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RTC TrailBlog

  • RTC's Urban Trails Work a Key Moment in Public Health Shift

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is continuing its growing involvement in combating some of America's most pressing public health issues.

    With convenient access to trails widely regarded as one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways to combat obesity and inactivity, these urban pathways are now thought of as not only recreation and transportation infrastructure, but also public health assets. Many doctors now prescribe just 30 minutes of walking or biking a day as a proactive step toward better physical and mental health.

    At the 2012 National Health Promotion Summit being held in Washington, D.C., this week, RTC's Director of Trail Development Kelly Pack will be one of the key presenters in an examination of how we create built environments that encourage healthier lifestyles.

    Pack is one of the driving forces behind RTC's groundbreaking Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), which has attracted a great deal of attention in both the urban planning and public health communities for connecting the development of rail-trails in large cities with improving social and economic conditions in underserved neighborhoods and communities of color.

    Low-income populations often suffer disproportionately from a lack of physical activity. In urban areas, social and environmental determinants of health--like high crime rates, lack of access to play area and parks, busy streets, and inadequate sidewalks, trails and bike paths--contribute to this inactivity.

    Thanks to the support of The Kresge Foundation, UPI is working to reduce health disparities by providing access to trails and promoting community-based activities in these low-income areas. In Washington, D.C., Camden, N.J., Compton, Calif., New Orleans, La., Springfield, Mass., and Cleveland, Ohio, RTC's UPI work has not only encouraged an increase in trail activity, but has also enlivened neighborhoods and generated energy behind community initiatives and events.

    "That's one of the great things about this Urban Pathways work--that a simple thing like providing a safe place to walk and ride can produce such a variety of positive impacts," Pack says. "Making it possible for kids to walk to school, for people to ride to work or their local stores, has obvious health benefits. But we are also seeing remarkable social benefits, too. Trails like the Met Branch Trail in D.C., and the Morgana Run Trail in Cleveland, have now become gathering points for the community, with fun runs, public gardens and organized volunteer groups. That vibrancy is harder to measure but is certainly wonderful to see."

    Photo of riders on the Met Branch Trail courtesy of M.V. Jantzen.

  • Michigan Reaps the Dividend of Growing Rail-Trail Network

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration last year, we recognized the trail-blazing achievements of Carolyn Kane and the late Fred Meijer, two Michiganders who during the past few decades have made a remarkable contribution to the development of America's rail-trail network.

    Kane and Meijer would be the first to say it was an honor that should be shared with many in their state--for years Michigan has been a leader in building, maintaining and promoting trails, biking and walking. Driven by a number of strong and effective citizen advocacy and volunteer groups, and supported by proactive and farsighted local and state government agencies, Michigan is a model of how to get trails built, and how to maximize their benefits.

    Michigan has the largest rail-trail system in America, with more than 2,300 miles. And they are well-used; there are more than 300 bike tours that criss-cross the state, enjoyed by more than 45,000 cyclists each year.

    And, in a state that has had its share of economic struggles, this network of trails is proving itself to be a substantial and sustainable source of revenue.

    A recent article in Bridge Magazine found that the bike tour business in Michigan is booming, built on the growing popularity of outdoor recreation vacations and the state's expansive rail-trail network.

    Although a statistical review of trail users in Michigan has not yet been conducted, a 2010 University of Wisconsin study found that Wisconsin, which has about three-quarters the trail miles of Michigan, enjoyed more than $920 million in economic benefits due to bicycle recreation and tourism. Of that total, the study credited almost $540 million to out-of-state cyclists.

    The Bridge article quotes Rich Moeller, executive director of the League of Michigan Bicyclists, as saying that the average household income of bicyclists is about $125,000 a year.

    "They are people who have expendable income, and when they come to tour, they want to spend, and they do," Moller said. "(The) local community is seeing dollars from folks coming in from somewhere else. I think that attracting out-of-town folks to your community to spend dollars is always a good thing, whether they come from another state, country or just another town in Michigan."

    Conscious of the importance of trails to the state's prosperity, Michigan continues to build. This June, the Top of Michigan Trails Council will open the North Eastern State Trail, a 70-mile rail-trail that passes through the Great Lakes region and connects to another long adventure, the 62-mile North Central State Trail (above).

