Test pilings for a bicycle bridge

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

short rows header

The effort that appears to be going into building a bicycle bridge across the stream just east of the Villas community has piqued my interest in the trail project.

It’s hard to imagine that crossing a very small stream requires the kind of equipment and construction techniques being unleashed on that portion of the trail project. It even includes test pilings, presumably to make sure that if a fleet of several hundred bicycles is one the bridge at one time, it will support them.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But most everything about this project seems to be quite involved — and thus, quite expensive.

Next up for those who travel Battery Park and Nike Park roads will be construction of the Jones Creek bicycle crossing. It ought to be something special. That bridge will have to be much longer than the existing Jones Creek automobile bridge because, presumably, it won’t destroy any marshland. In order to avoid doing so, the county will have to build a very long span that reaches from the north bank of the creek at Harvey Saunders’ property all the way to high ground on the south shore, crossing an extensive piece of marsh.

Based on the stream crossing on Battery Park Road, the creek crossing will be something to see, but motorists need to be cautioned not to rubberneck — not with the level of traffic on that road!

The high-cost nature of the project has an exception, and it’s an important one. Bike trail planners have decided to use an existing sidewalk west of there seems perfectly rational. The sidewalk extends from the Villas to South Church Street and, according to the county, appears quite adequate as a bike trail. It would be unnecessarily costly to tear it out and build the 10-foot multi-use trail that is being constructed east of there.

That’s an important decision because it buttresses opinions by town residents that Smithfield should not spend $2 million on a full-scale bike trail along Church Street.

The town, faced with numerous high dollar improvements in the next few years, may listen to taxpayers on this one and opt for a “designated bike trail along existing streets.

If the town agrees to build something, though, the county sidewalk decision sets a standard that would be more affordable than a wide, multi-use trail.

Another question that arises with respect to the trail is the bicycle prohibition on the Windsor Castle Park bridges. The project is labeled “Park to Park,” but once a bicyclist gets to the parking lot across from Smithfield Station, he or she would have to dismount and walk their bicycle the rest of the way, because bicycles are not allowed on the walking trail inside the park. There is a mountain-bike style trail in the other portion of the park, which is accessible from Jericho Road.

The park bridges are about as wide as the rest of the bike trail, which allows pedestrians and bicyclists to jointly use the facility. Since we’re building a $6 million trail — and more if the town builds something — to get bicyclists from Nike Park to Windsor Castle Park, it would seem reasonable that they could continue riding once they got there.