Do you take back or main roads for commute?

Cheeseface22
Cheeseface22 Posts: 133
edited March 2019 in Commuting chat
I'm on a bit of posting rampage today.

Watched GCN's "documentary" style video on city air pollution. Very informative and practical advice given. And I reflected on my usual commute route.

My commute is one city to another (14.5miles-ish between), cutting through smaller towns and some fast B roads in between. All on road with cars and shortest distance from home to work.

I already do my commute before and after rush hour, which was suggested to minimise the effect of traffic air pollution.

I wondered if there are any back roads that I can take to minimise the effect of air pollution to my body. I checked National Cycle Network and Strava, but nothing outstandingly brilliant alternative route.

I'm disappointed on NCN suggestion as most part of the suggested route is what I take already and it is astonishingly cycling UNFRIENDLY (roads with near-faded "cycle" symbols on the gutter, I can't imagine families taking a leisurely ride on this route).

Strava suggests quieter route but adds 3miles each way (with some farm track). The commute is already nearly 1hr each way so I'm reluctant to add more distance and time.

Maybe I'm already taking the optimum route unless I'm willing to add another 10-20min of my day to go out of my way to minimise air pollution. Perhaps the longer route is less stressful for me, thus the commute might feel "shorter." I don't know.

Do you go out your way to back roads to avoid air pollution, or do you take the shortest distance to minimise the time spend on road?

Comments

  • cougie
    cougie Posts: 22,512
    Unless you're in Mumbai you don't need to worry about air pollution.
  • DrLex
    DrLex Posts: 2,142
    I ride on back roads for better views and far fewer vehicles. Adds less than a mile to my 15.5 miles, so an easy choice. Also has the Summer bonus of adding four pubs to my route.
    Location: ciderspace
  • Going in at ~0600/0630 depending on the day, I use the main road for the first ~5mins, but then take mostly roads for the other ~10mins or so for less traffic; traffic lights and consequently get in quicker.

    On the way home early afternoon, it's back roads all the way including some shared paths, Southampton's main roads are far too busy and there are far too many vehicle hazards... Back roads add ~1 mile, but it still usually takes me less than 25mins to get home with the far more pleasant route by the edge of The Common and using the SUSTRANS boardwalk along the edge of the River Itchen.
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  • Brakeless
    Brakeless Posts: 865
    cougie wrote:
    Unless you're in Mumbai you don't need to worry about air pollution.

    :roll: :roll: :roll:
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... tion-study
  • I used to live in Soton few years back, I don’t know how it is now, but it was horrendous for cycling.

    The Avenue. Shared path appears and disappears without any “end of cycle path” signs. Pedestrians have absolutely no respect to cyclists on shared footpath (people walk in line across the width of the path, spilling over to clearly marked “cycle path” zone of the pavement). Even when there’s no pedestrians, the pavement and roads were in very poorly maintained condition.

    Even the cycle path along River Itchen towards Swaythling was unruly with dog walkers who are either overly protective and territorial about who shall pass through the park, or completely oblivious of their surroundings and the whereabouts of their dogs running free. Don’t get me started on A335, A3057 and the main road to Milbrook.

    On the surface, Soton looked like a cycle friendly city with plenty of “cycle paths,” but in reality, it was as helpful as not having cycle paths at all.

    After all, this is based on my personal experience of Southampton as a temporary resident of the city a few years back so it’s a very narrow view of the city’s cycling infrastructure. Or does it reflect the current state?
  • monkimark
    monkimark Posts: 1,673
    I've never considered taking an alternative route to avoid pollution. I do take the back roads once i'm in london to avoid horrible bits of road, probably adds on a few minutes to my hour plus commute but i have no great interest in navigating 4 lane roundabouts at rush hour.
  • I do both - from home to Deptford on main roads, then Q1 the rest of the way which is a combination of purpose built bike lanes, shared use, parks and back streets. It's probably about 10 mins longer than the most direct route but I find it more enjoyable. Pollution doesn't really factor into my thinking though. I watched that GCN vid and my main take-home was that the benefits of cycling outweigh any harmful effects of breathing in pollutants. That'll do me.
  • timothyw
    timothyw Posts: 2,482
    I take a main road because it tends to feel a bit safer - there is usually room for cars to pass without them taking the piss (although some still do).