    "When it comes to trails, Michigan really gets it," says RTC's Karl Wirsing, who rode the North Central State Trail in 2008. "From the local advocates and businesses right up to the Department of Natural Resources and the funding agencies, it is amazing to see how much the state has been able to achieve. It is also great to see that investment returned, many times over, in terms of tourism dollars and quality of life assets for locals."

    Photo of North Central State Trail courtesy of David Yates/traillink.com
    Photo of Fred Meijer Heartland Trail by RTC.

     

  • Train Trestle From Famous Film Soon to Welcome Hikers and Bikers

    For lovers of American cinema, the scene in the 1986 film Stand By Me where the young protagonists sprint madly across a towering rail trestle (right) to narrowly escape an approaching train is one of those classic moments.

    Now, Americans of all ages will be able to reenact that famous scene in a much more leisurely (and safe) fashion, with the announcement last week that an agreement has been struck to purchase the out-of-service section of rail corridor in northeast California and convert it into a rail-trail.

    The trail will be known as the Great Shasta Rail Trail (GSRT). The right-of-way along the 80-mile section of the McCloud Railway between McCloud, in Siskiyou County, and Burney, in Shasta County, was purchased from the property's owner, 4 Rails, Inc., by the Shasta Land Trust (SLT). Since 2009, SLT has been working with a coalition of local partners, Save Burley Falls, McCloud Local First Network, the Volcanic Legacy Community Partnership and the McCloud Trail Association, with the express intention of converting the corridor into a public recreation trail.

    This railroad right-of-way spans more than 80 miles through the forested mountains of northern California and is a significant property in the history of McCloud, Burney and the surrounding area.

    "It's not every day we get to announce the railbanking of 80 miles of corridor for a new rail-trail!" says a very excited Steve Schweigerdt, manager of trail development in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Regional Office. "This trail will be a crown jewel across northeastern California."

    According to SLT Executive Director Ben Miles, 4 Rails, Inc. agreed on a purchase price well below its appraised fair market value, representing a considerable donation of value by the seller.

    The multiuse GSRT will benefit Siskiyou and Shasta counties and the rural communities of McCloud and Burney by stimulating tourism and recreation-related commerce, increasing neighboring property values, and attracting new businesses.

    The GSRT will connect with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, recreational facilities on adjacent national forest land, and will link to trails around the McCloud River Falls and McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. 

    SLT and its team of supporters is confident of raising the funds necessary to complete the purchase, and have secured a grant for more than half of the purchase price from the California Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program.

    For more information, or to find out how to contribute to the project, visit www.mccloudlocalfirst.org.

    Photo of the McCloud Railway trestle bridge over Lake Britton courtesy of Redbeard Math Pirate/Flickr

     

  • National Bike Challenge to Launch in May

    Are you looking for some extra motivation to ramp up your cycling? Do you love keeping track of your mileage and other pedal-powered metrics-calories burned, car miles avoided, money saved?

    If so, you can add up your stats this summer as part of the National Bike Challenge!

    A partnership between the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Bikes Belong, the League of American Bicyclists and Endomondo, the 2012 Get Up & Ride National Bike Challenge aims to encourage people to bike for transportation and recreation, and to catalog exactly how many miles they're logging every day of the challenge. The program runs from May 1 to August 1, with the goal of uniting 50,000 people to pedal 10 million miles.

    In 2011, Kimberly-Clark partnered with the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation for a pilot of the challenge on a statewide basis in Wisconsin. Based on that success, they're taking the program nationwide for the first time this year.

    It's free to participate (though you must be at least 18 years old), and you can track your progress on the go. Endomondo, a mobile-based sports and fitness tracking community, has developed a free app for mobile and GPS devices to help you upload and log your miles during the four-month challenge.

    While the promotion doesn't officially kick off until May, you can learn more about the rules, point system, prizes and how to put together a team.

    So ... are you up to the challenge?

    Image from Kimberly-Clark.  

  • Boom in Biking Benefits Everyone, Not Just Cyclists

    As the U.S. Congress debates the next federal transportation bill, we're always excited to see the evidence keep mounting in support of the value of trails, walking and bicycling in communities of every size. The demand for active transportation facilities is nationwide, and use increases by the day, from bike-sharing programs to kids walking to school. 

