Riding On Residential Streets

My friend Rick has been in the cycling doldrums lately. “I’m getting bored with our usual routes,” he said. “I had to struggle to get out and ride yesterday.”

But he broke up the boredom by picking an entirely new route — one he made up as he rode — and one that was unique for sticking to residential streets in our neighborhood.

“I rode more than 14 miles before I even crossed Escarpment,” he said. Escarpment Blvd. is the main north-south road through our subdivision, Circle C Ranch. Circle C covers a good chunk of Southwest Austin, and the developers continue to find ways to throw up more houses, even though we’re supposed to be under tight building restrictions because of a delicate water supply underneath.

“I just kept turning onto side streets, going up and turning around on cul-de-sacs, and I really built up the miles,” Rick added.

Rick’s news was something I could relate to. While I’ver never done a complete ride solely on residential streets, I recall being pleasantly surprised that I could rack up a 27-mile ride and never get more than four miles from my house. Since then, I work in a ride that includes many residential streets at least once a week.

A residential street I often ride. Cars parked on each side can be a problem if there's traffic -- which there often is not.
A residential street I often ride. Cars parked on each side can be a problem if there’s traffic — which there often is not.

Circle C Ranch might have advantages for this kind of riding that older subdivisions, suburbs, and cities might lack. For one thing, it’s fairly new. My house was built in 1994, and is among the older ones around here. So, it’s a somewhat upscale place, with home prices between $200,000 – $500,000, and mostly in the lower half of that range. Like many areas of that ilk, it was designed more for cars than for people, with wide, curving streets, few sidewalks, and few pedestrian amenities.

My wife negotiates a curve a few blocks from our house on a rainy day.
My wife negotiates a curve a few blocks from our house on a rainy day.

But those wide, curving streets are great for riding. While I wouldn’t want to spend as much time on the truly residential streets as Rick, mainly because of parked cars and drivers who don’t expect to see bikes there, I do have a few areas I visit all the time. The arterials are often four-lane divided roads with bike lanes and relatively low speed limits for cars. Those are great.

A typical arterial street that moves traffic through Circle C Ranch. Note the generous bike lane.
A typical arterial street that moves traffic through Circle C Ranch. Note the generous bike lane.

I like to start one of my rides by heading into an adjacent subdivision with a few decent hills. It winds out to a busy Farm to Market road, where I turn around, and zoom through some other streets. Then, I catch one of the arterials and ride two and a half miles to a different subdivision, where I can follow a twisty route that would confuse many of my friends, and ride out to another arterial. This one takes me north a couple of miles into yet another subdivision that appeals to me because the houses are very different looking than most of the cookie-cutter ones around me. I’ll wind around there a bit, catch another main street south and head out to Rick’s part of town, on the far southwest side of Circle C. A nice wide street gets me to the same Farm to Market road I hit early in the ride, and once again, I turn around. This time, I take a nice wide connecting street through another upscale neighborhood to a fun downhill that bends to the left. I can easily hit 34-35 mph on that hill, but at the bottom, I have to be careful of cars crossing. They’re not expecting a bike to travel faster than the speed limit through there. The end of the ride finds me heading back to Escarpment, climbing the hill past the HEB supermarket, and winding my way back home. It’s a nice 20-miler, and I can do it whenever I’m bored with my regular Friday evening ride, which uses some of these same streets, but adds two or three laps around the Veloway.

I can add an almost unlimited list of variations to this basic ride that keeps it interesting, because it puts me on streets I don’t often ride. Distances vary from nine miles to 27 miles. It’s not the kind of country riding I prefer, but it’s a nice chance of pace.

Do you have a route through mostly residential areas?


  1. says

    I’ve done the same for the past 6 mths. Adding a weekly ride of 10 to 15 miles in the suburban town I live. Out the driveway and I’m off.

    The alternate routine has been a 20 minute drive to a rural setting or paved trail for the 29 to 30 mile ride. A careful and local ride has filled some mileage gaps.

  2. Kathleen says

    I live in central Austin and really like to ride from home as much as possible.On today’s 50 miler, at least 25 of those miles were urban. But I can sleep until 7:00 and roll out at 8:00 and end my ride at home which saves time and hassle.

  3. says

    We have a pretty good route in a hilly neighborhood. We can either ride about 15-20 miles in the neighborhood alone, or we use it to branch out into other areas. There aren’t too many other neighborhoods in the area that are good for riding.

  4. Mark X says

    An alternate routine for me is industrial parks.
    There is one about 3 miles from my home. Evenings & weekends it is deserted. Wide streets. No traffic. No grade.
    I can rack up 20+ miles quickly doing loops.

  5. David Hood says

    I live in the Great HIlls area of Austin and can do really nice 15 – 20 mile rides completely in the neighborhood. It’s safe, scenic, and challenging.

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