Commentary: East Bay Bike Path Blues

By Frederick Massie
Posted 8/3/22

A wonderfully scenic, and generally gentle ride, the Path provides a (mostly) safe place for bicyclists as an alternative to increasingly dangerous surface roads. Unfortunately, there is trouble in paradise...

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Commentary: East Bay Bike Path Blues


The East Bay Bike Path is like the subject of countless blues songs. To wit: a woman or a man who can’t be true to their lover, but the lover just can’t let go.

A wonderfully scenic, and generally gentle ride, the Path provides a (mostly) safe place for bicyclists as an alternative to increasingly dangerous surface roads. Populated with ever-more aggressive automotive drivers who apparently delight in seeing how close they can come to bicycles and pedestrians, you can risk life and limb attempting to navigate our local byways.

Thus, the Path is a go-to route for local and visiting cyclists seeking solace from the nuttiness that is increasingly the norm on our road. And on our national political scene. Oh. Don’t get me started.

Unfortunately, there is trouble in paradise. Specifically, pedestrians walking two or more abreast, sometimes with baby carriages and loose-leashed dogs, spread across both lanes, often ambulating on the wrong side, and seemingly unwilling to share space with those for whom the Path is named.

Few things are more frustrating than being forced to come to a complete halt in front of a gaggle of goofballs who refuse to yield even slightly. These are generally the same individuals who don’t return cheery greetings. Leading one to believe there may be something more sinister in their behavior than first meets the eye. Or not.

Another sign of the disappearance of civility, after remounting and negotiating around the buffoons, one may be treated to the grisly sight of bright green and blue pooch poop bags strewn willy-nilly on and off the Path. What’s with that?

Someone takes the time to collect their pup’s poo, ladles it into a plastic bag and then discards the thing. Do these scoopers believe these are gifts? Roadside attractions? It boggles the mind…and the eyes…and the nose. ?

Then we have the electric bikes. These wonderful inventions make long bicycle trips (particularly for the age-challenged) up hills and against the wind a breeze. Unfortunately, some of these machines are closer to motorcycles than bicycles. Driven on the Path, at high speed, without a governor, by those lacking manners, they become a menace. Can’t we just get along?

The crossing light on Warren’s Main Street at the Campbell Street intersection is a boon to those traveling the Path, as automotive traffic here can be intense. Sadly, almost every time your correspondent and his much better half have utilized the thing, invariably, some numbskull in a car, truck or bus runs the redlight. Can you say, “Redlight cameras?” If not for the safety of young and old cyclists, pedestrians, and other living things, given the frequency of this bad behavior, fines could be a heretofore untapped source of additional municipal revenue. I’m just saying.

Other cross streets along the Path also have their share of perils. For some drivers, these primarily dead ends are an opportunity to play Russian roulette with unsuspecting bikers, runners, and walkers. While most of these crossings have stop signs for Path users, one might also expect some degree of caution from approaching drivers. Alas and alack (of common sense and decency), occasionally, an idiot exceeding the speed limit on one of these streets assumes a horn beeped three feet before flashing over the Path is sufficient. It’s not.

The good news? Most of the people who ride, walk and drive across the Path play well with others. And that gives us hope. Hope that someday — both on and off the Path — we are singing something other than the blues.

2023 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.