One of the East Bay’s greatest beauties has just received a facelift, and the results are jaw dropping. Gone are the cracks, wrinkles and other signs of aging that marred its appearance the past few years. After RIDOT crews recently resurfaced 12 miles of this 13.8-mile linear park, the East Bay Bike Path may now be in the best shape of its life.
This is not the first time it’s been reborn. Originally constructed as part of the Old Colony Railroad in the mid-1800s to take passengers and freight between Providence and Bristol, it changed ownership numerous times through the years. Passenger service was suspended in 1937, and only an occasional freight car rumbled up the tracks for the next few decades. After the Providence, Bristol and Warren Railroad went bankrupt, the rail bed was abandoned in 1973.
Ten years later, the plan to construct the East Bay Bike Path–Rhode Island’s first major bike path–was approved. Built in four phases between 1987 and 1992, the path is ten feet wide and strings together eight of the state’s parks—from Providence’s India Point Park in the north to Bristol’s Independence Park in the south. In between, it passes through East Providence’s Bold Point and Squantum Woods, Barrington’s Haines Park, Warren’s Burr’s Hill Park and the remarkable Colt State Park in Bristol.
According to RIDOT, 900,000 people use the bike path each year. As someone who is out there most days, year-round, in most any weather, you’d never know it. On perfect weekend days with low humidity, fair skies and gentle breezes, there may be lots of new faces, but most of the time I spot a handful of regulars. By now, I recognize the idiosyncratic strides of some of the runners from a long way off, such as the guy who cocks his head mechanically with each step. There’s the older woman who methodically and melodically runs, while playing tinny-sounding pop music.
Then there’s Cindy, the artist from Bristol, who rides her bike at a leisurely pace as she seeks inspiration for her next painting. After 22 years of passing each other, we often wave as we pass. Though the bike path may look new to everyone who rides it today, she knows that even after thousands of trips, every ride can be seen with fresh eyes. Depending on the season, the weather, the time of day or night, your mood, or the company, every ride takes on a different light.