Although you can ride a bicycle on most roads and trails, selecting a pleasant route on a bicycle isn’t as simple as plugging in an address into Google Maps. Sometimes the shortest route may also be the hilliest, or the busiest, or have really fast car traffic.
For a better experience, look for roads that are less direct options and may have a lot of cross streets, run through slower neighborhoods, or will otherwise have slower cars. If you have the opportunity to use dedicated facilities (like multi-use paths, bike lanes, or cycletracks) then definitely do so - these sections will be smoother, safer, and faster. You can identify many of these facilities via Google Maps’ bike route feature.
Example bike map: The darker the green, the more the separation between cars and bikes - dark green is the jackpot!
New to riding and looking for something more accessible? Start with a multi-use pathway or trail where you can ride without having to deal with cars at all. Once you’re comfortable there try striking out onto roads with bike lanes or other dedicated facilities on them, or quiet residential streets with speeds around 25 mph. These two environments are perfectly suited to riding a bike, and will provide a comfortable and more pleasant ride.
If you want to ride for transportation (maybe even try riding to work) then of course you may have a little less choice in where to ride, but you’d be surprised - it may require going a longer way, but secondary streets are plentiful in many places. Also, you can use the benefits of bicycling to your advantage - when traffic congestion gets bad car speeds go way down, and you’ll have a nicer time cruising with traffic (or even passing by!).
Residential streets make for great bicycling!
Looking for more guidance in your local community? No sweat! Check out the Where to Ride page for detailed suggestions of the best places to ride in your area.