Bicycles and islands are a natural fit, but as anyone who has followed the fury over Sakonnet River Bridge tolls knows, Rhode Island’s largest island runs on cars.
For years, Aquidneck Island bicycle advocates have worked to make the Newport area friendlier to two-wheeled transport, touting it as relief from summer traffic, parking problems and sometimes fatal accidents.
With bicycle paths in other parts of the state extremely popular, Aquidneck cyclists have pushed for something similar, a Shoreline Bike path spanning the island.
Progress toward that goal has been minimal, until now.
This summer, the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission, supported by the R.I. Department of Transportation and funded with a $75,000 grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, released a proposal for a transisland bikeway they hope marks a new era in Newport County cycling.
It will not be the dedicated, off-road bike path they have been pursuing.
For all but a small section, the new route will share existing roads with cars.
Creating a dedicated bike path, like the East Bay Bike Path or Blackstone Bike Path, remains outside the group’s resources and poses technical challenges.
But Planning Commission Chairwoman Tina Dolen said while she would have preferred to see the full “real” Shoreline Bikeway, the route now under consideration is the best alternative and builds momentum.
“It doesn’t have a direct progression to the Shoreline Bike Path,” Dolen said, “but takes advantage of more immediate opportunities to install a safe bikeway that serves recreational, environmental and commuting purposes while providing exercise and economic returns.”
Even though most of the work on the route will consist of erecting signs and painting new stripes on roadways, Dolen said it could take between two and four years to complete.