We’re back in Titusville, Florida, where last year’s week-long bike ride from Savannah ended, and about to tackle the final 400 miles of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway. Come next Friday night, we’ll be in Key West looking for that Key Lime pie the ECG’s executive director keeps talking about. (Leave your recommendation for the best Key Lime spot in the comments.)
It will be bittersweet. On the one hand, I’ll have ridden just about all of the East Coast Greenway (Providence to New York City will be the last stretch). But this is the final Week-a-Year ride, and it may be the last time I see in one spot all of the 40 or so cyclists I’ve been riding with a week at a time since 2014 and who have become friends.
So what are we expecting this year? More road than trail, but we have gotten used to that as we have pushed deeper south. I’ll be looking out for fish shacks and Cuban sandwiches, fruit stands and exotic ice cream flavors. I’m hoping for lots of ocean views and a strong tail wind like the one we had last year into St. Augustine. And I’ve been told to put on my urban cycling game face between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. But as someone who cycles through the craziness of Midtown Manhattan, how bad can that be?
Unfortunately, the rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center is on Monday, and we will be more than 100 miles south. But we were 60 miles north last year when a rocket was launched, and we heard it and felt the ground rumble, so who knows?
Thank you to all who have supported us in our fundraising for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit behind this route connecting cities from the Canadian border in Maine to the southern-most spot in the U.S. (If you haven’t, it’s never too late — just click here.) The route is now one-third on protected greenways away from traffic. Another good chunk is on quiet roads or roads with bikes lanes. And there are parts that are desperately in need of improvement.
But these sections will get better. Just this week, the federal government agreed to fully fund a bike-and-pedestrian bridge across the Ashley River in Charleston to the tune of more than $18 million. Two years ago, we crossed the river bunched up together for safety in one of car lanes. Even the approach to the Ashley Bridge was crazy. Nothing like the joy of the Ravenel Bridge across the Cooper River that took us into Charleston from the north. Yes, bridges take years to build. But this will be a huge improvement not only to the East Coast Greenway but to the quality of life for Charlestonians.
The feds also announced funding for a sizable stretch of Miami’s Underline, what will one day be a 10-mile biking and walking path running under elevated tracks in Miami and a bit south. This, too, is part of the East Coast Greenway. Just wish we were able to enjoy it this year!
Here’s some more progress along the East Coast Greenway this year:
New Hampshire is buying a 9.6-mile stretch of the old Pan Am Railway and plans to convert it to trail between Hampton and Portsmouth within just a few years. That will take the state from the bottom of the list of completed East Coast Greenway segments toward the top. It also means the route no longer will hug the coastline and take riders past some lovely mansions.
In Jersey City, the mayor has announced that the Sixth Street Embankment will finally become a version of New York City’s High Line. But unlike the High Line, this will be open to cyclists, and it will be a key part of a new Jersey-City-to-Newark trail connection. Now for the Bergen Arches and the rest of the old Boonton train line… Yes, this one is years away, probably more years than it will take to build that bridge in Charleston. The legal battle along took 15 years, and this deal still isn’t 100% finalized. Still, huge progress.
In Pennsylvania, the trail from Morrisville to Bristol is now open (aside from one place where you have to cross the road and take your bike down some stairs). That’s 10 miles or so with no cars, no illegal dirt paths to follow down toward the Amtrak line and back. We’ve ridden it a few times, and it just needs a few more signs to finish the job. So much better than the road route we took only two years ago!
There is more happening, though not always this dramatic. We want to see the East Coast Greenway finished, and that is why we are on this ride.