M-90 in Michigan’s thumb area starts near the shores of Lake Huron to the east and stretches west about 40 miles. There is a 5-mile section of the road that connects the villages of Lexington and Croswell, two small communities that seem like they’re worlds apart. Lexington is on the shores of Lake Huron and is a tourist mecca in the warm summer months. It attracts people with its sandy public beach, modern boat harbor, tourist shops, and small town parades, such as the annual 4th of July Parade.
Croswell to the west is a small farming community of about 2,500 hundred people. It caters to the surrounding farms that raise corn, wheat, oats, soy beans, sugar beets, and other crops. The town has many small mom and pop stores offering a variety of goods and services. In addition to those independent stores, there is an old-fashioned, squeaky floored Ben Franklin. That store started years ago as a five and dime retail franchise and Ben Franklins can be found in many small towns across the country. Croswell is also home of the state’s only pedestrian suspension bridge that spans 139 feet across the Black River that runs through the town.
I was recently up there and took a leisurely bike ride between the towns along a paved bike path that runs parallel to M-90. Most of the path is about 6 feet wide and set back from the highway at least 15 feet or more. Some sections do run close to the road, but are well marked with tall posts creating a strong sense of safety for both bike riders and walkers. Unlike the city riding I do, I didn’t have to keep looking over my left shoulder watching for cars and city buses that tend to hug the curbs. Nor did I have to dodge broken glass and other city road hazards like geese on Belle Isle.
About a mile and a half west of Lexington, the pathway slopes noticeably downward toward Lake Huron to the east. The slope makes for a rather deceiving, strenuous climb while bicycling west. Along the way the paved path passes old fruit orchards and a 36-hole golf course that overlooks Lake Huron to the east. The path also cuts through acres of farmland, past the local high school, and past Pioneer Sugar, one of the area’s largest employers. Finally, it ends in Croswell.
Dedicated bicycle pathways do make sense, especially along two-lane roads that handle quite a bit of traffic such as M-90. There should be more of them.