    Another great perspective on active transportation came out a few days ago in Shareable magazine, where author Jay Walljasper argues that developing facilities to improve walking and biking options is a winning investment for everyone. "All Americans are better off," he writes, "because biking and walking foster improved public health (and savings in health care expenditures for households, businesses and government), stronger communities, less congestion, safer streets, lower energy use and a cleaner, safer environment."

    These benefits truly touch everyone, including drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike. "Even if you will never ride a bike in your life," writes Walljasper, "you still see benefits from increased levels of biking. More bicyclists mean less congestion in the streets and less need for expensive road projects that divert government money from other important problems. Off-road paths, bike lanes, sidwalks and other bike and ped improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways."

    For more, check out the rest of Walljasper's story, and find out about trails in your own community

    Image from www.shareable.net. 

  • Lexington, Ky., Pushing to Extend and Connect Local Rail-Trail Network

    The people of Lexington, Ky., are pushing ahead with plans to develop an impressive biking and walking network built around a number of urban and rural rail-trails.

    Lexington Fayette Urban County announced recently it was seeking funding for phase four of the Brighton East Rail Trail, a short section that would link two existing trails and provide a transportation and recreation option for thousands of residents in a number of neighborhoods, and connect them to a number of schools and shopping areas.

    For those familiar with Lexington, phase four will tie into the existing portion of the rail-trail via a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Man O' War Boulevard, to provide a safe crossing over a busy street. For access at street level and linkage to the Brighton Shoppes, a spur from the rail-trail is provided to the corner of Man O' War and Helmsdale Place.

    Since initial sections were opened in 2006, the Brighton East Rail Trail has become especially popular as a safe and accessible place to exercise, a favorite track for a number of running groups, such as the Lex Run Ladies ("women who run, kinda run, or want to run").

    City planners also see the immense value in completing the Brighton Rail Trail, as it is part of the broader Big Sandy Greenway Trail, which will eventually link to other pathways throughout the county. The Big Sandy has regional and statewide significance, with the proposal to construct a trail along the entire length of the 109-mile rail corridor from Lexington to Coalton gaining momentum.

    Planners are hoping to receive grant funding for trail development through the federal Recreational Trails Program.  

    Photos of phase one (top) and phase two (bottom) sections of the Brighton East Rail Trail courtesy of Lexington Fayette Urban County.

     

  • Maine Active Community Conference - Thursday, May 31

    Portland, home to one third of the population of Maine and enjoying a steady growth of both residents and visitors, is taking steps to ensure biking and walking are key components of its bright future.

    The city's Comprehensive Plan released early this year recognizes that "over the next ten years, bicycling and walking will play an integral role in Portland becoming a more livable and sustainable city."

    However, the city also recognizes that its own transportation planning models are based primarily on motor vehicle traffic, and that there are few, if any, tools to effectively measure the performance and activity of active transportation--namely, biking and walking.

    This new focus on active transportation makes the city the perfect venue to host the upcoming Maine Active Community Conference, an exploration of how developing bike- and pedestrian-friendly landscapes can transform communities with better functioning transportation systems, better public health outcomes, and stronger local economies.

    This year's Maine Active Community Conference will be held on Thursday, May 31, and planning, parks, transportation, economic development and public health professionals are invited to attend, as are elected officials, citizens and business owners interested in improving their community.

    This year's event will differ from previous years, with a full day and then an evening session held on the one day. The full-day session is targeted primarily for professionals working in local policy, programs and infrastructure that impact active community environments. The evening session is designed for elected officials and citizen volunteers who are critical to this effort, but who may not be able to attend a full-day conference during daytime hours.

    Both sessions will feature national and regional experts, including Keith Laughlin, president of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, as well as basic and advanced sessions on fostering walking, bicycling and access to places to encourage physical activity. Topics will include project funding, active community design, collaboration, built environment assessment tools, and active community environment teams.

    Registration information will be available soon at healthymainepartnerships.org. There is still time to submit proposals for conference sessions. If your organization has technical expertise in active transportation or the design of active communities, email Doug Beck at doug.beck@maine.gov for a session proposal form.

  • From Mt Rainier to Puget Sound - Relay Race Raises Money for Foothills Trail

    The remarkable growth of the Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay in western Washington very much parallels the growth of the rail-trail upon which it is run--the Foothills Trail.

    The history of the race and the rail-trail are inextricably intertwined. When the first Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay was held in 1992, its goal was to raise money to build the Foothills Trail and help connect Mount Rainier with Puget Sound along an out-of-service section of the Northern Pacific Railroad.

