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RTC TrailBlog

  • Smith College Students Chip in on Local Rail-Trails

    Across America, college campuses are often hubs of bicycling activity. Students and staff regularly depend on the local municipality having decent bike lanes and safe places to ride--indeed, the "bike-friendliness" of the college's city or town can sometimes be a selling point for prospective undergraduates.

    But rather than just rely on their local trails, the students at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., have taken a proactive interest in their maintenance and development.

    The college was recently heralded for its involvement with the Northampton rail-trail network, work that included funding new crosswalks and bike lanes, producing trail maps and studying future expansion possibilities for these crucial commuter and recreational pathways.

    Students and staff worked with local authorities on the creation of bike paths on the main roads by campus, which dovetail with the rail-trails that been opened throughout Northampton in the last few years.

    A number of students also used internships with the Office of Planning and Development to promote bikeability around campus; one student helped coordinate trail ribbon-cutting events, another studied how many people are within easy walking distance of the new trails, and a third developed an application for national trail status.

    Smith College students also run their own Bike Kitchen, pictured at right, which offers bicycle repair and maintenance workshops, and provides refurbished bikes for students who can't afford their own.

    As a result of its tremendous work, Smith College was awarded the 2011 Trail Neighbor Award by the Friends of Northampton Trails and Greenways (FNTG), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the development of local trails and greenways.

    The Bike Kitchen, and the students' support of their local rail-trails, are great examples of how colleges can encourage biking around their campuses, providing students and staff with better transportation options and promoting healthy lifestyles.

    Congratulations to Smith College, and keep up the good work!

    Photo courtesy of Judith W. Roberge/Smith College.

  • First Annual Alabama Trails Conference a Success

    by T. Jensen Lacey

    This April, nearly 200 attendees came to the first annual Alabama Trails Conference, held at the Civic Center in downtown Fairhope, Ala., April 1-3. In a city originally founded in 1894 as a Utopian colony, the conference brought together trail builders, designers and all types of users in what was deemed "an experience of discovery" by those who put it together. 

    One of the key organizers who helped shape this event was Debbie Quinn of the Fairhope City Council. "We had probably 200 in attendance, and people coming through all day long for each of the three days," says Quinn. "One of the greatest experiences of the event was the ability for all types of trail users-kayakers, bikers, hikers, horseback riders and paddlers-to get together and share their information. This will lead to great partnerships between these groups in the future. The Alabama Trails Commission, which formed last year, also met here, and our speakers were phenomenal."

    Presented by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, the National Park Service, Fresh Air Family and Cheaha Trail Riders, Inc., the host sponsor was the Alabama Association of Regional Councils. Also in attendance were such groups as the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Alabama Hiking Trail Society, Baldwin County Trailblazers and a wide variety of activities and speakers.            

    To learn more about the Alabama Trails Conference, visit www.trails.alabama.gov.

    Photo: Alabama's Chief Ladiga Trail, courtesy of Rail-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Celebrate a Big Trail Opening in New Jersey


    As people who use, build and plan trails know, one of the keys to a great trail system is connectivity. And for many years, New Jersey's expansive 130-mile Liberty Water Gap Trail system has been missing one vital piece in its effort to connect two popular national landmarks across the width of New Jersey: the Statue of Liberty to the east, and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to the west, which straddles the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

    Now, the vital last mile of the trail across the Delaware River--a spectacular footpath underneath the roadway--is complete! This Saturday, in honor of National Trails Day, the trail lovers of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are invited to celebrate the opening of this crucial one-mile extension of the Paulinskill Valley Trail, which comprises part of the Liberty Water Gap Trail system. The opening will take place in Columbia, N.J., at noon, at the intersection of Washington Street and Route 46. Already one of the most loved rail-trails in the region, meandering 27 miles through rural land and small towns along a tributary of the Delaware River, the Paulinskill Valley Trail will now now lead hikers, bikers and equestrians through to the Delaware Water Gap, one of the state's most popular recreation areas.

    A few minor gaps, including one mile in downtown Newark, still remain in the overall Liberty Water Gap Trail. But this Paulinskill extension brings the system one big step closer to creating a continuous 130-mile pathway across New Jersey. 

    Funding for the one-mile extension was provided by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.

    For more information, contact Lisa Patton at the city of Knowlton at clerk@knowlton-nj.com, or by phone at 908.496.4816 ext.6.

    Photo: Paulinskill Valley Trail, by Boyd Loving.

  • Tornado Damages Connecticut River Walk in Springfield, Mass.


    A few weeks ago, we reported on tornado damage to the Virginia Creeper Trail in southwest Virginia. Now, at the end of last week, we received news that a tornado directly hit the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway in Springfield, Mass.

