Last weekend featured temperatures in the 70s so it seemed like the perfect time to take the bike out for a longer ride. I had tried the Washington Secondary Bike Path once last year and found it to be a little… dull, but I was willing to give it another try. Plus, the path is close to a Target store, and I have to admit that I like the idea of biking to Target. The start of the trail is about 5 miles from my house, which is a little annoying, but I kind of like the adventure of biking through city streets. Plus, it was another chance to use Google’s new bike directions feature. Here’s what it suggested I do to get through the West Side and over to the start of the trail in Cranston:
The dotted green streets represent “signed bike routes” which means that the city has done the minimum possible to encourage cycling – they’ve put up signs saying “bike route” – yay! The bright green line is the actual bike path – completely separated from the road. I would have to go on a non-bike route street at some point to get there, and google suggested Potters Ave. Potters turned out to be the single most pot-holed street I have ever seen. I didn’t want to stop on the street to take pictures because I just wanted to get through it as quickly as possible. Afterwords, I went back to google maps to grab some screen captures from the streetview feature. Check it:
I did a virtual drive down the street and found many other similar images. Here’s my favorite:
My theory is that the potholes on Potters Ave are so bad that the streetview car’s camera got jostled so much that it was unable to take many useful pictures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this type of artifact on streetview before. Try it for yourself here.
After passing the guantlet of Potters Ave and getting through a pretty hairy intersection at Cranston St. & Rt. 10, I finally made it to the path. And yeah, it was a little dull at first. It’s a rails-to-trails path, so that means it’s very flat, and in this case, very straight. So instead of enjoying the scenery, I decided to push the pace a little.
I went with an upper-half bike-dork, lower-half just-plain-dork look for my ride. In case you can’t tell, I’m wearing black shoes with black ankle socks. I’m also wearing regular shorts – I don’t need bike shorts because I roll with the Spongy Wonder bike seat. On top I’m wearing a long-sleeve bike jersey. There’s a very narrow temperature range in which one can wear a long-sleeve bike jersey, so I figured I might as well go with it. While bike jerseys are pretty bike-dorky, the back pockets make them quite practical. One of these days I’ll buy a short sleeve one.
The path is pretty boring up to the turn-off for Target. Once I was off the path, I had the choice of riding on the sidewalk or on a rather busy street. I started on the sidewalk, but it was covered in sand – so I switched to the road.
Traffic was moving pretty slowly, so it ended up not being a big deal. I was passing most of the cars, in fact. And I was happy that everyone was giving me plenty of room.
I arrived at Target to find a gigantic parking lot, which in most cases doesn’t bode well for bike parking.
However, in this case, I was happy to see my favorite type of bike rack:
But what is that in the background?
It’s another bike rack. The label says “Park Rite” and shows a bike parked with just its front wheel nestled in to the thing sticking out. This would allow you to only lock the front wheel to the rack making it very easy to steal the rest of your bike. Here’s a better look:
Although this is not the most useless bike rack ever (that distinction rests with this rack). It is quite possibly the worst design coupled with the worst installation on a bike rack that I have seen. The only way one could lock properly to this rack would be to lock sideways, thus blocking half of the rack. There is no way that a cyclist designed or installed this rack. Oh well, at least they have a proper rack a few feet away. And since I was the only cyclist using it on a 70 degree day, I’m guessing they don’t get too many customers by bike. Or by foot for that matter, seeing as how the sidewalk ends just outside of the parking lot and there is no discernible way for a pedestrian to get from the street to the stores.
Here you can see the sidewalk ending and … wait what’s that in the middle distance? OMG! It’s someone using their legs to get around! Of course, the lack of pedestrian infrastructure has forced him to cross in the middle of the street.
After picking up a few necessaries at Target (including a sports drink since I had filled my water bottle then left it on my kitchen counter), I was back on my way to the path. This time, I decided to stick to the sidewalk since I would have to cross 4 lanes of traffic in order to get on the right side of the road. However, there was an obstruction on the sidewalk:
Biking in a suburban landscape that privileges the car and does everything possible to discourage biking and walking can put me in a foul mood, so I almost chucked this thing over the guard railing. Instead, I opted for a different solution.
I was almost back to the path when I noticed this place of business:
That name is so awesome, it created some sort of distortion field that could only be picked up by my iPhone’s camera.
Finally, the path started to get a little more interesting. The path goes by several old mills on the Pawtuxet River, along with the ponds that were created to power/cool the mills back in the days of the industrial revolution.
There are a few nice bridges on trail like the one above. And while Venice has The Bridge of Sighs, the Washington Secondary has what I call The Bridge of Broken Glass:
Not quite as beautiful. I actually walked my bike across this bridge because I was afraid of getting a flat.
New Englanders seem to love naming streets – so much so that they will take one street and give it several different names. For example, Angell Street changes names 3 times in 3 blocks as it descends into downtown Providence. Likewise, what I am calling the Washington Secondary is part of the same path that changes to the Warwick Greenway, the West Warwick Greenway and the Coventry Greenway, eventually ending at the Trestle Trail.
Seems like each town likes to put their mark on it. (This map also shows the boring part of the trail which goes from mile 2.5 to mile 6.5.) Of course, within each city or town, there are also different “villages” including Arctic:
In case you can’t see it, below the village sign it says, “Hep Make Arctic Earthday Everyday.” Across the road there were some surly teens. The path seemed to be full of them, mostly minding their own or occasionally taking up the whole path. Some seemed to enjoy practicing their newly-learned profanity. I guess it’s better than staying inside playing video games.
The Coventry Greenway section of the trail makes it clear that it originated as a railroad, which I think is a nice touch – linking the industrial revolution to today’s transportation. Well, more like today’s recreation. I wish that people used the bike trails for transportation, but I doubt we’ll see much of that. One exception is the surly teens previously mentioned. There were a few packs of them on the path and I imagine that they were heading from one point to another and not just riding for fun. The only problem is that 99% of them will leave their bikes in the basement once they get their drivers license.
The purple section on the map marks where the path changes from pavement to gravel and continues on as the Trestle Trail.
Evidently, the Connecticut border is only about 8 miles from this point, but I had gone about 20-25 miles. I’m not too fond of riding on gravel, so this is where I decided to turn around and head home. Time and space started to warp as I picked up speed…
… but it was mid-afternoon and the bike path had started to fill up.
There was even an old lady on a trike…
whom I totally dropped in like two seconds.
I was back to the city streets. All in, I probably did 40-45 miles that day. I’m feeling better about taking long trips on the bike. My legs and hands were a little sore after this ride, but not too bad. One day, the Washington Secondary will be part of a bike path that stretches over 3000 miles from Maine to Florida – the East Coast Greenway. Right now, 25% of the Greenway is on separated, traffic-free bike paths. I’d love to take a multi-day ride on it some day. I just hope it is completed before I’m too old to ride.