    There is a backroad alternative which I take when the mood strikes but it is a lot narrower so cars tend to be closer, one way or another, and often they are using the back roads as a rat run so going like stink.

    Fortunately the views are good from both roads!
  • jgsi
    jgsi Posts: 5,062
    Re shared paths - if cycle paths look like ordinary paths (which they do in 99% of all cases), then you can't blame pedestrians for wandering all over them. Blame whoever implemented them .
    I only navigate 1/2 mile of them on my town commute, . It is a rare pedestrian who wears reflectives.
  • I used to live in Soton few years back, I don’t know how it is now, but it was horrendous for cycling.

    The Avenue. Shared path appears and disappears without any “end of cycle path” signs. Pedestrians have absolutely no respect to cyclists on shared footpath (people walk in line across the width of the path, spilling over to clearly marked “cycle path” zone of the pavement). Even when there’s no pedestrians, the pavement and roads were in very poorly maintained condition.

    Even the cycle path along River Itchen towards Swaythling was unruly with dog walkers who are either overly protective and territorial about who shall pass through the park, or completely oblivious of their surroundings and the whereabouts of their dogs running free. Don’t get me started on A335, A3057 and the main road to Milbrook.

    On the surface, Soton looked like a cycle friendly city with plenty of “cycle paths,” but in reality, it was as helpful as not having cycle paths at all.

    After all, this is based on my personal experience of Southampton as a temporary resident of the city a few years back so it’s a very narrow view of the city’s cycling infrastructure. Or does it reflect the current state?

    Yep, bits you mention that are near my commute still ring true...
    The Avenue pathway is a nightmare unless you travel very early or very late, but its stop-start nature needs caution for vehicles accessing side roads or property car parks.
    Riverside Park segregated shared pathway is still a joke, probably not helped by having the bike lane furthest away from the river, at a decent hour it's always full of pedestrians not using their correct path... I'd love to go down there one day with a Hornit 140dB! :twisted: :lol:
    Shirley Rd / High St is horrendously busy and dangerous for cyclists outside unsociable hours

    Even for recreational rides to the South Downs, I have some general rules...
    I never plan to pass through Bitterne and the old Moorgreen Hospital site, either heading out or coming home in rush hours
    Heading out or coming home via Hedge End village and Botley requires a broader rush hour window of avoiding like the plague
    Increase the afternoon rush hour window to start from ~1500 on a Friday
    etc.

    Yet even before I reach Horton Heath or Durley heading out in a more northerly direction, or from around Swanmore heading more easterly, cycling becomes an absolute pleasure... At least I'm aware of it for almost two years now, shame I've been living around Southampton since autumn 1992! :shock: :lol:
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    2016 Voodoo Wazoo
  • Bit of back streets with one high street, two short sections of a main road, but this is to connect up Bushy/Crane/Hounslow Heath, from the A4 which I pass over it’s a old shared path next to the Parkway, for a few miles pollution levels probably are fairly high in places but the route just under 12 miles is though not fast, fairly traffic free, and hassle free.

    I can just go straight up, which is faster and shorter, involves going though Heathrow and is a tedious route, enough that if I drive in the M25 is less of a hassle!
  • joe_totale-2
    joe_totale-2 Posts: 1,333
    As a London commuter it's the backroads for me as frankly they're quicker despite not being so direct. The amount of traffic on the main roads along with inhaling more air pollution means the main roads aren't worth it.
    I always try to avoid the morning school run as well as at that time it's just chaos on all the roads, whether main road or side street.

