DEM promises bike path improvements after injuries

DEM promises bike path improvements after injuries

Bladamir Rodriguez, left, and Ted Tobin, right, stop and dismount their bikes ahead of the “washboard” section of the Blackstone River Bikeway, where tree roots have been painted over in white. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – A pair of recent injuries to cyclists along a local section of the Blackstone River Bikeway have Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management officials pledging to invest some money into the path.

Setting off from the Ashton Mill parking lot in Cumberland, seasoned cyclists who use the Blackstone River Bikeway know to slow down or dismount their bicycle as they approach a section referred to as “the washboard,” a particularly bumpy stretch of path where tree roots have caused the asphalt to rise and crack.

Root problems exist along the entire bike path, however a notoriously uneven half-mile section at the 11.5-mile marker has been a particular area of concern for riders. Local resident Ted Tobin said he hit a tree root while riding through the section that sent him flying off his bike and to the doctor’s office with several bruised ribs.

At least one other person was injured on the bike path this summer due to an accident involving the tree roots. In July, the Lincoln Town Council denied a personal injury claim filed against Lincoln by Pamela Shapiro, of Watertown, Mass. Attorney Robert Levine, who filed the claim on Shapiro’s behalf, said the injury occurred on July 7, approximately a half-mile from the bike path entrance on Front Street in Lincoln.

“She went over a raised asphalt split and bump caused by a root grown out of a tree on the ground,” the claim reads. “This fall resulted in her sustaining a fracture to her elbow.”

The Town Council denied the claim, as the bike path falls under the purview of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. In July, RIDEM spokesperson Gail Mastrati told The Breeze that the agency was aware of the tree root issues and was working to allocate funds for maintenance. Since then, roots that were previously painted yellow have been painted over with white.

“I don’t want to sound outrageous, but somebody is going to end up seriously hurt or killed,” said Bladimir Rodriguez, an avid biker who uses the path frequently.

“…especially during this time of year,” added Tobin, noting that fallen leaves cover the white paint. “This path is super, it really is. It’s too bad during cost analysis that they didn’t include the cost for maintaining the path.”

Last week, Mastrati said RIDEM is looking into funding this project in the current budget cycle and “working to develop a solution that will remedy the tree root issues and restore the surface of the bike path.”

Michael Healey, RIDEM’s chief public affairs officer, pledged that the department is working on identifying a solution by next year. Healey said RIDEM plans to tackle the bike path improvements in the first half of 2019, barring weather or other setbacks.

“I know these are safety as well as quality of life issues, and (RIDEM) is actively contemplating and working in the current budget cycle to solve the problem,” he said. “This is a big concern and we’re planning to do something about it.”

The washboard section has kept avid cyclists such as Ted Shwartz from using the path. Shwartz, who serves as president of the 1,500-cyclist strong Narragansett Bay Wheelmen, said he stopped using the Blackstone River Bikeway about a year ago because conditions got so bad.

“That is one of the nicest bike paths in all of Rhode Island, with more wildlife and less road crossings than other paths, but it’s unfortunate that surface conditions create an issue of safety,” he said. “There is no safer place to take your family away from traffic, so it’s a shame that section is so nasty. And spray painting the awful parts is really no solution at all.”


Now us the time for the DEM to step up to make the needed repairs and put a plan in place to keep the bike paths maintained throughout the state.

A beautiful bike path, but falling apart, and the state still has no clue what to do. Peter Alviti ws on Gene Valicente's show a year ago address this very same washboard section, still nothing is done. Now someone got hurt, and the chase is on to get that person some relief ... shameful. Crazy that the state never allowed for maintenance or upkeep in the budgets?? Unbelievable. It's things like this that keep Rhode Island devolving into the craphole it is becoming.

Sad it takes several people's injuries for a bike path to be improved. Why should we still wait for bad things to happen instead of preventing them?

I've used the bike path for nearly a decade. During that time, I've witnessed its pavement and fencing steadily deteriorate. Particularly in the past two years, the condition of the pavement has dramatically worsened.

All systems (meaning everything on the planet) naturally decay. They tend toward a state of entropy, as physicists say. To compensate for the continuous process of entropy, energy must from time to time be put into the system. In the case of the bike path, that energy is in the form of repair work.

The law of entropy is basic; it's as knowable as it is inevitable. Yet our elected officials chose to ignore it. When the path was built, they knew they would be responsible for its continual refurbishment and repair, just as they're responsible for the refurbishment and repair of all state-managed public recreation facilities. Nevertheless, these officials allowed the path to fall into shocking disrepair.

Because of the state's negligence, we who use the path are now sustaining injuries. Was this regrettable eventuality not foreseeable?