EAST BAY BIKE PATH, R.I. — There's a two wheeled revolution underway in Rhode Island.
Since the early '90s the Ocean State has paved, marked, and blazed its way to becoming a haven for bicyclists. The state now boasts 64 miles of paved bike paths, with 25 more miles under design, and more than 120 miles of roadside bike routes. Because of the state's postage stamp size, biking is a great and viable (even for those of us not in great shape) way to explore the state.
The grandfather of all paved bikeways in Rhode Island is the East Bay Bike Path, a 14.5 mile paved rail trail that stretches from Providence to Bristol along the shoreline of Narragansett Bay, and passes through East Providence, Barrington and Warren.
On a recent trip to the East Bay Bike Path I mounted my two wheeled steed and pedaled my way through a picturesque biker's paradise. With the bay serving as a majestic backdrop I traversed a large portion of the trail, and cut through wildlife and city settings.
My visit took place on a hot, dripping, humid day, the type of day where the air over the pavement gets wavy, and the asphalt starts to get soft and stick to your shoes. At first I wished that I signed on to write about one of Rhode Island's beaches instead, but as I started on the path a cool breeze began to blow from the bay and I forgot about the heat enthralled by the sights and sounds around me. At the start of the path in Providence you can stare out across the bay at the wind turbines of the Narragansett Bay Commission power company's recently erected wind turbines. Towering at a height of 364 feet, with 150 foot blades, these turbines make for an impressive site as they circle slowly but surely in the breeze. The three turbines are expected to generate 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, and like the windmills did for Don Quixote, they helped power my adventure.
Mark Brodeur, director of tourism for Rhode Island, lives along the East Bay Bike path and frequently rides it.
"It's one of our most popular bike paths and on Sunday it's busier than Route 114," he says. "You can travel along the former train trail and go over trestle bridges, through some beautiful scenic communities."
I started out my journey on the East Bay Bike path at India Point Park in Providence. This is generally a good starting point for the path, but the Washington Bridge is currently under construction to be converted into a linear park and bikeway, so cyclists have to use a detour and cross over the Henderson Bridge. While the Washington Bridge is under construction, a better parking place is one of the two parking lots located on Veterans Memorial Parkway in East Providence, off Exit 4 off of I-195.
In addition to the East Bay Bike path a great biking option for Connecticut residents is the Blackstone River Bike Way. On I-295 there's an information center in the north bound lane between exit 9 and 10, just before exit 10 that doubles as a parking lot for the Blackstone River Bikeway. This section of trail is about six miles but it will ultimately be expanded to connect with bike paths in Massachusetts.
Since rail trails are built upon old railroad lines and trains can't go up steep hills, biking on a rail trail is generally a good option for those who want a flat and smooth path. For those who crave a bumpier ride, Rhode Island is also home to the 14,000 acre Arcadia State Park, which is a widely celebrated mountain biking destination.
Rhode Island is also hoping to spread its two wheeled revolution up and down the eastern seaboard. Rose Amoros, chief public affairs officer at the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, explains "some of Rhode Island's longer bike paths — the Blackstone River Bikeway, the Washington Secondary and the East Bay Bike Path — are part of an ambitious effort by the Rhode Island based East Coast Greenway Alliance to create a contiguous bike path from Maine to Florida." She adds, "among the 15 states the East Coast Greenway would pass through, Rhode Island is a leader in getting its segments completed."
On the whole, biking in Rhode Island is a great option for biking enthusiasts and beginners.
For details on biking in Rhode Island and to get the latest maps and updates on trail construction and closures visit: http://1.usa.gov/10l9JVl