    Although London has better cycling infrastructure than some other British cities there's still plenty of dangerous main roads and junctions to consider.
  • All valid and useful points to consider, I'm glad to hear people's thoughts.

    Very true on the alternative road, often a B road, being narrower and for rat run. I have two alternative routes that I've taken over the summer for change of scenery and both take through B roads. They are much narrower than the main route I take and the behaviour of the drivers are very different and more incidents of close passes (just because there are much less opportunity to pass widely in these B roads).

    Shared path is equally agreeable argument, if the pavement is not clearly marked. The Avenue in Southampton was clearly marked and pedestrians and cyclists were segregated by solid white lines and cycle lane being painted green. But heck, it’s anarchy; majority completely ignores the glowing white line and green zone for cyclists.

    I guess the reasons for taking back roads or avoiding main roads can be other than for air pollution. In my case, there’s no other route than the main one that will save me time by avoiding traffic. Not now, but in the summer I used to mix up the route a little to enjoy being out in the sun (I can afford to leave work long after rush hour and still be bright outside), but hell I’m not doing that in the dark during the winter, there’s no point.

    So maybe I stick to the main route in the winter and mix and match in the summer, whilst I patiently wait for that never-ever-going-to-happen super cycle highway that I occasionally see on the news.
  • And for fellow commuters in and out of London, I feel for you.

    I was at a three day conference somewhere near Liverpool Street back in autumn and a mere 3mile cycle ride from and to Euston everyday was suicidal. Cycling in central London is fricken crazy, my brain couldn't process all the external cues to keep up with what's going on around me. Phone zombies, Strava KOM racers, Boris bike tourists, brushing cars...Dog eat dog.

    And I couldn't breathe with all the fumes. My daily commute, though nearly 5 times the distance, feels completely safe, peaceful and much cleaner air compared to what I experienced in those three days.

    So London cyclists, stay safe.
  • And for fellow commuters in and out of London, I feel for you.

    I was at a three day conference somewhere near Liverpool Street back in autumn and a mere 3mile cycle ride from and to Euston everyday was suicidal. Cycling in central London is fricken crazy, my brain couldn't process all the external cues to keep up with what's going on around me. Phone zombies, Strava KOM racers, Boris bike tourists, brushing cars...Dog eat dog.

    And I couldn't breathe with all the fumes. My daily commute, though nearly 5 times the distance, feels completely safe, peaceful and much cleaner air compared to what I experienced in those three days.

    So London cyclists, stay safe.

    Depends on where in London, my commute is way west London in that I live south of Heathrow and work North of it.

    so my commute is a lot of this sort of stuff.

    31900976527_8f93f94dbf_k.jpg

    and a lot of this.

    32406833948_e73960d9ea_k.jpg

    I do connect it up with side streets and what not, it feels much less road than it is, mainly because none of the roads are "nasty" even if they are further on etc, it's roughly 5 miles on to 7 miles off road. I do have another route that 2 on, to 11 off road but it has some really quite boggy sections and some planking which is fun, but possibly dirtier and harder work than you need on way to work!

    31901144047_77bafcd25a_k.jpg
  • cougie wrote:
    Unless you're in Mumbai you don't need to worry about air pollution.

    Literally not true.

    I'll often avoid a gorge on my commute which traps the pollution horribly during rush hour. Adds about 10-15mins and about 300ft more of climbing, but when you look into the harm sucking that poison does, it's worth it. Plus it has some amazing views as a bonus. Don't understand how the London commuters do it.

    If given opportunity I'd extend the commute even longer to avoid the roads entirely.
  • cougie wrote:
    Unless you're in Mumbai you don't need to worry about air pollution.

    Says who?
    left the forum March 2023
  • cycleclinic
    cycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    I dont worry about air polution. I live in suffolk. comutes for me are main road, back road, off road all with deep lung fulls of clean air. That does not help those who live in london though.

