Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Measure of a Good Path

Segregated path along Webster Road in Shelburne.
My boss had recently become a recreational rider. When he asked me where to ride that was safe so he could enjoy time with his granddaughter, the waterfront path quickly came to mind. And so he drives to a parking lot and they explore the trail as grandpa and child.

Now he's tiring of the trail. It's an out and back route and though it's a gorgeous path and Burlington's crown jewel when it comes to tourist attractions, it has it's limitations. I starting thinking about alternative rides they could do. Sure, there are ways to loop from the waterfront, but all require steep hills, high traffic road crossings, and a map. Signs are still difficult to follow, especially for novices. Some of the trails lead you to trail washouts, past homeless encampments, all of which require prior knowledge or adventurous detours, and may be uncomfortable to new riders. I ride these paths all the time. But I wouldn't necessarily advertise these routes to my employer. And the more I thought about it the more I realized there weren't many options, especially safe routes where a wobbling child could roam without danger.

Even with a 6 foot lane, I wouldn't take children along busy Shelburne Road. 18-wheelers 
regularly ply this road. I use it to get to my brother's home, but I normally avoid this route. 
If you lived nearby, taking the sidewalk would make more sense.

All of this thinking led me to re-look at the trails with a novice eye. My children are neither beginners nor competent cyclers, so taking this step back lends a unique perspective—one which city planners should consider when revising/constructing new paths. This is not a novel idea, I know, but it's good to cycle back to this viewpoint every now and then.

I suppose that what is safe is relative to where you live, where you travel, and dependant upon each rider's abilities. My boss wouldn't consider riding from his home onto Dorset Street, the same road I commute to his office. His comfort zone is different than mine.

For me, the measure of a good path is where I would feel comfortable taking my children. And yes, those options are few and far between. More often I advise them to walk, especially if they travel the 1.5 miles from home to downtown Burlington. 

I'll be working on maps for my boss and his granddaughter. I will encourage this new found love of the bike, but I'll have to dig deep for safe routes so they can have memorable adventures. I also will incorporate creemee stops. What child or adult doesn't love that?

What constitutes a "good bike path" in your area?


  1. We have a few in Newcastle, the offload ones you talk of. There is fernleigh which goes through the bush and there is a gorgeous one round lake Macquarie but everyone goes there and it is packed with riders and walkers and Everyone else who wants to get outdoors and as such it is a bit of a battleground between those on foot and those on wheels. The paths around the beaches are not really good for cycling as they are either too busy or too hilly. Possibly the best one round here for an outing like you want for your boss is the one here that goes along throsby creek and goes past cafes and ice cream shops all the way into town, that is where I would take a tourist cycling here.

  2. Hmm. Clear signs including distance, bitumen not concrete surface and a continuous ride. By the latter, I mean a path that has a consistent level of safety with no dangerous 'make and mend' interactions with traffic. On the whole, given our small population, Perth does pretty well with cycle paths.


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