This article from the Sacramento Bee about bike riding on the Parkway trail thankfully notes the danger (final paragraph of post) of riding in the Lower Reach—between Discovery Park and Cal Expo—whole also noting the beauty of the experience when it is safe.
“Riding a bicycle is something nearly everyone can appreciate, whether you’re heading out for a slow cruise with friends and family or throwing your leg over a tricked-out road racing bike for some serious training miles.
“The one gathering spot that illustrates this more than anywhere else is the American River Parkway trail, the amazing stretch of pavement from Discovery Park downtown all the way to Folsom Lake – hugging the river most of the way and offering all kinds of brushes with wildlife for 32-plus miles.
“We rode the trail on Sunday, with a couple of additional jaunts along the route, for nearly 70 miles round trip and a modest 1,300 feet of climbing without ever encountering a car.
“For this installment of “Great Rides,” we’re going to point out the ways folks can take advantage of the trail, whether you want a short ride with plenty of stops to take in the natural beauty or a long ride that will burn a few thousand calories and get you ready for the coming century rides, touring or even racing.
“Something in between? The parkway trail can accommodate that, too. Often, a 10- or 15-mile ride at a brisk pace is all you need to work those legs muscles, break a sweat and get the heart pumping.
“One quick word of caution: There is a time and place for everything, and riding at high speed on a crowded trail is not only inconsiderate, it’s dangerous. On Sunday, I saw a couple of large groups of would-be racers exercising poor judgment in doing this. There are quiet, remote stretches of the trail where picking up the pace is reasonable, but doing so in crowded areas will make you unpopular in a hurry.
“Speaking of crowds, February has given us the first hints of spring, with a pleasant stretch of warm, sunny weather. The days are getting longer, and many of you will start to have a hankering for a good bike ride.
“This is the place. Our bike trail also attracts runners, hikers, bird enthusiasts, sightseers, picnickers and folks walking dogs. In many cases, visitors to the trail are all of those things at one time or another.
“This natural stretch of land through an otherwise urban area makes our parkway perhaps the greatest bike trail in North America. Many already appreciate it, though many more have yet to give it a try.
“In recent years, when the world’s top pros came to town early for the start of the Amgen Tour of California, they did their training on the bike trail – with local cyclists gawking or following along.
“For our long ride this time, we did the entire length of the trail up to Beals Point, taking a couple of detours for some hill training – one a half-mile steep climb up Pennsylvania Avenue in Fair Oaks and the other a two-mile loop through Folsom Lake Estates, where one hill measured a very steep 16 percent incline. Both of these extras can be tackled once or multiple times.
“The only serious climbing on the trail itself is in the Folsom area, with a nice climb near Old Folsom and another on the final stretch up to Folsom Lake.
“For those looking for a gentle introduction to the bike trail, there are several entry points to the parkway.
“There are many ways to enjoy a cruise of about 10 miles in an hour, with stops to take in views of the river and wildlife. Using our map, find a convenient entrance and pick out a suitable distance. If you want to pull off for lunch or coffee, the best places to do this are in midtown, east Sacramento, Carmichael and Old Folsom.
“Beginning at Discovery Park, for instance, you can head up the trail toward the suburbs. Near mile 3.5, you may spot, as I did Monday morning, about a dozen wild turkeys along the levee. This is the start of mating season and the males had their feathers puffed out looking to attract mates. If you mimic a turkey call, they will often answer back (don’t ask how I know this). In a another month or two, we’ll be treated to lines of baby turkeys following their mothers as they cross the trail.
“It’s worth noting that the lower section of the trail has been in the news lately because large groups of transients have set up nearby camps, only to be chased off by park rangers. Many trail users feel uneasy, even unsafe, in this area. I ride in this area on a regular basis and would argue that the best way to make it feel safer is to encourage more people of goodwill to use the trail. If you look around and see other cyclists and runners, you’ll be at ease. If you feel isolated, it may be frightening.”