Falmouth’s Shining Star: The Shining Sea Bikeway

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Stretching through some of the most beautiful scenery on Cape Cod, Falmouth’s Shining Sea Bikeway is a beloved and fun route for recreation.

By Dan Mathers | Photography By Dan Cutrona

The Shining Sea Bikeway runs through four Falmouth villages, from Woods Hole on Vineyard Sound up along the coast of Buzzards Bay to North Falmouth. It was created as part of a bicentennial project in 1975, and since then has grown to its current length of 10.7 miles. Its name, “Shining Sea,” honors famous Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful.” The name is taken from the line, “And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

2017-FAL-Bike©Cutrona-4857Pamela Rothstein is a member of the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, which helps support bicycle use in Falmouth. She says the Shining Sea Bikeway has become a treasured part of the town. “It’s a wonderful asset,” says Rothstein. “It has proved to be the number one tourist attraction in town.”

But it’s not just tourists who use the bikeway. It is hugely popular among locals who enjoy riding on the path or using it for walking, jogging or taking their dog for a walk. It’s also used by some for commuting to work.

Scott Lindell, the chairman of the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, works as a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He and several other WHOI scientists ride from their homes to the bikeway and down to Woods Hole each workday. And not just in fair weather. When Mother Nature turns nasty, Lindell says they just dress for the weather and still ride most days. “The rain and cold don’t bother me,” he says.

I imagine few commuters in Massachusetts describe their commute with such joy as Lindell. Instead of complaining about traffic, Lindell talks about fresh air, scenery and the unique appeal of the Shining Sea Bikeway. “You really do bike in close proximity to wonderful stretches of water, beaches, salt marshes and cranberry bogs,” says Lindell. “That’s quite unique. I don’t think there’s another bikeway that encompasses all those wonderful features.”

Because it is so appealing, explains Rothstein, the bikeway does draw a crowd. And it can be congested on many summer days. But when people follow the path’s rules and communicate–stay to the right; let people know when you are passing–things work smoothly. The bikeway’s popularity, says Rothstein, is proof that people want bikeways and will use them if communities build them. “I challenge you to go out on that bike path and find someone who looks unhappy,” says Rothstein. “It’s a mood changer.”


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