    But year after year, though attracting a great deal of interest from the local communities and runners across the state, the race failed to raise any money.

    However, with the 50.8-mile race from Mt Rainier to Ruston Way in Tacoma about to celebrate it 10th anniversary with the 2012 running on June 2, organizers are set to celebrate another milestone--a tidy surplus. This year's race is poised to raise $10,000 or more for the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition.

    Race director Rob Hester told the Tacoma News Tribune that interest in the race had increased considerably in the last few years. Others credit Hester himself for race entries growing from 240 runners in 2009 to 770 last year, to an expected 1,000 this year, working hard to promote the race across the state, and adding extra events.

    During the past 10 years the trail, too, has gone from strength to strength, as communities along the route pave and complete a number of missing links and replace temporary on-road sections with connected rail-trail.

    The race uses 37.6 miles of paved and unpaved trail, with runners taking to sidewalks and roads to cover the links yet completed. Along the way the route passes through some of America's most beautiful wilderness areas, and a number of small towns.

    Though 50 miles is still 50 miles, anyone considering the challenge, solo or as part of a relay team, will be pleased to know the route is entirely downhill. From an elevation of approximately 1,700 feet at the Carbon River entrance to Mount Rainier National Park, the trail descends to sea level. If this isn't enough to encourage you to give the run a go this year, perhaps envisioning the incredible view looking back at Mt Rainier at the finish will be. 

    More information at www.rainiertoruston.com.

    Photos courtesy of Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay.

  • In Washington, Kirkland Purchase Another Step Toward Eastside Rail Trail

    The people who were there still remember it vividly--- the passionate, inspirational speech given by Ron Sims, then executive of King County, Wash., at Portland University in 2007.

    Speaking before a large crowd of trail advocates, planners and regional officials gathered for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) TrailLink 2007 conference on active transportation, Sims announced his grand vision for the role trails, biking and walking would play in his county, and across America in the near future.

    "Will we be the generation that fails the next by providing them less of a quality of life?" he asked. "Or will we give them a better quality of life than they have today? Trail systems are going to be integral to that quality of life. They're going to be important in every facet of the next generation--they will not be able to escape their benefits. And we must put them in place, to provide options, and choices."

    A few moments later he made a firm promise, that King County would one day oversee the completion of what was at that point a public project with a decidedly uncertain future:  to build a multi-use trail along the out-of-service 42-mile Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line running north-south through the heart of the county.

    "We are going to have our corridor," Sims said. "We are going to make it work, because this trail is important to our region's future."

    With the proposed Eastside Rail Trail (ERT) at that time facing stern opposition from some camps, and apathy in others, Sims' battle cry may have seemed somewhat optimistic.

    Five years later, however, it looks as if the old saying is true-- where there's a will, there's a way.

    Last week the elected council of Kirkland, a key city along the ERT route, authorized the purchase of 5.75 miles of the corridor, an important step in transforming the former rail line into a transportation and recreation resource for King County's growing population.

    RTC's Western Regional Office has been keeping a close eye on the ERT's progress, which, since about 2005, has advanced in fits and starts.

    "We are cheering on Kirkland's vision and leadership in advancing this project," says Laura Cohen, director of the Western Regional Office. "Their neighbor to the east, Redmond, is moving full steam ahead with a plan to develop their section of the trail, also. This is shaping up to be a tremendous resource for the whole region."

    When complete, the ERT will pass within a half-mile of more than 500,000 people, and some of the country's fastest growing cities, as well as Google's growing Kirkland campus, and a future high-density urban center in Totem Lake. It will also connect to 125 miles of existing trails.

    Photo and map of ERT corridor courtesy of Eastside Trail Advocates.

  • Turning Blue for the Environment

    If you're cycling along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Kenmore, Wash., next week and notice some new, bizarrely colored landscaping along the way, don't worry. It may not look natural, but it's all for nature.

    It's an "art action" called The Blue Trees, designed to spur awareness of deforestation, according to officials with the Seattle-area arts group 4Culture, which is organizing the event.

    "Trees are largely invisible in our daily lives, and it's not until it's too late that we realize how important they are to us both aesthetically and environmentally," the project's creator, Australian artist Konstantin Dimopoulos, states on his website. "Each year an area at least the size of Belgium of native forests is cleared from around the planet."

