Simple Steps to Designing a Bike Route
I use three (3) online sites to help me design a bike route where the roads are not too busy and usually paved. They are:
The first step is to identify where I want the ride to start and end. Usually they are the same place. And usually I want there to be ample parking options for my car, and I want a convenience store that is open 24/7. I use Google Maps to help me here. I do a search for the town of the start-finish. Then I do a search for convenience stores from which I will pick a start-finish location. I copy down the address of the convenience store on a piece of paper.
The next step is to do a rough sketch of where I want the ride to go. I use RWGPS for this step. It has a Route Planner mode and when I get to it I type the address for the convenience store I’ve chosen. I also plot the route using the “draw lines” option rather than “follow streets.” Doing this I can easily see the towns I’ll need to hit in order to make the route the length I’m aiming for. When I’m happy with this, then I need to repeat the first step but this time I’m searching for convenience stores in the towns along my sketched route. I copy the addresses of the convenience stores I find onto a piece of paper.
The next step is to return to RWGPS and type the addresses I’ve written down where RWGPS lets me search for a location. I click the option for “follow roads” instead of “draw lines.” And I let the program create a route from one convenience store to the next, to the next, and so forth until I’m back as the first convenience store.
The next step is to save my creation as a route in RWGPS. And then I create a simple cue sheet on paper by zooming in on the RWGPS route and identifying the start, intersections, and the finish with mileage count and whether you have to go straight, left, or right. This simple handwritten cue sheet allows me to determine whether the roads are good for bike riding.
The next step is to visit HWG and do a search for the first convenience store in the paper cue sheet I’ve created. The roads at HWG are color-coded with regard to their level of traffic. Red roads are off-limits for bike riders. Bright Yellow roads are usually heavy traffic roads and cyclists generally should avoid them. Dull Yellow roads are moderate traffic roads and pretty good for cyclists. And White Roads are either rural roads or neighborhood roads with little to no traffic – ideal for cyclists if they go somewhere. I will now use my cue sheet to see what HWG says about each of the roads on my route. I will mark the cue sheet next to each road with either an R, BY, DY, or W to let me know if I have a safe route for cyclists. Roads marked with an R or BY need to be revisited so I can change the route so it will not include those roads.
Google Maps does not do a very good job of identifying unpaved roads. And if I want to avoid unpaved roads in my bike route, then I also look for unpaved roads when using HWG to determine the safeness of roads. HWG does a pretty good job of identifying unpaved roads.
The next step is to modify the route at RWGPS so it does not have unsafe and/or unpaved roads included in it. This step might require some back and forth consultation with HWG.
That, in a nutshell, is how I create cycling routes.