On Saturday we took our first trip by bike to the Italian bakery just a half mile down the road. That is, it's a half mile as the crow flies or the car drives, but on a bike (especially with a child), the safest route is twice the distance. We certainly didn't mind taking the long way round through the neighborhood streets behind the busy main road, but most people would choose to take the car, and here's why:
This crosstown street has one lane of traffic in each direction with a center lane for turning and absolutely no shoulder. Only the most experienced cyclists take the road here. The sidewalk starts at the edge of the road, with not even a grass buffer zone between the curb and sidewalk. One false move and you are in the direct path of traffic. On the other side of the sidewalk is a series of parking lots for the businesses that line both sides of the road. Approximately every ten feet, the curb is cut out and the sidewalk slants as a driveway to the parking areas. To continue on a level path, a pedestrian or cyclist (as children and their parents are permitted to ride on sidewalks), must constantly zigzag from sidewalk to parking lot, avoiding parking space bumpers, raised planters and property dividers, while keeping an eye out for vehicles entering and exiting the road. No wonder there are rarely pedestrians on these sidewalks, despite the number of businesses. We have taken this sidewalk route by bike once or twice before, but it is not a pleasant ride nor much faster, due to the obstacles and changing surface.
The township is currently working on a plan to improve the appearance and traffic flow of this area, but is running into opposition from business owners who fear that any change to their parking areas could mean a substantial loss of business. I hope they can find a compromise soon and get working on it. We need more green here in every sense of the word. (Looks like a job for Jan Gehl!)
At this point, I have taken the long way round to report that we rode our bikes to the bakery on Saturday, so I will finish quickly.
The goodies went into my basket, and we took the long way home.