For me as a woman alone on a bike all over metro-Atlanta, this kind of pro/con risk assessment happens all day long. In this situation, I was in Clarkston, Georgia, the most diverse square mile in the USA. This path goes for miles but it continually dips out of view and into isolation so it presents constant safety challenges to me.
For what it’s worth, I chose the road. Someone driving by me, forced to give me the legally-required minimum of three feet to pass, could have gotten mad about me being there when there was a perfectly good path right next to us. But on this day, in this situation, that didn’t happen and I counted myself lucky to get where I was going safely. (Note: the number one thing people say to me all day long when they see me on my bike is “Be careful.” I look forward to the day when people say to those on bikes, “Have fun!”)
Cities all over the USA are adding wooded, isolated paths* without considering the specific risks these pose to more than half their citizens (women, children, seniors, those with disabilities or who may be unfit to outrun or outride an attacker). There are simple solutions to these problems if diverse stakeholders are at the planning table and those with privilege in our public spaces actually listen to others’ lived experiences. Please see my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike, for more on this.
* which, by the way, are usually “closed” from “dusk to dawn,” which means they are not usable during significant portions of the year for commuting to school or to/from work and should therefore not be considered part of a city’s transportation plan