The big idea is that people here will someday be able to ride a bicycle or hike almost anywhere — from Rhode Island, along the South Coast out to the Cape, and down to Newport — without fear of getting run over.
That goal is now getting a much-needed prodding from the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission and other bike enthusiasts.
Their dream is a real bike path along the island’s east and north shores — from the beaches, through Newport, and all the way to and across the new Sakonnet River Bridge which features a built-in, toll-free bike crossing. From there, cyclists might someday make their way through Tiverton, Westport and beyond on paths that have been proposed in those towns.
The Aquidneck path, along the waterfront rail route, would be as good as they get. But with money tight (estimated cost is around $25 million), odds are it won’t happen quickly.
Which led to announcement of an ‘interim’ plan, one that makes use mostly of existing roads and offers a much smaller price tag.
Although far short of what is needed, the interim path should provide a much-needed jolt of momentum.
A key component is a for-real bike path along a 1.2-mile stretch of Portsmouth shore from the bottom of Cory’s Lane (near Portsmouth Abbey) to Melville.
Not only is this a leg where there really is no good on-road alternative, but it would also give bicyclists tempting taste of what could be. It’s flat, offers stupendous views and would leave anyone wanting more.
Other segments of the interim path offer far less appeal. Lane sharing may work some places but not on roads like Boyd’s Lane, a busy narrow road with no shoulder that links Route 24 to the Mount Hope Bridge. And even with a dedicated bike lane, it’s hard to imagine any pleasure in riding along hectic East Main or Bristol Ferry roads, especially with youngsters in tow.
But that is part of the wisdom of the commission’s proposal. Rather than wait decades for the whole thing, better to let this interim plan serve as catalyst for better things to come. In such ways are federal, state and private funding sources pried loose.
The interim plan isn’t perfect but it’s a start — and that is what matters.
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