In 1974, my friend Janet and her fellow double-reed instrument player in the high school orchestra, Betty Bergwall, joined hundreds of other people on bikes to ride down to Long Island, New York’s Jones Beach on the Wantagh State Parkway. This wasn’t like the time when I was fifteen and a police officer pulled me over for riding my bike on the nearby Meadowbrook Parkway. This was a sanctioned ride to showcase what was possible on the about-to-be-built sidepath next to the parkway.
Flash forward to this past week, and (despite having grown up nearby) I got to ride that path for the first time in my life as part of a 39-mile roundtrip ride that included dipping my tire in the Atlantic Ocean (which I hope to do in the Pacific as well when I get there while traveling Round America with a Duck).
The seemingly-freshly-paved-and-marked path, now pushing 50 years old, is absolutely stunning. In fact, I got teary, not just at the reminiscent sounds of seagulls (which I don’t see or hear in Metro Atlanta where I’ve lived for 33 years) and the swaying golden sea reeds (not to be confused with Janet’s bassoon reeds!) but also at the fact that this stunning still-best-in-class bike infrastructure shows we were on the right path forward when I was just 11 years old. Just imagine if every highway in the United States has one of these.
We got detoured as a society. We got delayed. We got distracted. But we are back, despite the ongoing refusal in places like where I live now to approve and implement a trail plan (including yet another evasive and cowardly kick down the road on adopting it just this week).
There is a path forward. I know this because I have not only seen it but I’ve now ridden it. And it is beautiful.