Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Road(s) Closed

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I am fortunate to live near, and to be able to do a lot of my riding in and around the Cuyahoga Valley - with its national park and variety of county metroparks. Between the canal towpath, a rails-to-trails path, a couple of mountain bike trails, and a network of roads into, around, and through the valley, the local area is a Mecca for NE Ohio cyclists.

In the southern part of the valley (that is, the Akron end), there are two main roads that run along the valley floor, roughly parallel to one another, beside the east and west banks of the river, with several roads connecting them along the way. From Akron to the little town of Peninsula, which is right in the heart of the national park, those roads form the backbone of most out-and-back riding loops. 

The sign may say Road Closed --
but that doesn't stop someone on a bike.
Due to erosion problems on the eastern bank of the river, one of these two valley roads has been closed since winter - and I should add, closed indefinitely. Hopefully there is a plan to mitigate the erosion issues where the river comes close to the road, and then reopen it. But so far, I haven't heard any specifics regarding a plan, or any kind of timeline for completion. At least one sign I saw literally says "closed until ?" 

The good news for cyclists is that, despite signs clearly indicating no cyclists or even pedestrians allowed, it's a simple matter to get around the barricades and ride a couple of car-free miles. The closure probably hasn't stopped hikers or joggers, either. Is it legal? Hell if I know - but I was riding through the closed section on Saturday and saw a park ranger who didn't say a word as I went by. It's probably not worth the trouble to stop us - and there's no immediate danger, so why bother? 

This isn't the only closed road in the valley these days.

The northern end of this same road - the end that offered a long, steep climb out of the valley - has been closed for roughly 20 years now. That end of the road was closed permanently and allowed to "go back to nature." I and many other cyclists continued to ride that section of road for a lot of years and observe it as it was gradually reclaimed by plant life. Over the years, as the pavement disintegrated, it became increasingly difficult to ride, and the last time I tried exploring it, I ended up finishing on foot - the former road was virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding woods.

Another road in the valley was closed a couple of years ago - that road formed part of a loop around Hale Farm & Village (a local living-history village/museum) and an old covered bridge that has appeared in photos here on the blog a few times. It also included another long and challenging climb out of the valley if one were so inclined. That road was closed permanently, as the county officials decided they no longer wanted to maintain it. Local cycling clubs petitioned to keep it open - at least for use by cyclists and hikers - to no avail. Again, the barricades and signs don't keep us out, but the road is degrading noticeably. Grass is protruding from the many cracks in the pavement, which leads to more and bigger cracks, and more crumbling asphalt. I still ride it regularly. The red Mercian pictured above with its 25 mm tires works okay, but I'm finding that bikes with fatter tires are becoming more desirable. The Sequoia (32 mm tires) the Rivendell (33.3 mm) and the Motobecane (650B - 37 mm) all feel more reassuring where the pavement is crumbling.

Still another closed road sits right on the edge of the valley, in one of the metroparks, and which also happens to be one of the connectors between the two main valley roads. Locals have been used to this one being closed temporarily for a few weeks every year due to -- (wait for it) -- salamander migration. That's right. Apparently there is some rare salamander that lives in this part of the metropark, and for a few weeks every spring, they have some kind of mating migration from the marshy areas on one side of the park road to the marshy areas on other side of the road. There's probably a bad joke in there somewhere (Why did the salamander cross the road?) For the last couple of years the road has been closed - at least to the cars - more or less permanently. I don't know if the park service has any plans to reopen it someday, but the joggers and cyclists have no complaints about the closure. It's actually nice to have some car-free roads in a park like this one, and the inconvenience to drivers is minimal.

The closed roads do make for quiet, more secluded riding experiences, and offer some variety on rides through the valley. Nevertheless, I'm hoping the latest closure is only a temporary one.


  1. Ah, the "closed road" dilemma. It's great when a road is closed to drivers but still cyclable. On the other hand, it's frustrating when a road or path is closed with no definite opening date (or when it remains closed well beyond its re-opening date) and there isn't a good alternative.

    The bike and pedestrian lanes on the Manhattan Bridge were closed for about 30 years before they finally re-opened a few years ago. Although it's not as beautiful as the Brooklyn Bridge, I (and most NYC cyclists) much prefer it: The Brooklyn is crowded with pedestrians, some of whom stop dead, right in your path, to take "selfies."

  2. I've always assumed no road is closed to a bicyclist!

    Back in ~1987, a friend and I decided to bike all of Ohio's Cardinal Trail, the state's first Indiana to Pennsylvania bike touring route. To me, it seemed important to ride every inch of it.

    Well, we eventually came to a "Road Closed" and detour sign. We rode on optimistically, then came to "Bridge out, local traffic only." We continued and came to a bridge that was truly out, with workers and heavy equipment surrounding a 25 foot gap in the road with a creek at the bottom.

    We could have backtracked and added five to ten miles to that day's ride, but then I saw workers crossing the creek by balancing on a steel beam just above the water. We asked permission, shouldered our heavily loaded bikes, and descended to the beam. Our balance was good; we crossed and climbed up to the other side.

    So we did end up riding every inch of the Cardinal Trail. (Well, unless you count that 25 feet of missing pavement.)

    1. I usually make the same assumption about closed roads -- and once had an experience just like yours -- carrying a bike down an embankment, hopping across a stream, and scrambling back up the other side. It's all part of the fun!

  3. There's one bridge in town near me that's been closed for as long as I've been in town, which is nearly 10 years now. I have no idea why the town has down anything about fixing the bridge, or at least trimming the vegetation around it. It's probably a lack of money and initiative but I haven't looked into it. I'm glad they haven't reopened it to car traffic, really, as it makes for a serene ride and a shortcut across town. The bridge connects two quiet streets, which makes for about a mile of quiet riding (and a busy cross street at one end).

  4. Many is the construction site I've gone around when the workers were gone for the day. Some crews are quite skilled at parking their equipment so that a cat would have trouble getting by. About half the time I wish I hadn't bothered, as you can suddenly find your foot ankle deep in muck, too far along to turn back, but with a bunch of steps through quicksand left to go. I went through one such site this spring and the time I spent cleaning my gear afterward was far longer than what it would have taken to ride the seven miles it saved.

  5. i was pleasantly surprised recently to discover that a rickety "closed" wooden bridge over a rail line ,that our randonneuring club had used for years -until it finally disintegrated two years ago- was replaced by a wide and very solid proper highway bridge. It had been closed & condemned for over 6 years, and we'd eventually been forced to reroute our course. i think there was a spitting contest between the local township & the railroad over who was going to pay for a replacement.

    Now there's one other closed bridge over the same rail line on a road that we'd love to use. i hope they can get that sorted before i get too old to ride that road!