    To highlight the importance of trees, Dimopoulos and a team of local volunteers will be applying a biodegradable, ultramarine-colored pigment to the bark of 40 newly planted birches along the trail near 80th Avenue Northeast in Kenmore. (Several existing locust trees in downtown Seattle's Westlake Park will also be colored as part of the project.)

    Organizers stress that the mineral-based colorant is environmentally friendly. "It's perfectly safe to the trees, the insects and all wildlife," says the artist's wife, Adele Dimopoulos. It will gradually wash off the bark during the next several months.

    The coloring may be temporary, but the trees along the trail are permanent. The new landscaping will help separate and protect trail users from an adjacent roadway, and also help beautify this stretch of the popular 17-mile path north of Seattle.

    And hopefully The Blue Trees will leave a lasting impression. Say 4Culture officials, "In a symbolic way, the project serves to remind us how we have an impact on our surroundings and how we can all effect positive change."

    Image: © Konstantin DimopoulosThe Blue Trees: Spring, Vancouver Biennale 2011: City of Richmond, Photo by David Brown Photography.

  • A Party in Massachusetts to Celebrate Rail-Trail Milestone

    Earlier this month, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy wrote on TrailBlog about the great success of local volunteers in selling sponsorships to fund the installation of mile-markers along the Danvers Rail Trail in northeast Massachusetts.

    In just a few months, the Danvers Rail Trail Advisory Committee (right) has raised more than $4,000, which will also help fund the continued improvement of the popular trail.

    And the good news keeps coming. This summer, the people of Danvers will hold a celebration to mark the fact that the entire 4.3-mile right-of-way the city leased from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is now passable. While the rail-trail is not yet finished, the public party on June 2 is a significant milestone for a project that has moved quickly of late, driven by tremendous local support.

    According to this article in the Boston Globe, the idea to convert the old Boston and Maine Railroad corridor into a recreational trail has been knocking around since the late 1970s, though the majority of actual progress on the trail has come in the past few years.

    Photo courtesy of the Danvers Rail Trail Advisory Committee.

     

  • Once By River and Rail, Travel By Trail Now Thrives Along the Susquehanna

    The Susquehanna River (right) is one of Pennsylvania's most loved natural features, a broad, hearty current that winds southward through the state before emptying in Chesapeake Bay.

    It has also been one of the region's most important transportation routes, host to numerous ferry and cargo operations and the spine of two canal systems. With the emergence of the rail industry, train tracks were laid down right beside the obsolete canals, and so the Susquehanna continued to serve as a tracing point for the movement of people and goods through the Northeast.

    With many rail operations going the same way as the canals, those tracks along the Susquehanna are now the base of a remarkable landscape of rail-trails, with more than a dozen separate trails lining its winding route through the state.

    Thanks to the people of Manor Township, and a generous donation from railroad company Norfolk Southern, that landscape is set to expand, with news last week that the Manor Township Planning Commission has voted to recommend the approval of a plan to develop a rail-trail along the river.

    According to The Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster County, Pa., the trail will run from north of Turkey Hill to the southern Manor Township municipal line and into Conestoga Township.

    The cost of developing the six-mile trail is being almost entirely offset by a generous $1.25 million donation from Norfolk Southern, and $1 million from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

    For the staff of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Northeast Regional Office, which is based in Camp Hill, Pa., the news out of Manor was especially pleasing, as this section along the Susquehanna would perfectly complement a hoped-for connection from the Enola Low-Grade Trail, to the east.

    "Though still a work in progress, the Enola Low-Grade has had a tremendous benefit for the townships it passes through," says Pat Tomes, RTC's program manager in the Northeast. "For the past few years we've been working with the communities along the corridor, providing technical assistance as they seek a way to extend the rail-trail west to the river. This connection would then meet up with Manor Township's proposed trail into Conestoga. What a terrific system that would be."

    Photo of the Susquehanna River courtesy of the State of Pennsylvania.
    Photo of trail users on the Enola Low-Grade courtesy of TrailLink.com.

     

  • Trail Groups Get a Jump on Spring Cleaning

    By Lindsay Martin, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Manager of Trail Development

    Spring is certainly in the air. This winter has been unusually mild around much of the country, and many regions are experiencing spring-like temperatures much earlier than usual.

