Santa Cruz Bike Routes and Riding Resources
Throughout the nearly two-year pandemic, folks have been getting active and hopping on bikes. A report from Strava published in December revealed that athletic activities, including biking, increased again significantly in 2021 over the sizable increase seen in 2020. What has been coined the “bike boom” appears to have continued through year two of the pandemic. Many bike industry and transportation experts believe its momentum can lead to folks biking more frequently for leisure and commuting purposes. Despite our bike challenges in 2021, we saw consistent growth in the number of individuals and companies from Bike Month to Biketober, including steady growth of new riders.
Say you want to take part in the bike boom sweeping the globe. You get yourself a bike (or dust off your existing one), a good helmet, some lights, and maybe even a bell or some panniers for a little flash. You have all the gear, but where to go?
Whether you want to find the best place to ride leisurely in your community or aim to use your bike as one of your primary modes of transportation, Santa Cruz County has an impressive biking network. User-friendly maps and bicycle route tools will help you find the best routes, track your rides, engage in community riding events, and unlock the freedoms of riding in our beautiful area.
Check out these Santa Cruz County maps and bicycle route tools to plan your next ride:
This resource is for the bikers who appreciate a good paper map to guide them through the Santa Cruz Mountains or help them navigate the city. On the website, you can download a PDF or request a physical copy of a map provided by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission (RTC). This color-coded map highlights bicycle lanes, car-free bike paths, and alternate routes like quiet neighborhood cut-throughs.
If you have ever used Google Maps for your car ride, this feature will be familiar to you. Google Maps provides comprehensive bike routes from your current location to your destination. Simply enter your starting and ending point and click on the cyclist icon. You will see directions, the duration of your ride, and the change in elevation throughout your ride. While this tool is continually improving, it’s good to examine the route and check for sections that might not be ideal.
Strava is a great tool for tracking your rides and looking at how your community is riding as well. Through the Heatmap feature, you can explore all the different roads, bike paths, and trails in your area and the frequency at which other riders use them. Strava allows you to see which routes are most common and compare that info against where bike lanes are present or Google Maps suggestions. Another benefit of using Strava is that your data can help contribute to Strava Metro, a data tool that can help urban planners, city governments, and safe-infrastructure advocates to understand mobility patterns, identify opportunities for investment, and evaluate the effects of infrastructure changes—all completely free of charge. It’s like voting with your bike ride!
GO Santa Cruz County offers an array of services and benefits for enrolled members. For instance, it provides a mapping and bikepooling function. Like all of the aforementioned resources, GO Santa Cruz provides a local map that will show suggested routes for getting from point A to point B. Similar to Google Maps, it will show the distance and time the trip will take, but unlike the other tools, it also includes CO2 emissions. This tool reveals the amount of emissions your bike trip is saving compared to driving—and it really adds up! The site also offers a great feature called “bikepools,” which allows you to see other folks in your community who are biking to and from similar locations at similar times. This feature allows you to connect with others who work and live near you and may ease some anxiety about commuting over long distances for new riders. Think bike buddy!
One last resource is Ecology Action’s Safe Route Group Rides. In 2021, we put together community group rides exploring safe routes for Bike Month and Biketober. These rides were designed to address one of the primary barriers to bike riding that community members face: difficulty finding safe routes. Altogether, we gathered more than 300 community members across 16 rides, with riders ranging in age from 3 to 70 and spanning all abilities. The rides were led by bike experts who showed riders the safest routes to get from one side of town to the other, as well as key bike safety principles like communication, signaling, and lane positioning. The routes used for these rides are published, and you can explore them here: ecoact.org/group-rides. For 2022, we are looking at adding group rides along different routes and focusing on bike-to-work commute times during the week.
All of these resources offer a variety of maps in physical and virtual forms, along with tools that illustrate how sustainable transportation is taking shape in our community. Joining the bike boom is an excellent way to stay active and connected during the pandemic and into the future. At Ecology Action, we also enjoy connecting with folks in our community and building relationships through sustainable transportation.
Whether you prefer a physical map or one you can display on your phone, and whether you like riding in a pack or solo, we hope these resources will encourage you to hop on your bike and explore what this beautiful community has to offer.