American cycling infrastructure

06Mar10

IP Park

Still winter, but the weather this weekend is brilliant. Sunny and 50’s. Not spring, though. Nobody say it’s spring because we’ll all get our hands slapped with a week of snow and 20-degree wind. March was only spring for the Romans because they lived in the Mediterranean. Somehow that hasn’t been cleared up in New England yet.

G & R & I had our longest ride to date: a solid two hours of singing, napping, dog-spotting and napping. We hit the main drags, detoured through downtown, then along the river and out into the newly rebuilt waterfront park. We even had time to ride a few miles on the bay path, which is a lovely, lovely ride but like all the lanes and paths here, ends unceremoniously by dumping cyclists into heavy traffic. Our cycling facilities are recreational first, useful a distant second.

Path Nap

By now the sun had set so that the wind off the water was cooling and picking up speed. It never got bitter, but cheeks were turning and home had crept to the top of the itinerary. The ride back was as enjoyable as the way there, except for one unpleasant stretch in the middle:

Expressway Bike Path

This is the expressway bridge over the river and the only practical route from the city to the bike path along the bay. (Not only does this let out into heavy traffic, it also adds a street full of glass under an overpass.)

The shadows in the photo make it look wider than it is. You can only pass another cyclist by each walking your bike. No one can pass the bakfiets. There are a handful of tiny “lookouts” into which opposing riders have to duck and wait for me to go by. You really have to concentrate in order not to hit the walls. It’s great.

The alternate route includes crossing a bridge which used to become a highway, so of course everyone drives over it as though it still does. It forces you out right into its exit ramp and then you have to race to cross a stream of traffic coming up a hill and around a blind corner. You finish down a 12% decline, which coming back up I have to push my Raleigh. I’m not sure I could even push the bakfiets up.

The state has plans to rebuild the expressway bridge—wider, benches, less like a prison yard—but nowhere in those plans is a provision to keep any of it open while the work is being done. They’ll likely shut it down on the first day the weather hits 70.

This is really the only link between the city and the path. Nobody goes the alternate route because it’s a deathtrap. If it closes entirely, people from this side of the bay will have no choice but to rack their bikes and drive to the first lot along the path. Hardly makes sense, having a path system which at any time encourages people to drive in order to ride their bikes. But that’s what we get when our town and city planners believe a bicycle is not a transportation device.

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2 Responses to “American cycling infrastructure”

  1. 1 MarkA

    What a shame that the cycle provision is so poor; this is because the urban planners don’t want to give over too much space to ‘a minority’. But of course us cyclists will ALWAYS be a minority so long as they fail to give us the quality infrastructure.

    Great pictures of the kids by the way – sooo adorable – thanks for sharing!


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