"It's great for bikes, though."
More than half of the state-funded parkway and trail was opened Sunday to pedestrians and bicyclists for a Party on the Parkway, organized by towns along the route. Serious bikers and runners joined parents with young children and others out for a stroll or ride, taking advantage of the cool, sunny morning.
"It's interesting to run on a road you'll never be able to run on again," Joe Harrison of Blue Bell said after completing the party's 5-kilometer race at the Horsham Road intersection. "When cars are on it, I can say, 'I ran on that.' "
But Harrison said he did not see the need for the parkway.
"Like anything else, people will use it," he said. "We'll see. It will attract more people to the area, and the developments will get bigger and bigger."
Dina Geurtin of Montgomeryville said she was "excited" about the parkway, estimating that traffic had quadrupled in the 12 years she has lived in the area.
"I remember the signs with people protesting, 'No bypass,' " Geurtin said as she walked the southern section from Horsham Road to County Line Road with her husband, David, and 3-year-old son, Kai. "So, 10 years later, now that the road has moved in, it's going to help things."
"It used to take me 45 minutes to go seven miles to get home from the Naval Air Station" in Willow Grove, David Geurtin added. "We definitely needed" the parkway.
The road "will make things much faster" for firefighters and other first responders, Bill Wiegman, chief of the Montgomery Township Fire Department, said as he stood next to fire trucks and ambulances on display at the party.
"Hopefully, this will mitigate traffic throughout the area," Wiegman said. "Our mutual-aid fire companies in Warrington, North Penn, and Chalfont will be able to get to our area quicker."
At the northern end of the parkway, New Britain Township Supervisor Bob Cotton said, "It's not really what we wanted - an expressway - but it's better than nothing."
Cotton has worked on the road practically from the beginning.
In 1964, the state Department of Highways envisioned it as part of an outer-ring highway around Philadelphia, through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
Four years later, Cotton got involved as a member of the New Britain Planning Commission, attending meetings with representatives of towns along the route.
The plan fizzled but was revived on a smaller scale in the 1980s and 1990s, with towns from Montgomery Township to Doylestown debating the need for a four-lane expressway.
"Montgomery County people were in favor of it," Cotton said, while residents east of Doylestown opposed it, fearing the impact on traffic and development.
Opponents fought the expressway in court and lost, but the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, with community input, changed the project to the one about to open: a 40 m.p.h. parkway with a parallel, paved trail for walkers, joggers, and bikers. The southern stretch from Welsh Road to Horsham Road is four lanes, but the rest is two.
Trucks will be allowed on the parkway, but billboards are prohibited along it.
"Forty years later, and the area has drawn more people, and, guess what, there's no road," Cotton said, referring to the need for an expressway.
"But you never gave up," his daughter, Deb Kleener, said.
To mark Cotton's work on the project, the parkway bridge over Pickertown Road will be named for him.
Though reaction to the parkway was mixed, the trail got high marks.
"This is beautiful," Rudy Stroh, a Chalfont firefighter, said after riding his bike along most of the route. "I've been waiting for this to open - I'm very pleasantly surprised. I'll use it every day."
Children rang the free, just-installed bells on their bikes as they rode past walkers.
"On your right," they warned, as they were taught in the safety and etiquette course offered as part of the party.
Steep sections of the trail forced some riders to walk, and Barbara Wachtendorf of New Hope said she had to use "all the gears on my bike."
For David Gray of Doylestown, the ride "got a little scary on the way down."
He was riding a replica Hobby Horse bicycle, circa 1819, and portraying its designer, Denis Johnson, sporting a three-piece suit, bow tie, top hat, and bushy mustache.
"There's no brakes," Gray said of the yellow wooden bike. "Just my feet."
Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @breedbucks on Twitter. Read his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.