As part of a recent resurfacing project on Quaker Road in Princeton, a gravel trail for pedestrians and cyclists has been significantly extended, linking the D&R canal trail to trails in the Institute Woods. The new path is a substantial amenity for people who want to explore this beautiful corner of Princeton on foot. But some questions remain about how useful the trail will be for cyclists and people in wheelchairs.
The new trail section extends from the Updike Farmstead to the canal along Quaker Road. It isn’t annotated in Google maps yet, but here is the route:
The new section greatly extends the length of the path, and connects better to the canal trail. People walking the trail can get beautiful views of this undeveloped corner of Princeton, with views over fields that were used as part of General Washington’s route from Trenton to Princeton at a decisive point of the War of Independence.
A trail along Quaker Road is very much needed. Quaker Road is a narrow rural road, but it functions as a short-cut into Princeton for many commuters and hurried people traveling between the town and destinations around Route 1. With no intersections along its route, Quaker Road can at times feel like a closed-circuit race track. Before the trail was built, this was a very hazardous place to walk or cycle. Now, scenes such as this will be visible to more people than those whizzing by in cars:
One example of a nice walk that uses the new path would be to walk from Alexander Road south along the D&R canal trail, then north up the Quaker Road path, and then back to the start by using trails through the Institute of Advanced Study and Charles Rodgers Wildlife Preserve. That loop is about 5 miles and could be done in a couple of hours at a leisurely pace.
From a commuting perspective, the path is still lacking. As it doesn’t connect to roads at either end, cyclists using the trail have to merge into fast-moving traffic, presenting a significant danger. The path is also unlit, and, significantly, made of gravel. A gravel surface is not really suitable for cycling, especially when the path contains uneven sections as is the case here. A smooth asphalt path would be fare more helpful for realizing Princeton’s stated goal of encouraging people to use non-motorized transport options. It is almost impossible to remove snow and ice from a gravel path without seriously disrupting the surface. And we know from the pre-existing path that nature tends to reclaim gravel paths very quickly:
The new path is a good addition to Princeton’s recreational trail routes, and although it should probably be upgraded and connected better to Mercer Road at some point in the future, it is good to see the town investing in facilities for walkers and cyclists.
Have you walked the new Quaker Road trail yet? What did you make of it? Leave a comment to let us know what you think using the form below.