One of the great appeals of gravel roads is their quiet nature. They attract few cars. With fewer cars around, most cyclists feel a little more comfortable.
Indeed, that's the big draw for me too. I personally get uncomfortable riding on busy city streets by myself. For road rides, unless I'm with a group, I usually stick to the paved trails and try to ride on streets that aren't all that busy.
Gravel rides have their own downsides regardless of whether you're by yourself or with a group. Usually you end up in territory that is well off the beaten path and is a ways away from any real traffic. As such, you're pretty much on your own. Still, there's a freedom in it that you just don't get with most road rides.
My worry is that this move – this retreat away from well-built roads – is a capitulation. We’ve given up. You win cars. We’ll go ride where you guys don’t want to go. We’ll stay out of your way. All that worries me.
I can't say I blame him. I've read statements from professional cyclists who have expressed major concerns over the increase in cycling related accidents. Many of these same professionals are now riding gravel.
So, does this mean less emphasis is being done to make road cycling safer? I surely hope not. If you live in the city it's not likely you can ride a gravel ride all the time. As such, advocacy for safer riding environments on streets is critical. Without it then, yes, no action will take place and cities won't waste any time or money on newer bike lanes. I'm worried too.