Before I moved to Portland, I was fairly meh on bike paths/trails. I have no trouble cycling with car traffic, although on steep or windy roads, it makes me nervous if there is no shoulder or bike lane. Urban bike paths/trails are often poorly designed, especially when they are intended to be replacements for onroad facilities, or crowded with pedestrians when they are shared multi-use paths.
However, after two months here I am beginning to understand the purpose of such trails. It’s not that they don’t have the downsides that I listed above, it’s that they have a previously unforeseen advantage: fewer $#@%*#* stop signs.
If I want to go on a recreational ride out here, my options are different from Menlo Park. Back then, I could climb on my bike, ride less than a mile (encountering only three stop signs), and be on Sand Hill Road, a veritable freeway for bikes, and out into the hills (on shoulder-ful roads!) in less than three miles. What a paradise. And I recognized and fully enjoyed that paradise, knowing this was not the case for others, but not fully appreciating how annoying stop signs every other block (or more) are.
I am still exploring my options here and no doubt will eventually find some that work better for me, but at the moment I have to navigate a maze of stop signs, and then either 1) go straight up (okay, it’s only 6-8% grades, but that’s steep!); 2) (and) share the roads with heavier traffic than I’m used to, or 3) find a trail, which may be crowded, but, as previously noted, has no cars and many fewer $#@%*#* stop signs. And often is pretty as well.
Urban trails, how I have maligned thee, and how I repent, and thank the good works of previous Portland cyclists for the Waterfront, Springwater, Esplanade, and other trails that thread through Portland.