial streets which feed into major arterial streets. After the snow storm it was easy to tell what kind of street was residential because they were plowed last.
Meadow Crest is a residential street. New St. is a minor arterial. Baltimore and Northtown Rd are major arterials. It’s almost possible to get to Walmart without traversing a major arterial at all. That’s a good bicycle route.
Motorists would be ill served to use residential streets to wind their way through town. They can get places much more efficiently using minor and major arterials, and use residential streets only briefly when leaving their point of origin or arriving at their destination.
Bicyclists, on the other hand, can go as fast on a residential street as they can on a major arterial because the speed limits on both kinds of streets are at or above a bicyclist’s top speed. Frequent stop signs and lack of through streets will drive me to ride on a minor arterial over a residential street.
Planning your route in advance will make your ride safer, more enjoyable, and more interesting.