Ode to the East Bay Bike Path

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How do you keep your head together during a quarantine? For many, the East Bay Bike Path was a sanity-saver. The trail never closed, and with its wide margins and fast-moving cyclists, it was easy to enjoy some outdoors and maintain social distance at the same time.

All across the country, you’ll find “rail trails,” those level, multi-use paths that replaced old railroad tracks. The trail network in Rhode Island is impressive; they connect every kind of town and city, village and greenspace, and each segment is well trod by cyclists, walkers, rollerbladers, and parents pushing strollers.

But the East Bay Bike Path is a standout. At 14.5 miles, the trail is both long and continuous. With the exception of some recent bridge work and detours, the path barely intersects with motor traffic, and it runs all the way from India Point Park in Providence to the Bristol waterfront, and most recently was connected to the Blackstone River Greenway. The scenery is varied and spectacular, from sailboat-studded marinas to coastal cliffs and wetlands.

The most striking thing about the route is how we use it: The East Bay Bike Path is like a zero-emissions superhighway. Locals use it for morning walks, or race training, or regular commutes to work. You will see every kind of person on the path, of every body type and (literal) walk of life. You’ll see skateboards and ebikes, wheelchairs and tandems. At the height of summer, the pavement is downright busy with self-propelled traffic. The East Bay Bike Path is a nice cross-section of our geography, yes; but it’s also a moving cross-section of our people.

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