Part 1: Finding the best commute route

Google Maps recommends bike routes, but they're not the best.

Google Maps recommends bike routes, but they’re not the best.


As I look back on my commute days, I realize that it’s no easy matter to find the best route to work on a bike. It takes experimentation and a careful analysis of a map, preferably one that shows bike lanes and paths.

Although you probably don’t commute the direction I’m going to describe here, it can still be useful information as I delve into the tricks and tips for bike commuting.

Consider Google Maps and its fledgling effort to provide desirable bicycle routes. Their routes are not the best, not even close.

Let’s consider my commute route of years gone by. Google Maps suggests taking Lawrence Expressway. Now that’s hardly what I call a good route. In fact, it’s downright hazardous.

Clearly, Google needs to tweak its algorithm. It should favor roads with less traffic and make those the recommended route. While the Google Maps blue route is the most direct — we all like that — taking a longer route usually means less traffic. It might even take less time.

But back to the Google routes. The blue line, their best recommendation, I have taken home from work, never to work. Lawrence Expressway is choked with cars during commute hours and traffic moves at 50-55 mph.

One of the more unnerving intersections is at El Camino Real where the cyclist has to cross two exit lanes.

Homestead Road, used to reach Lawrence, is equally hazardous, with lots of driveways. It’s a road I always avoid.

The gray route — Los Padres Blvd., Cabrillo Ave. — is much better. Los Padres had a bike lane the entire distance and less traffic. It goes through residential streets, 25 mph. Perfect for bike commuting.

However, there are two schools on this route, which is never a good thing. Parents clog the streets dropping off their children, right when you’re commuting.

The section of Lawrence you’d be riding isn’t as bad as other segments, but it’s still an issue.

Another problem with the Google Maps route is the left turn from Lawrence to Kifer Road. You’d have to cross four lanes to turn left. Good luck with that!

What they should show is a right turn onto the frontage road in front of Costco, riding under Lawrence past the Caltrain station. However, Google Maps can’t account for riding through parking lots of commercial buildings, which I always did when I took this route, so they’re stuck recommending the left turn on Kifer.

In Part 2 I’ll review some more roads I’ve taken to this work address and give their pros and cons.

4 Responses to “Part 1: Finding the best commute route”

  1. AlphaRoaming Says:

    Use Strava Heatmap! Crowd sourced routed!

  2. Ray Hosler Says:

    I had a look. It shows the usual routes, but it’s not refined enough for someone looking for the perfect route. Homestead heavily traveled, but Dalles not. I no longer ride Homestead and, as I’ve written, take a much better route in every way.

  3. Mark Eastman Says:

    In Google maps, if you click on the “hamburger” menu in the top left, and select “Bicycling”, it will show bike friendly routes and bikes lanes in green lines on the map.
    -Mark

  4. Ray Hosler Says:

    Mark: Yes, that’s a bit more useful than Strava because it shows the bike lanes. Still, without knowing, one would probably take Homestead as opposed to Inverness/Dalles, which do not have bike lanes but are faster and have zero traffic.

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