Greater City Providence

Biking the Washington Secondary Bikepath

Washington Secondary Bikepath

This weekend I got to explore a portion of the Washington Secondary Bikepath. The path currently stretches from Cranston to Coventry along which it is dedicated bikepath. North of the Cranston end, one could get there via roads, and West of Coventry, the path continues unpaved. Like the Blackstone path, this one ends unceremoniously as the paved portion simply yields to dirt leaving little option but to simply turn around.

A good friend of mine lives near the Warwick Mall, so I met up with him near that portion of the path. We biked towards Coventry as far as the pavement would lead us, about nine miles, but had I started at the northernmost end, it would have been closer to 14 miles.

Like the other paths, this one is relatively flat, nicely paved, and there are few street crossings. There are several scenic bridges, and on a quiet day, one could conceivably get up some good speed, but Saturday had a little too strong of a breeze for me to put it to the test. What I did get to test, however, was taking pictures from my phone mounted to my handlebars, like this one below:

Washington Secondary Bikepath

At the western-most end, near Flat River Reservoir:

Washington Secondary Bikepath

Washington Secondary Bikepath

Washington Secondary Bikepath

Falls at Bradford Soap Works

Here is where the paved portion of the path ends in Coventry.

Washington Secondary Bikepath

Washington Secondary Bikepath

As the weather improves, I hope to be out there more, and I’m looking forward to doing more bike-photo-blogging! This apparatus seems to be working out nicely.

On your left!

Matthew Coolidge

Matthew Coolidge is co-founder of Greater City Providence. In addition to the occasional blog post about cycling, sailing, or urban rant, he works as an Electrical Engineer, often traveling to major cities and ports around the globe, or simply Warwick.


  • I haven’t been on that bike path yet. I usually ride the Blackstone (starting in Lincoln just off 123 at the parking lot there) or the East Bay (starting in East Providence at the northernmost parking lot). I drive to them, mainly because I am not comfortable riding in the city, other than in Elmhurst where there is less automobile traffic. My bike is also a crappy old mountain bike which needs quite a bit of work (probably better off buying a new bike). I’ve been looking for a new bike path. I rode the Woonasquatucket one, but it’s really short. I actually did ride to it down Chalkstone from my house since I live so close to it. That was the worst part of the ride. Getting over the hills on Chalkstone, especially coming east from Manton Ave., was really tough. I’m a big fan of the Blackstone path. The East Bay gets a bit windy and crowded in the summer, but I like the length (though this one seems to be almost as long).

    The northern end of the Blackstone path is actually pretty nice with a convenient turn-around spot. It now ends at a park near downtown Woonsocket. I tend to avoid the southern end because of all the street crossings in southern Cumberland, but have ridden down to the Valley Falls Heritage Park following the signs on the streets. That seems to be the end of the “path”.

  • Matt, there are 10 more miles of the Washington Secondary (this westernmost portion called the “Trestle Trail”) to be built, reaching the CT line. The eastern 4.8 mi is scheduled to be built in 2012, then the final 5.2 mi in 2013. From the state line, the RR corridor continues for another 5 mi to Plainfield, CT, as a state park; one mile of that is paved. CTDEP has for years sought funding to improve the trail surface to reach the RI line.

  • The last time I rode the Washington Secondary I did it on my hybrid and rode the dirt trail for about 2 miles. I highly recommend it for anyone with a bike and technical riding skill (not high, but you shouldn’t be the type that loses their balance easily) that can handle it. Kids have obviously been back there with their BMX’s so there are gullys and jumps and all kinds of fun things. There are also rocks so I wouldn’t do it with road wheels, you would be begging for a bent wheel or several broken spokes.

  • This is my commute path with my friend Mad Legs Martha. We meet up at Station St. in Coventry, where there is nice new parking for the path, and head up in to Providence to work. It’s 14.5 miles to the city using mostly this path, and then we come out on Garfield or (if we feel like avoiding wind) we’ll keep going to the end and come out by the Agway off of Cranston St. Aside from navigating a tenth of a mile of fierce a.m. commuting traffic crossing Huntington Avenue, it’s a nice ride in on Cranston Street passing kids waiting for the school bus, crossing guards, and light traffic on the south side. Going home is another story – there’s more traffic on Cranston Street at night – but we try to enjoy it – a little slice of city life inserted in to our otherwise mostly rural / suburban commute.

    While there can be lots of glass on this trail, there are also good samaritans; this morning, coming up through Cranston, we came across a retired gentleman sweeping glass off the path with a broom. 🙂 Also, if you like ice cream, this path has several different stop options (dieters beware.)

  • Anj, I am jealous that you get to commute on a nice bikepath! Is work somewhere near the North end of the path, or do you ride in all the way to the downcity area? If the latter, I’d be curious which way you go, and how you’ve found it to be. Either way, kudos for the serious bike commute!

    (oh, and an ice cream stop once in while would be key!)

