This can be quite a challenge in some cities. I’m fortunate enough to live in Tucson, AZ, which is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Even still, I’m very careful about where I ride. I generally only ride on streets with wide, paved bike lanes. (We have a nice law in Tucson that requires any new street or major street repair to have a bike lane. So we have miles and miles of great bike routes). And I also try to ride during hours with the least amount of traffic. (i.e. early in the morning, and never during rush hour on weekdays.)
To find the best places for you to ride in your city, I recommend you contact several sources:
- Your local bike shop – they’re likely to have a community map that show which roads have bike lanes and which do not.
- Google is getting better at showing bike lanes on its normal map. (I use Google maps a lot to plan out bike routes and then e-mail them to my riding group.)
- Your avid cyclist buddies – chances are they are your best source for where to ride and where not to ride. They can usually suggest good routes to follow for various distances.
- Your local cycling clubs – generally they will have a website that will map out several good rides for you. They’ll often even have weekly rides that you can join.
Good luck, be safe and have fun!