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I'm planning a two day trip down the UK country roads. I'd like to time and plan my route so that I'll have a pleasant ride. Is it possible to tell which days of the week would see the least traffic? I'll be cycling from dawn till late afternoon on both days.

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It depends -- some country roads are unexpected commuter routes, others lead to tourist attractions or just good picnic spots or popular country pubs. It will probably vary significantly over the route. If you're really worried about it, you'll need to spend a few hours with an OS map and the internet to come up with a decent guess. –  Chris H Apr 20 at 16:13
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I would say the same as what Chris H said for the US. Traffic on a given road can change by a factor of 10 within 15 minutes, when schools let out, a distant factory shift changes, it's simply lunch time, etc. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 20 at 18:29
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I can't imagine how this question could be answered without specifying exactly what roads you have in mind, and if you did specify them then the question would be so localized that it would be of no use to anyone outside that specific area. It's a question better suited to local organizations. –  Carey Gregory Apr 21 at 4:09
    
One important point, especially in parts of Britain and the northeast US, is that less-traveled roads will tend to be narrower and crookeder, and are more likely to lack rideable shoulders. In terms of safety you may be better off on a larger, more heavily-traveled road. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 21 at 11:43
    
@DanielRHicks true, but I noticed that on those narrow little-used country roads, most drivers overtake by moving almost entirely into the oncoming lane - which doesn't happen if the road is even slightly busy. –  romkyns Apr 22 at 11:24

3 Answers 3

The full answer is it depends, as Chris has commented.

If it is really a country road, you can also encounter farm animals as they are being moved, or farm machinery (or it can encounter you). This can happen on any day of the week, as can the other kinds of traffic. In general the only category that might be expected to decline is commercial trucking on a Sunday.

You don't mention if you are in the UK; if so, a reconnaissance trip could be worth it.

Another source of information would be local cycle touring clubs or groups.

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Generally speaking, Saturdays and Sundays are quieter than weekdays.

The Department of Transport collects various statistics on road use. This table (TRA0307) shows average traffic by time and day of the week.

Motor vehicle traffic distribution by time of day on all roads in Great Britain, 2012

There's also this table (TRA0306) which shows average traffic by day for different road types and different vehicles.

Average traffic distribution by day of the week, Great Britain: 2012

Finally, there are statistics for average annual traffic on every major road in the UK. There's an interactive map here.

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This is really nice data - unfortunately it lumps together "all rural major and minor roads" making it less useful than it could be. Given that much of the drop at the weekend in table 2 is from goods vehicles, which tend to stick to major roads, you might want to assume that minor roads aren't much quieter at all at the weekend. –  Chris H Apr 21 at 10:20

The roading network in the UK is well categorised so understanding what the different categories of roads are will assist you in planning a route:

M Roads motorways bicycles are banned from using these.

A Roads major roads intended to provide large-scale transport links within or between areas. These are generally dual carriageways and will have consistent haevay traffic especially in peak travel times which may lead to congestion.

B Roads roads intended to connect different areas, and to feed traffic between A roads and smaller roads on the network. These will be well maintained roads with lighter traffic between peaks.

Classified unnumbered smaller roads intended to connect together unclassified roads with A and B roads, and often linking a housing estate or a village to the rest of the network. These will have some traffic at the peak but generally quiet.

Unclassified local roads intended for local traffic. Generally always quiet unless there are road works or a detour in place.

These road types should be identifiable on any map. Generally speaking if you planned a cycle tour that avoided A roads you should have a reasonably quiet run for most of the day.

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What's the easiest way to plan a long-ish (150km one way) route while excluding all roads classified as A or M? –  romkyns May 4 at 19:38
    
@romkyns "Avoid motorways" is a common option in route planning (automatic for cycling directions). Google calls them "highways", which isn't helpful for UK roads, but they mean "motorways". There's less of a need to dodge A roads (it's not just bikes that can't use motorways), so that doesn't tend to be an option, and would also lead to some very long detours to avoid short stretches, which might even have bike lanes. It could even be impossible to avoid them (e.g. from my house), so your best bet is any route-planner that allows you to modify your route manually. –  Chris H May 6 at 10:54

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