  • I have been on this bike path dozens of times and enjoy it as much as the Blackstone bike path, with that old industrial look. But I wish there was a plan to build it into Providence, the southern end is planed, the Blackstone into Providence is being planned, and the east bay is getting better connected with the Iway. There are definitely challenges with this section, but at the northern there is an unused tunnel that could be used to move it up to at least Union Ave, from there a path could be laid toward olneyville to connect to the Woonasquatucket bike path and the planed Broadway bike lanes. Does anyone know if this is on RIDOT or Providence City Radar? We could see more bike commuters from along the path if it was better connected to downtown.

  • jef: i can drive you to the ice cream and we can wave to people on bikes next time i’m up.

  • Hit send before I could say that this is my favorite bike path as well, and not just because of the ice cream. while I have been on it during the week and never the weekends it usually isn’t crowded and there’s lots of shade and pretty things to look at.

    I would have preferred to ride it from home/to home (in Providence) but having been hit by a car, I am simply not comfortable riding on some of the very congested streets, so I would park at KMart and ride the length and back.

  • This is a great path and the main downside is its unceremonious end. However, the country roads out in that part of the state are fairly conducive to road cycling (although I’m guessing there is quite a bit of sand on those roads right now – somebody please correct me if I’m wrong). The northernmost 4 miles is a little dull – just a completely straight shot down a “tree-tunnel.” Not much to see, but this is made up by the section that runs along the mills.

    Getting the the northern trailhead from Providence is not too difficult once you get used to the route. I take Westminster to Cranston Street, then under Rt 10 (the hairiest part), left on Garfield, turn into the Police station, and there it is! It’s a great way to get to Trader Joe’s, Target and other stores along Bald Hill road. I like P Boyce’s idea – that would make it even more accessible.

  • It is nice to have the little bit of urbanity feel to it and of course it is the most convenient for running errands as it comes really close to Bald Hill Road (so one can head over to Trader Joe’s, for instance).

    But, despite the congestion, there is nothing to compare to when you hit mile 11 of the EBBP and get the beautiful view across to Rumstick Point and then later at mile 13.5 when you get to Mill Pond and Bristol Harbor opens up in front of you.

  • I looove this path. It’s great to catch a breeze after work on a hot day. The ice cream stops are a bonus. We sometimes take a picnic. I can’t wait until it’s connected all the way.

    I think the shortcoming of this path is its accessibility to bikers from Providence. Getting there is nerve-wracking, especially if you aren’t a hardened urban biker or if you have kids with you. Now that my kid is too big for a bike seat, I guess we’ll have to drive there- I would never advise a kid (or a less than hard-core biker of any kind) to ride their bike down Cranston Street.
    I’d love to see the path continue to Westminster Street, which is both way more sane to bike, and just a short jump to the connection to the Woonasquatucket path. It would have to be on-road through some residential areas to get you there.

    The service road along 10 between Union and Westminster could be great for a on-road portion of the path, and would bring you really close to connecting with the on-road section of the Woonasquatucket path. Plus, you’d come out right at the Green Bar/Scurvy Dog!

    View Washington/Woonasquatucket Bike Connector in a larger map

  • For that matter, if the bike lanes ever get painted on Broadway, it will be a 2-block jump to my proposed connection to the Washington 2ndary at the Scurvy Dog.

  • I connect to it just in this way:

    “Getting the the northern trailhead from Providence is not too difficult once you get used to the route. I take Westminster to Cranston Street, then under Rt 10 (the hairiest part), left on Garfield, turn into the Police station, and there it is! It’s a great way to get to Trader Joe’s, Target and other stores along Bald Hill road. I like P Boyce’s idea – that would make it even more accessible.”

    But you cannot do this in a timid manner. You have to connect with the cars by taking your lane, signaling, OBEYING TRAFFIC LIGHTS (<— this is key to keeping drivers from getting pissed off) and thanking drivers who give you leeway by waving or smiling. I also wear day-glo orange or yellow even on warm summer day commutes. I want to make sure I am being seen. It is hairy and can be scary; Martha and I often grit our teeth as we cross the busy intersection near the on-ramp of route 10. But I try to get the cars around us involved in our safety. I look in windows, point in the direction I am going with raised eyebrows, wait til I get a nod, and then give them a big smile with a thumbs up. The drivers usually then make sure to slow way down and let us get out in front of them – or at least give us plenty of time to get up and get ahead to get in that left turn lane on to Garfield.
    Coming up to Providence from the path, if you come out at Garfield and go all the way up to Cranston St. and hook a right, get in to the middle lane before the overpass light, TAKE A LANE, and then by the second light you are set up to cross Cranston. The important thing is, treat yourself like an automobile. Signal BIG and make eye connections. Watch for glass!
    You can also ride the RIPTA 31 bus to the Parkade (Kmart)

  • Is this path for a woman to run alone on? I would like to run it, but run alone sometimes and worry about safety. I ran the bike path in South Kingston a few times, but felt it was a little creepy.

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