Completely agree. I'm trying to find a video example to show my club members.
Here's a sort of example, but way too complicated:
Spieth’s cart-path shot avoids controversial penalty
What was an incredible shot from the cart part has created yet another rules controversy at a major championship.
Unless I’m grossly mistaken, the process for dropping onto a cart path doesn’t differ at all from dropping anywhere else. There’s a higher likelihood that the ball will ultimately come to rest outside of the relief area, but the process for dealing with that is no different than any other drop either...
Of course, once the initial drop process is complete, the player will likely have the option of taking relief from the cart path, as a distinctly separate procedure.
My "home" course (only remaining course in the county) as well as the next closest course have abandoned their bunkers to the weeds. I believe this was necessary for solvency and it appears to be working. Their FB page suggests they are getting record plays this year, probably due to hosting a lot of weekly scrambles and other events.
I play these abandoned bunkers as a hazard, but I have no idea what the course's intention is. There are no rakes and the edges are losing definition. The surface is almost completely covered in crabgrass or other weeds, with occasional pockets of sand visible. I assume they weed wack them at least once a week. It doesn't bother me much (not that I have much choice). My preference would be to fill them in and grow real grass there. It would be nice to have at least one maintained bunker (perhaps on #18 or somewhere close to the shop to make maintenance easier) just so you can get a little practice for when you go play other courses.
Yes, the relief area is in the general area. And, yes, relief from the cart path may be on the side near the penalty area, and playing from the cart path might be preferable. The main point being, as you said, you can't just drop on the other side of the path. (My fellow competitors look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them they have to drop on the path.)
There are many other ways that this can occur - unplayable relief, relief from temporary water, etc.