Safe and Fun Cycling Routes You May Have Missed
Erie might not be the best town in the world for city riding, but the city on the lake has some pretty solid routes for the budding cyclist in you. Here's a small list of what I think are the best places to go for a ride in Erie, Pennsylvania. If you're from the area, a lot of these you probably know, but maybe there are a few you haven't discovered. If you're new to Erie, great! You'll be riding in no time.
Dedicated and Multi-use Trails:
1. Presque Isle State Park â€“ Length: 12 km loop:
If you've lived here, or even visited, you probably already know that Presque Isle is the obvious first choice. By far the best multi-purpose trail in town with incredible views on both the bay side of the peninsula and the beach side. It's long enough that you get a work out, but short enough to finish in 40 min â€“ 1 hour. You've got your choice of the road or the trail, and road cyclists don't have to worry too much about dangerous traffic-the speed limit is 25 in the park.
The only cons: Presque isle is the first place in Erie to get cold, and the last place to thaw, and even on a good day you're going to battle a headwind for half of your ride. The good news is that it's the flattest trail in town.
Bonus points if you go find North Pier, which is inexplicably a place that many Erie residents are woefully unaware of.
2. Bayfront Connector - Length: approx 8 miles
There are actually two dedicated multi-purpose trails on Erie's bayfront. One of them is pretty well known, the other (better) trail is relatively more obscure. The heavily trafficked Bayfront Connector connects Interstate 90 and the Penn State Behrend campus with the Erie bayfront and downtown area. A wide, smooth, typically empty bike trail runs down its entire length.
Pros: Plenty of space to ride, not a lot of traffic on the trail. Fantastic scenery on the bayfront portion, with convenient access to the Pepsi ampitheater, Dobbins Landing, marina, library, and
Cons: Except for the flat two or three miles on the bayfront, the rest of the trail climbs fairly steeply if you're heading up to Behrend. Of course, this is a pro if you're cycling the other direction.
As I mentioned, there is a second option that runs parallel to Erie's bayfront connector. While the connector runs at sea level, there is another multi-purpose trail on the upper bayside that offers much better views of the lake and bay, a playground for the kids, public space for pets, and some nice leisurely hills. Go here for fantastic sunsets. Believe me. You can access the trail by heading north on any street after 6th & Plum. I honestly had no idea this existed until recently.
3. Asbury Woods Trails -
Option three out of three for decent multipurpose trails in Erie PA, and just about the only option in town if you want to do any trail riding. You have to share the trails with dog-walkers and joggers, but the park is big enough that encounters are rare enough. A lot of the park is fairly flat, with some nice wood-plank creek crossings and boardwalks, but some of the trails in the Walnut Creek area are hilly enough to be fun.
I wouldn't call it mountain biking by any means, but Asbury Woods is the best trail-riding in Erie. As a side note, it is very beautiful here in the winter. Not enough people visit Asbury Woods, but it's a nice little oasis of wilderness in a very suburban area.
Best Traffic Corridors for Bike Travel:
- 6th Street: Takes the cake in Erie for road cyclists, hands down. Tree lined with wide bike lanes and some pretty nice old homes to look at. Icing on the cake is that it's pretty flat.
- 8th Street, but only portions east of Frontier Park area. Anything west of Frontier is too crowded to bike on when you've got 6th so close, but the portion of 8th between Frontier and State features some of the most beautiful old houses in Erie.
- West Lake Rd, especially west of the airport in Fairview. Stop at the Walnut Creek access/marina to rest.
- W. 12th â€“ Dedicated bike trails (separate from road) between Asbury and Powell. Otherwise, get yourself off of 12th for the love of god.
- Asbury, Colonial, Grubb, and all associated side roads are a pretty good bet for north-south travel, connecting Millcreek with the upper Peach development. You can get from the airport to Best Buy without ever using a main road except 38th, but expect to climb, climb, climb.
- Millfair - This is a workout (hills), but it's rewarding and crosses some pretty nice countryside once you get up toward Interstate 90.
Ideas For Longer, More Intense Rides
Check out mapmyride.com to plan more involved routes than the above. Here are some ideas for longer 20-50 mile rides and daytrips:
Erie â€“ Northeast: Manageable day trip, not too hilly, good scenery through Northeast's wine country. When you're in Northeast, either check out the vineyards or go to the Boston Bean cafÃ©. Probably the best coffee shop in Northwestern PA.
Erie â€“ Peak & Peak ski resort: Long trip, but mostly backroads. There are hills, so get in shape before biking this one.
Erie â€“ Conneaut Lake: This would make a really nice weekend tour, but you've got to be ready to put some mileage on those pedals-this is probably 80 or so miles round trip. Leave early Saturday morning and cover the fifty miles to Chautaqua Lake before noon. Spend the rest of the day eating, drinking, and hanging out by the lake. Visit Beamus Point and the Chautaqua Institution for some music & art, and then rest up for the return trip on Sunday. Better yet, if you've got a touring bike, throw a tent and some gear on your rack and make a camping trip out of it.
There you go...
Some of the best places to take up cycling in Erie, Pennsylvania. Like I said, this isn't the most bike friendly town on the planet, but if you look hard enough there are some gems. Presque Isle is a treasure, and as much tourism as it gets I think people that are actually from Erie tend to under-utilize it. Biking is an incredible way to get outside, get in shape, and improve your wellness.
If the idea of extended bike rides excited you and you think you might want to get into bicycle touring, check out my Guide to the 2011 Touring Bike Market, or take a look at this excellent book: Road Biking Western Pennsylvania (Road Biking Series)
Until next time, happy cycling.