Garnering the distinction of a bike-friendly coastal town in the Northeast is no easy feat. Roads along the New England coast are narrow with little to no shoulder let alone bike lanes and can get quite congested in the summer months. Rail trails are generally found more inland and don’t end on the shores of the Atlantic. However, a few areas along the coast are overcoming the challenges of the topography and making cycling a priority for bike commuters, bike adventurers, and beach goers who would like to ditch the car. With the bike-friendly success of the following areas, hopefully other coastal towns will be inspired to increase cycling awareness and initiatives.
Salisbury offers three coastal trails that provide links within the Coast Trails Coalition, a community organization advocating the development and use of the Coastal Trails Network. This network of trails is an emerging 30-mile public system of bicycle and pedestrian trails linking the coastal communities of Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury. Newburyport can be accessed via the MBTA, Boston’s commuter rail, where cyclists can ride on the Clipper City Rail Trail then cross the Merrimack River into Salisbury.
Want to ride your bike directly to the beach? In Salisbury, bike lanes are provided on Beach Road which ends at Salisbury Beach State Reservation. This state managed beach (cyclists can avoid the $9 parking fee) is one of the cleanest and most popular beaches in Massachusetts, offering swimming, boating, camping, fishing, and boardwalk amusements. For a more tranquil and less crowded beach without as many amenities, Plum Island Beach can be reached by bicycle heading from Newburyport on the Newburyport to Plum Island Bike Lane.
Not to be outdone by the Pacific Northwest city of the same name, Portland, Maine is fast becoming one of the most bike-friendly cities in the Northeast. Maine was named the 2nd most bike-friendly state in the country by the League of American Bicyclists. The city of Portland offers guided bike tours, self-guided bike maps, and ample bike parking. Portland Green Streets, a grassroots program to encourage the use of alternative transportation, has an excellent website full of resources for cycling around Portland. Amtrak travels from Boston to Portland on the Downeaster, but make your reservations early as there are a limited number of unboxed bicycle spaces.
From paved off-street bike paths such as the South Portland Greenbelt to ocean view beach cruises to single track trails for mountain bikers at Bradbury Mountain State Park, Portland has proven that a Northeast coastal city can embrace a cycling infrastructure. To get to the beach by bike, cyclists can travel on the wide shoulders of route 77 south to Crescent Beach State Park and Cape Elizabeth. Crescent Beach features an off-street oceanside bike path and is one of the most pristine beaches on the southern Maine coast- wide and sandy and great for families. Not to be missed is the Portland Head Lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth where you can learn about the history of the area and enjoy a Maine lobster picnic.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Getting around by bike on Cape Cod is a refreshing alternative to sitting in traffic on a busy summer weekend. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, and the Shining Sea Bikeway are all paved non-motorized bike trails that utilize abandoned rail trails. There are also 5 conservation areas with mountain bike trails. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is one of the most popular rail trails in the Northeast traveling 22 miles from Dennis to Wellfleet. The town of Wellfleet is host to numerous beaches on both the bay side and the ocean side. From trail’s end, travel on roads to reach Maguire’s Landing Beach, Marconi Beach, or Cahoon Hollow Beach, all of which are clean and not overly crowded- though expect more people on summer weekends. For a beautiful view of the ocean while riding, try the Shining Sea Bikeway which travels from Falmouth to Woods Hole. Check out Wood Neck Beach for its’ serenity and abundance of sea creatures for kids to examine.
The only drawback to cycling on the Cape is getting to the Cape without a car. There’s a reason why all those great rail trails exist — commuter rail is no longer existent. The closest Amtrak stations would be Boston or Providence. The closest commuter rail station is the MBTA in Kingston, MA, about 40 miles away. You can, however, take a ferry from Boston To Provincetown from May to October.