This is something that really makes no sense to me in the development of cycling facilities. If you look at many of the bicycle or shared trails that have been built recently, it's obvious that it is quite difficult to use them for transportation. For instance, the Silver Comet trail runs parallel to US Highway 278 for a ways. 278 is lined with shopping centers and apartment complexes. The trail could serve to connect nearby residents to stores and restaurants, or to connect commuters from their condo or subdivision to "park and ride" lots. But there are hardly any connections that actually go to the shopping centers or residential complexes. The few roads that intersect the path have no bike lanes or shoulders, and no sidewalks for kids or for trail users on foot; they feature high speed traffic and deceleration lanes. There are no facilities along busy Highway 278 itself, if your destination doesn't happen to be right at the corner. So what happens? People put their bicycle onto a rack on their car, drive to the trail, ride back and forth, and leave. A few families who live near the trail ride around on it for an hour. The transportation potential, and potential economic impact, is mostly squandered. It's like building a huge expressway, but with exits that connect to dirt service roads that can only be traveled with a four-wheel drive truck, even though there are towns and stores less than a mile away. Would you be surprised if such an expressway saw little functional usage?
|Silver Comet Trail, shown in red, near junction of US278 and GA92|
Another example that shows the "trails aren't transportation" mindset of their planners is along Freedom Path in northeast Atlanta. Some parts of the path are pretty appealing - you can zip from the upper edge of the Sweet Auburn district over to the lower limits of Virginia Highland on a bicycle expressway that dodges under and around intersecting streets. But east of Moreland Ave, the arrangement falls apart. Here, North Avenue acts as the expressway, a direct and relatively shady route connecting to a major route to Emory University. But if you stay on the path, you'll travel at least twice the distance on a hot, shadeless hillside. You can't see the topography in the following image, but you'll also add several hundred feet in elevation change for yourself. It would be fine as an alternative sidepath to the direct main route, a scenic detour, or an option for people who are trying to work up a sweat rather than get to work. But as the only bicycle facility in this corridor, it's a failure. This path was not intended for going anywhere fast.
|Freedom Path near junction of North Ave. and Oakdale Rd.|