    According to recent news stories, the early arrival of the season has also meant some trail groups are getting an early start on their spring cleaning. 

    Last week, city crews in Morgantown, W.Va., started their post-winter trail maintenance on the Caperton Trail.

    "The city's parks and rail-trails are a desirable destination for many people, and due to the warm winter have been used more regularly," reported a local news station, adding that the extra traffic meant "trash and debris along the banks of the Monongahela River are more prevalent than usual during the final days of the season."

    Being able to tidy up rails and park areas earlier in the year actually benefits the city in a number of ways, as work crews are able to clear the debris easier without having to work around spring vegetation.

    In Vernon, Conn., the Vernon Greenways Volunteers will begin their regular clean-ups earlier than usual this year. The local group, which partners with the town's parks and recreation department to help maintain 30-plus miles of trail, is modeled after the Adopt-A-Highway program, and is funded by donations from local individuals and businesses.

    These news stories illustrate how two communities have addressed a critical trail development issue: maintenance. After a trail is constructed, regular maintenance is needed to help ensure it is safe for trail users and well-used for years to come.

    Typically, a trail is maintained by a municipality, nonprofit organization or volunteer group--or a partnership that involves some combination of the three. For instance, the Caperton Trail is maintained by a local municipality--the Morgantown Public Works Department. On the other hand, the trails in Vernon are maintained by a public-private partnership between the town's parks and recreation department and a group of local volunteers.

    An effective tool for developing such partnerships is the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding or Agreement (MOU or MOA), outlining the responsibilities of each party, including maintenance and management and any other pertinent issues.

    With maintenance plans in place, these communities were able to be proactive--taking advantage of this mild winter to get their spring cleaning out of the way.

    For more information and resources on trail maintenance, visit the "Management and Maintenance" section of RTC's Trail-Building Toolbox.

    Photos courtesy of the Vernon Greenways Volunteers.

  • Athens, Ga., Lauches New Rail-Trail Project

    Looking wistfully at the famous and much-loved Silver Comet Trail about 70 miles to the west, local organizers near Athens, Ga., are hoping to build a similar rail-trail attraction in their region.

    According to the Athens Banner-Herald, the proposed 39-mile Firefly Trail will follow the former Athens Railroad from Winterville to Union Point.

    "It's scenic, historic and level," says John Stephens, mayor of the town of Maxeys. "It links schools, businesses and town centers, and it's within easy driving distance of more than five million Georgians. It has the potential to bring much-needed opportunities for safe, off-road exercise and economic development to our area, just as similar rail-trails have done in other parts of the country."

    To build community energy behind the project, supporters have organized a bicycle ride along the route this Saturday. For more information on Saturday's ride, email shermankathens@gmail.com or visit www.facebook.com/fireflytrail.

     

  • Rep. Edwards Says Biking, Walking Critical for Underserved Communities

    Speaking at the 2012 National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) yesterday urged transportation planners and advocates to promote bicycling and walking as a means of improving conditions and access in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

    "I want you reaching out into communities like mine, where there are majorities of people of color, where we ride our bicycles, too, and we want clear air and water and all modes of transportation so we can go to and from work," said Edwards, who lives in Fort Washington, Md. "We have work to do as advocates so we can make sure we have the most robust movement for all us, for all communities."

    Edwards' comments provide strong testimony to the importance of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Urban Pathways Initiative (UPI), which for the past three years has helped create trails and encouraged biking and walking programs in urban communities across the country, including Washington, D.C., Camden, N.J., Compton, Calif., New Orleans, La., Springfield, Mass., and Cleveland, Ohio.

    Supported by The Kresge Foundation, our UPI work specifically focuses on empowering under-served communities--typically low-income neighborhoods with poor transportation networks, a scarcity of public green space, and limited access to schools and employment centers.

    "Resident of these neighborhoods confront the problems of obesity, congestion and scarcity of open space on a daily basis," says Kelly Pack, RTC's director of trail development. "Having a trail nearby, or good sidewalks and bike lanes, has an enormous impact. It improves employment opportunities, gives people an inexpensive and healthy way to get around--it reenergizes sections of these cities that have, in many ways, been isolated and ignored."

    Learn more about our UPI work, including a new video about trail safety and downloadable issue summaries.  

    Photo of Rep. Edwards at the 2012 Bike Summit courtesy of Jonathan Maus/Bike Portland.

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