    The helath benefits from cycling out weigh the potential damage caused by lung fulls of "dirty" main road air. of course if we ban diesel then problem nearly solved.
    http://www.thecycleclinic.co.uk -wheel building and other stuff.
  • figbat
    figbat Posts: 680
    I do my damndest to stay off of 'main' roads on my commute. Not for a fear of pollution but for a fear of accidents. The most direct route home for me would use a fast rural road, with unsighted bends and dead ground, offering few opportunites to overtake. At rush hour it is well-used by cars and trucks - it is a 2-lane A-road but is narrow enough that you can't pass a cyclist if there is any oncoming traffic. Well, you can't safely pass a cyclist. Hence I find a longer but much quieter route because I (1) don't want to be squashed, (2) don't want to irritate other road users and (3) simply don't like being followed by a queue of cars for mile upon mile.

    Since doing more road riding I have become far more patient with cyclists and will happily follow a cyclist for as long as it takes to make sure I can pass them safely*; I'm often (but not always) rewarded with a thank-you wave as I pass, something I also do when on the bike if I recognise that somebody has taken care of my safety.

    But the pollution thing - doesn't even cross my mind (rightly or wrongly).

    *just to clarify, I never squeezed past before my road enlightenment - I still waited but not happily.
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  • awavey
    awavey Posts: 2,368
    Id like to stay off main roads for commuting, but the alternatives tend to be more countryside roads with ratrunners avoiding the main roads, so the traffic may be less frequent, but they get much faster and take more chances, like close pass overtake you at 50mph on a blind corner, 2 seconds later a car pops round coming the other way.

    so yeah the main road isnt much fun with more traffic and a road which invites more close passes, but weirdly on the whole it feels much safer. ideally Id love a nice cycle superhighway, but I cant imagine anything like that will get built for another 50 years in these parts, people are just too bolted to their cars
  • My commute is the A6. However it's a mostly rural road though. I go in before rush hour but come home in rush hour. There's a small bit in the city then it's rural or small town. Traffic isn't busy once out of the city.

    My alternative is partly what I do and a detour along a canal. I can join the canal at a few places depending on how much time I want the ride to take joining it just out of town adds a lot of time to my commute. Halfway along the usual route I can also join the canal and it adds 15 minutes to a half hour route because you can't go fast on the canal (other users and it's very rough at times). TBH once you can get onto the canal towpath you're actually outside of the city and there's only a small village and small town to go through. The other end of my journey and anyone going that far by car would take one stop on the motorway instead. So there's really not much traffic once at the point you can take the detour.

    I think this really means I don't get much pollution exposure, certainly not enough to put the health benefits / costs into the red like high pollution cities like Mumbai. I did develop asthma after 18 months of regular cycle commuting after never having had it before. So there might be a pollution issue afterall.
  • timothyw
    timothyw Posts: 2,482
    I could certainly taste the pollution this morning - something about the cold still air meant the exhaust/heating fumes were just hanging - really hit me as soon as I stepped outside.

    I don't know why the drivers do it to themselves (and us....)
  • So earlier this week, I tried something different.

    I stuck by Sustran route and cycled home strictly following the "cycle lane".

    My usual commute on road is just over 14miles, usually 50-55min (ave 14-16mph).

    Strictly Sustran and cycle lane: nearly 17miles, 1hr 25min (ave 12mph). 1:25!!!!

    No way.

    On a positive note, I seem to be leaving home 5min earlier than usual this week and the traffic has been the lightest in the morning. I might have found a new low traffic time zone.
  • vimfuego
    vimfuego Posts: 1,783
    I usually just stick to CS Heaven from Colliers Wood up to Southwark Bridge (and vice versa) - to be honest it's the most direct route, and given that it's a commute & the long wider sections do allow you to put the hammer down without too much ado (though being CS7 you have to accept that any hostilities need to be suspended between Tooting Bec and Colliers Wood - an official neutralised zone - therein lies carnage #tootingshuffle).

