Greater City Providence

Biking the East Bay Bike Path

The East Bay Bike Path (EBBP) is a fantastic asset to the ocean state. Of all the bike paths in Rhode Island, I think this one is the biggest attraction. I say that not because it is necessarily the best bike path we have, but it definitely seems to be the most popular.

Last weekend we took our first EBBP ride of the season from East Providence to Bristol. I believe the ride is about 13 miles, and though you can technically start at India Point Park, negotiating the Washington Bridge is still a bit intimidating. Fortunately, there are a couple parking lots for the path right in East Providence.

The EBBP has a real tourist-destination feel to it. There, you are sure to see people showing off their newest gear, their spandex sportswear, and their bright canary-yellows. But you’ll also see individuals and families roller-blading, fishing, dog-walking, or simply strolling.

It’s still pretty early in the biking season in Rhode Island, the trees don’t even have leaves on them yet, but there were a few patches of daffodils along the path, and despite the cold breeze off the water, it looks like all the ice cream shops are open!

Ice cream and ocean are what I think give this path its tourist-y draw – not that that’s a bad thing. On the contrary, I celebrate it. Where else can you have a great workout with views of pretty people, sailboats, ocean, and stop for an ice cream and/or lunch along the way. One of our favorite routines is to bike south towards Bristol and have lunch at Thames Waterside Grill. There, we get only a few funny looks when we show up in our helmets and ask to sit outside on a chilly day desperate and determined for it to be spring.

Of course, this path, with all its popularity, does have its downsides beyond just the ocean’s gusts and crowds of salmon. There are a lot of cross streets, and each one comes with a stop sign. If you’re in the mood to get on the bike and just blast off for a power ride, this is not the place.

I really don’t understand the stop sign plan here, though. I know that at busy streets it’s prudent to stop and look both ways, and on the roads I do; I even stop at red lights like a good cyclist. But many of these intersections on the bike paths are not busy, perhaps even private driveways, like to the Exxon Mobile property or the Squantum Club. Is it really necessary to come to a complete stop if you can clearly see that there is no traffic? I submit that it is not. As such, I would propose that having stop signs installed where someone self-powered on two wheels is not inclined to stop is setting a bad example. Putting a stop sign where you know someone isn’t going to actually stop, is kind of like saying, “Hey, this is Rhode Island, it’s ok to ignore stop signs. Heck, in some cases we just put them up willy-nilly.” What I’m getting at is, shouldn’t these be Yield signs indicating one must simply yield to traffic?

Despite this, I do, very much, enjoy this bike path, and it is a real Rhode Island treasure that we look forward to every spring. I feel pretty fortunate that, in this little state we call home, we can go a couple miles and feel like we’re on vacation.

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 would prefer to see the stop signs be for the motor vehicles on those less busy streets and private driveways. But I agree with you. I think I would still slow down quite a bit even if the stop signs were the other way around because I can’t trust drivers.

    My favorite part of the EBBP is the Del’s stand that’s usually setup at the intersection of the path and the entrance to Colt Park. I’ve also stopped for lunch in Bristol at this great little sandwich place. I can’t remember the name of it, but I had a great sandwich or wrap there. And then getting dessert at the ice cream shop in East Providence right on the path.

  • I’m in 100% agreement with the stop signs. When there is a little private drive for 3 or 4 houses the stop sign should face the traffic not the bike path. The one that really kills me is the one on the top of the hill in East Providence just before the overlook. The road apparently leads to some defunct oil terminal but the bike path must stop despite the fact that the road leads to a gate that is locked with a rusted chain that clearly hasn’t been opened in years.

  • Isn’t there some political reason for the stop signs being that way? I remember there being a lot of resistance to the bike path way back when it was being planned/built. I wonder if it was a concession to property owners who must cross the path, particularly commercial ones, to limit their liability? I wonder if anyone knows the story?

  • I like the idea of the Idaho stop, but it would require many bicyclists to actually obey the law (currently, many overtake the right of way from cars at stop signs, and I mean after the car has started into the intersection). The best part is asking about the enforcement… our police don’t even enforce cars at stop signs.

  • I think everyone treats them as Idaho stops anyway.

    One of the bigger problems with the cross-roads on EBBP (it has gotten worse over the last 5 years, so I notice) is that property abutters have been putting up privacy fences almost all the way to the road, which means very low visibility until you are right on top of traffic. I detest this because these people all knew damn well what they were buying into. Regardless, the path would also benefit from some convex safety mirrors at key intersections.

  • If the stop signs are not placed there, and some stupid cyclist does not look to see if there is any traffic, s/he probably has a very good lawsuit that the path was not designed properly.

  • I’d be willing to bet that the bike path has significantly improved the value of the abutters’ homes. Well, they are already waterfront properties, so maybe it didn’t improve it that much. Nonetheless, the EBBP is one of RI’s great public spaces. However, for uninterrupted cycling, I prefer the Blackstone Valley or Washington Secondary paths. The Blackstone is a much prettier ride than the EBBP, and both BVBP and WSBP are far less crowded on nice summer days. Also, they have far fewer pointless stop sign crossings than the EBBP.

  • Rhode Island Yield
    If no traffic is coming proceed without slowing down.
    If traffic is coming speed up to beat it!

  • Blackstone is becoming a lot more popular and generally I find it a lot more annoying on a great day because it has a lot more families and people who generally have no idea what “walk on the left” means, never mind “don’t take up the whole frickin path” and “don’t ride ahead of your kids because you have no idea what they are doing behind you.”

    EBBP gets quite busy between Colt St. Park and Bristol center with tourists and they can be annoying, but generally, the stretch from Providence – Colt State Park people know what they are doing. Generally.

  • BTW how gigantic do I look on the bike? I must send the fear of God into people when I am cruising along at 20+ mph. Like a raging Hippo or something.

  • I recommend the Bee Hive on Franklin St. at the end of the bike path in Bristol (continue on the road and take a left) – they have great lattes, scones, yoghurt, granola & fruit, or even egg /waffle breakfasts. It makes the trip back ever so much better!

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