Asphalt Sidewalks

(photo taken by bshanteau)

What’s the difference between a bike trail (I hate the term “bike trail,” but that’s a post for another day…) and an asphalt sidewalk? We tend to have a tendency to label any facility made out of concrete as a sidewalk or pedestrian facility and any facility made out of asphalt as a bike trail. In many suburban communities, it’s common to see a concrete facility on one side of a roadway and an asphalt facility on the other side, the concrete being for pedestrians, the asphalt for bicycles. But other than the building material, they are essentially identical in design. They treat intersection crossings the same and they follow the same traffic control devices. Is the difference between a bike facility and a pedestrian facility really only the material used for construction?

In practice, the answer is unfortunately “yes.” A major roadway near my office was recently reconstructed, which included the construction of a concrete sidewalk on one side of the street, and an asphalt “bike trail” on the other side. Other than the building material, the two are essentially the same. I usually don’t like riding my bicycle on sidewalks, so it’s not surprising that I’ve never actually ridden on the new bike trail, either. I prefer to use the roadway, where I have right-of-way and am at less risk of getting killed by vehicles turning on and off the side-streets.

But that’s not always the case. In fact, I prefer riding on bike trails. My daily 8 mile commute to work includes over 6 miles of bike trails, and it’s not an accident that I both live and work near major bike trails. So why do I turn my nose up at the new bike trail near my office? Well, because it’s essentially just an asphalt sidewalk – and if I don’t like riding on concrete sidewalks, why whould I want to ride on an asphalt sidewalk?

(photo taken by bshanteau)

2 comments to Asphalt Sidewalks

  • My favorite part of that new "sidewalk" is the 25 mph sign in the middle of one of the lanes. Talk about making people slow down.

  • No kidding. It's hazard enough during the daytime… imagine being a cyclist without a headlamp at night! There's a really good chance you'd never see the thing coming…