The most enjoyable and safest way for bikes to travel is separated from auto traffic. I don’t want to share the road with one ton vehicles going three times my speed – I have to. A trail or separated path is always my first choice.
Unfortunately, such infrastructure is absent most places. The paths that exist are often trails to nowhere, with a focus on recreation. Other problems include lack of lighting at night and lack of snow plowing in the winter.
This issue is fresh in my mind after spending another day in the suburbs with Melissa. We cycled to our usual destination, the wine store, taking a trail most of the way. The trail was beautiful and allowed for much singing and bike dancing. Eventually, our destination forced us to exit the trail. The picture below shows the road we had to travel. Nothing about the road considers cyclists or pedestrians. We cycled on the small and crumbling sidewalk/dirt shoulder the remainder of the way. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t encounter any pedestrians or other cyclists. Plenty of speeding cars, though.
Only with more infrastructure will a significant number of people cycle. Separated paths that are well-maintained and utilitarian are especially important in the suburbs, where high-speed nightmare streets like the one pictured dominate. Does your city or town have trails? If so, do you use them beyond recreation? What do they get right and what do they lack?