Stop blocking the bike trail

I have a love-hate relationship with the American River Bike Trail.

On the one hand, I love the safety and convenience of this insulated little buffer zone, a retreat from urban sprawl and agitated drivers. I love being able to get some exercise during my commute from Carmichael into East Sacramento and I love not having to sit in the heavy traffic.

However, ever since we’ve moved here over a year ago, construction crews have been working on various flood-control projects along the river, and they basically use the bike trail as their haul road. Everyday, giant earthmoving equipment drives on the trail, taking up both lanes without benefit of flag-persons, lane-closures or construction signs. These vehicles drag tons of dirt and debris across the bike trail, which fly onto my clothes and face as I ride over it. Also, the workers have run pipes across the bike trail and then asphalted over them, creating bone-jarring bumps along the trail. Not only that, but the steady stream of heavy vehicles (which the bike trail was never designed for) has resulted in the entire trail being covered in cracks and potholes.

I’m as much for flood control as anyone, but no one seems to be monitoring these construction crews or making them respect the bike trail. It’s against state law to be working within a river channel during the winter because of the danger of flooding and because restrictions in the channel can cause the water to overflow its banks. All work was supposed to stop at the end of October, but in many areas work goes on unabated. Moreover, there are specific laws regarding construction equipment being used along public thoroughfares, which are not being enforced.

Apparently, politicians and government officials feel that the rights of bicycle riders can safely be ignored. Considering that Sacramento has some of the dirtiest air in the United States, you might think that they would be encouraging, rather than discouraging, bike travel. The bike trail is owned by Sacramento County and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but I’ve never seen an inspector monitoring the work.

Amazingly, if I ride east (away from work) on the bike trail, I immediately cross to the south side of the American River and the bike trail is brand-new, made out of thousands of recycled tires, and is of a smooth, unblemished appearance. I can only hope that my portion of the bike trail will be made to look like that after the flood-control work finally ends.