    Have used the same route for about 5 years with only minor variation (usually of the Sex Panther variety). Anyway, had an early leave today & given that outside of commuting hours, CS7 is littered with parked cars, I took the Tooting avoid route via quietway 4. Lovely sunny afternoon, really mild conditions (away with you knee warmers & overshoes!) - top ride, I'm fairly certain that I actively enjoyed the experience. Sure it was a wee bit slower - I had to play nice peds in Wandsworth Common and the Wandle trail, but the lack of traffic (angry or otherwise) and red lights was a massively welcome change. Added about a mile and a half in total, but who cares when you're enjoying it. Not sure I'd opt for it in the depths of winter, or if I'm pushed for time, but for a change of pace or just a nice cruise/pootle in the good weather, I'll be using it again.
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  • vimfuego wrote:
    I usually just stick to CS Heaven from Colliers Wood up to Southwark Bridge (and vice versa) - to be honest it's the most direct route, and given that it's a commute & the long wider sections do allow you to put the hammer down without too much ado (though being CS7 you have to accept that any hostilities need to be suspended between Tooting Bec and Colliers Wood - an official neutralised zone - therein lies carnage #tootingshuffle).

    Have used the same route for about 5 years with only minor variation (usually of the Sex Panther variety). Anyway, had an early leave today & given that outside of commuting hours, CS7 is littered with parked cars, I took the Tooting avoid route via quietway 4. Lovely sunny afternoon, really mild conditions (away with you knee warmers & overshoes!) - top ride, I'm fairly certain that I actively enjoyed the experience. Sure it was a wee bit slower - I had to play nice peds in Wandsworth Common and the Wandle trail, but the lack of traffic (angry or otherwise) and red lights was a massively welcome change. Added about a mile and a half in total, but who cares when you're enjoying it. Not sure I'd opt for it in the depths of winter, or if I'm pushed for time, but for a change of pace or just a nice cruise/pootle in the good weather, I'll be using it again.

    That is my main reason, that I’ve linked up the parks, rather than taking the direct route, which has some fantastic stop start traffic and generally grumpy traffic. Not sure how much time I’m loosing since though I have ridden that way it’s been on the roadie in the full Lycra road warrior guise rather than on the old MTB with panniers and such, which is a 40min journey, vs a 70min one. I suspect that on the old MTB be sub 60mins but not by much.

    But I love not having to bother with traffic, I do have a almost zero traffic free route but it’s very muddy so I tend to avoid it in wetter times!
  • The Rookie
    The Rookie Posts: 27,812
    cougie wrote:
    Unless you're in Mumbai you don't need to worry about air pollution.
    As Mumbai is one of the lesser polluted cities in India (number 17), that was a poor choice.

    It ranks at 94th worst in the world with other Indian cities filling 9 of the top ten slots for particulate matter pollution pm2.5.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_m ... centration
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  • amrushton
    amrushton Posts: 1,257
    Mainly main roads as they can be faster. Smaller roads may be less well maintained or more circuitous or have speed humps
  • Main roads. I commute from Bromley to The Strand every day and prefer the main roads. Side roads are full of parked cars with pedestrians and drivers doing unpredictable things. Yes, both happen on the main roads but the unpredictable behaviour is more predictable. Plus main roads are faster. I know it's not a race but I can go a faster pace than on scenic back roads and cycle paths. Maybe after 18 years of riding the same route to work I pretty much know where the unpredictable will happen. The scientific studies suggest that I'm "ok" pollution wise. I have a clean space air pollution monitor so King's pollution study benefits from my daily commute.
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  • mrkev83
    mrkev83 Posts: 184
    I tend to use main roads if the weather is poor as they're in better condition than the cycle paths round my area

    If I was to use the cycle paths they're that full of dents holes and junk it's a mtb job rather than the Pashley
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