Utility Cycling While Traveling

For most seasoned utility cyclists, it is generally easy to be a utility cyclist at home. You know the roads, you know where you are going, you know the best routes, you know where to grab a bite to eat or a coffee, you know where to get groceries. You have every detail figured out so that you can maximize your time and make your utility cycling experience enjoyable. But when utility cyclists venture away from the comforts of home, a whole new set of challenges and obstacles to overcome can present themselves. Therefore, this post is dedicated to helping you be a utility cyclist wherever you go. It is part of our larger group of posts dedicated to general bicycle transportation. Header image source – TreeHugger.

Challenges

For many, traveling to far away places for work, school, family, etc. with a bicycle can be expensive and infeasible. So bringing your trusty bike along when you travel is often not very realistic. If you can bring your bike, you still have to deal with figuring out the in’s and out’s of a new city. If you are traveling with family, you might not be able to find access to bicycles for the whole crew, or if you are traveling for work, your coworkers might not be keen on riding around a new place with you. In general, utility cycling while traveling may not always be possible. However, if you have the opportunity to make it happen, below are a few suggestions for making the experience more enjoyable.

bike_commuterImage Source: Streetsblog

Local Bike Groups & Organizations

The first thing to look for when you are going to a new city is a local bike group or organization that could provide you with advice and other resources about the local area. For example, in Tucson, Arizona, the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association has a lists of resources, rides, events and more for Tucson and Southern Arizona. BICAS, which is a Tucson bike salvage organization, also has plenty of information. Just by browsing briefly around on the Internet, you are likely to find good resources for utility cycling in many cities.

Local Government

In addition to local bike organizations, the local government can also be a good resource for utility cyclists. For example, in Tucson, the Bicycle Advisory Committee helps promote the development of a good bike environment, and they too provide numerous resources for utility cyclists. Although the Tucson BAC is not technically a government organization, they do work closely with the local government – notably, the Tucson Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. Programs like the Tucson Bike and Ped Program can be found in many cities, and they are great resources for finding find bike maps, events, and much more. So be sure to check out what the local government has to offer when you travel as a utility cyclist.

Local Maps

Many cities publish local bike maps, which can be extremely useful when you travel as a utility cyclist. You can often find these maps through local bike organizations and local government. Additionally, there are now many resources on the Internet for dynamic bike route finding. Google Maps, Open Street Map, Ride the City, and others all provide tools that are useful to a traveling utility cyclist. Oftentimes, the combination of a static, hard-copy map and a dynamic, web-based map can provide the best information for riding in a new place.

map image for onlineImage Source: Bike PGH

Bike Shops

Bike shops are also good resources for finding good routes, getting a bike map, or renting a bike, if necessary. If you are unable to travel with your bike, you might want to consider renting a bike to use locally. Many bike shops offer a variety of rental options from cruisers to road bikes to mountain bikes. It is unlikely that you’ll find a bike equipped similarly to your own, with bike racks or a bike trailer or whatever else you normally use for your local utility cycling at home, but you can almost always find a reliable bike to ride around and oftentimes a bike lock to use, as well.

Bike Share

Another option to pursue when you are traveling, is a local bike sharing system. If the city you travel to happens to have a bike sharing system, you will have plenty of opportunities to get around by bicycle, without having to worry about renting a bike. Unfortunately, many cities do not necessarily have bike sharing systems available yet, so do a little research before you travel to find out what is available.

Korea-Interesting-Joyful-Bike-ShareImage Source: TreeHugger

Public Transportation

Of course, if you can’t find a good way to get around a new place by bicycle, you can always get around using public transportation. If utility cycling isn’t feasible, most cities offer bus systems and many larger cities have subways, light rails, and other public transportation options. When possible, you could use a combination of bike share, public transportation, and other modes.

09 bus with bikeImage Credit: Sun Tran

Other Alternatives

Of course, one of the most natural ways to get around a new place is by foot. On foot you ha
ve great opportunities to see the sights of a new place and take in the landscape. Pedicabs are another great option for getting around a new place by bicycle. Although the distances you can cover by foot or in a pedicab are going to be less than you might be able to cover on your own bicycle or using public transport, they are nonetheless good options.

In general, being a utility cyclist when you are traveling can definitely be difficult. However, with a little creativity, a little planning, and a little forward thinking, you can make utility cycling a part (whether it be big or small) of your travels. And for any utility cyclists with travel experience out there, be sure to share your advice and stories in the comments section below.


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