The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Lee Drive flap reflects trail need
By ROB HEDELT
And though I discovered that the mix of tar and gravel requires more pedaling effort on my road bike—any bumpy surface slows your roll—it didn’t cause me to wipe out, slip or slide on the road’s main surface.
My only kerfuffle came near the parking lot at the end of Lee Drive, where I got over on the edge of the road where cars hadn’t traveled enough yet to mash down the mix. For just a second, I felt my tire slide and then snag, although a quick swerve back to the more-traveled surface averted a wipeout.
Yes, the surface that’s bumpy and covered with raised rock in spots made me extra cautious, feeling that flying down hills or around corners could cause me to wreck.
But then, I’m built more for comfort than for speed, especially on a road that makes a beefy bike rider more of a slow-goer.
The fact that so many people got upset about the “graveling” of Lee Drive underscores the sad fact that it’s about the only choice many of us have. It’s the only easily navigated bike trail of serious length nearby.
Yes, some short and intermediate mixed-use trails are almost open, and that’s great. Can’t wait.
Others are in the planning stage. Bring ’em on.
But I’m always jealous when friends in Northern Virginia and elsewhere talk about trails where they can cycle 20, 30 or more miles safely separated from motorists.
It’s not the responsibility of the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park to give local cyclists a good spot for bike rides. Its main charge is interpreting our Civil War history.
Using a pea gravel treatment to slow motorists and even fast-riding bicyclists on Lee Drive is in keeping with that charge.
According to park officials, the installation of the new surface was made to slow traffic that routinely exceeded the speed limit. Those speeders endanger the park’s recreational users and threaten both the ambiance and safe travel required for people to stop along its length to read historic markers and see the traces of gun installations.
Even though recreational uses of Lee Drive aren’t central to the park’s mission, it behooves park officials to keep one of the few linear pieces of public land friendly to cyclists, joggers and walkers.
The initial backlash from local cyclists who frequent Lee Drive came right after the pea gravel was put down, in layers so thick that it made doing anything on the road difficult.
Soon enough, it seemed that much of that excess gravel was either brushed off or mashed down by traffic.
Indeed, it became clear on my Saturday ride that the first section of Lee Drive after Lafayette Boulevard is already smoother than the section you hit after crossing Lansdowne Road. Many motorists use that first stretch to and from their homes along Lansdowne.
I imagine that as summer heat thins the tar and traffic continues to mash in the gravel, things will smooth out a bit more on both sections.
On my Saturday ride, there were dozens of cyclists, walkers and runners who still thought Lee Drive a good place to exercise.
Most of us, I’d guess, would love to have other choices, including trails just for bikers or joggers.
Until they arrive, we’ll settle for Lee Drive.
Even in its slightly bumpier state, it’s the only real option for amateurs like me to get some mileage in locally.
Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415