    Jeffrey McCollough of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission snapped a few photos on Thursday, June 9. He says trees were down across the stretch of trail between Memorial Bridge and LA Fitness, including Riverfront Park. Other sections of the River Walk were impassable because of electric wires down on the corridor. 

    Check with the Springfield Department of Parks & Recreation for updates on trail clean-up and conditions.  

    Photos of tornado damage on the Springfield River Walk by Jeffrey McCollough/Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

  • What Can $5 a Month Get You at RTC?

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we understand that support for trails comes in many forms. Some people volunteer for a local rail-trail or take action on a regional or national policy campaign. Others spread the rail-trail word with friends and colleagues, share links on Facebook and forward e-mails, or post photos and reviews from trail trips on TrailLink.com for others to enjoy. Every effort adds up big for us, and we thank all of you for your contributions to our movement! 

    But while many people can donate their time and energy, not everyone is able to contribute financially--especially in larger one-time payments that often come with joining an organization. That's why we developed the Trail Keepers Club. It allows supporters to make a small monthly contribution, charged directly to your credit card and spread out during the course of a year. So for as little as $5 a month, you can receive all the benefits of membership in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, including the print editions of Rails to Trails magazine and discounts on merchandise

    These monthly contributions lighten the upfront burden of membership and make it easier for us to plan ahead. In the end, you often end up donating more during the course of a year, supporting a great cause and hopefully taxing your monthly bottom line a little less. 

    Best of all, next time you receive an e-mail, newsletter or magazine from us,  you'll know you're doing your part to support our work! 

    (Plus, you still get a free t-shirt when you sign up!)

  • This Saturday, Show Some Love for Your Favorite Trail!

    With an amazing variety of trails in every state across America, we don't often need an excuse to get out and do some hiking, biking or riding.

    But if you haven't managed to find time to enjoy a nearby trail lately, National Trails Day is this Saturday, June 4. Hosted by our friends at the American Hiking Society, National Trails Day is a great time to kick off the summer trail season and reacquaint yourself with these fantastic recreational resources.

    Since 1987, National Trails Day has been an occasion to encourage all Americans to use and celebrate the myriad trail networks in our cities, towns, rural and wilderness areas, whether it be on two legs, two wheels, four legs or any other (permitted) use!

    Today, there are more than 200,000 miles of trails nationwide (including nearly 20,000 miles of rail-trail!), providing access to the natural world for recreation, education, exploration, solitude, inspiration and much more.

    Not sure where to find the best trail for a National Trails Day outing? Well, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has done all the research for you. Just visit www.traillink.com, our free trail-finder website, where you can search for trails by location, length, surface or your favorite activity--anything from taking a nice relaxing stroll to going geocaching.

    At TrailLink.com, you'll find trail descriptions and interactive maps, as well us user reviews and photos from those who've already explored the area, so you know exactly what to expect. It's your one-stop trail guide for the whole country!

    Also, if you're looking for specific trail events in your community and would like to meet up with fellow enthusiasts for a great celebration, check in with the American Hiking Society (AHS). Their resources can help you connect with groups organizing events around activities such as trail maintenance, hiking, paddling, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, running races and more. And if you're hosting an event of your own, be sure to let AHS know. You could win cool, free stuff and lots of great promotion, and some of your neighbors might want to join and take part.

    Have a wonderful National Trails Day on June 4--and every day you can!

    Photo by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • New Rail-Trail in Delaware a Key to Transportation Future

    In a speech to mark National Bike to Work Day on May 2, Cleon Cauley, Sr., the acting secretary of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), said cycling and trails were vital to the future of mobility. 

    Cauley's words were music to the ears of cycling and sustainable transportation advocates in Delaware, many of whom attended the Bike to Work Day launch at the University of Delaware's Newark Campus. The event was organized by the Newark Bicycle Committee, a partnership of cyclists and agencies working to improve options for bicycling in one of the state's most populous cities.

    "DelDOT is committed to continuing our efforts to make Delaware more bicycle friendly," Cauley said. "In the coming years, our transportation needs will change. As fuel prices continue to rise, more people will park their cars. They will walk, ride their bikes or ride a bus. We have already seen dramatic increases in the past two years. To ignore this trend is to do a great disservice to the people of Delaware."

    Delaware, like many American states, is struggling to provide adequate, safe bike lanes and facilities for the burgeoning fleet of residents who choose cycling as a regular form of transportation. According to Cauley, there were 158 car/bicycle accidents in Delaware in 2010, 96 percent of which resulted in injury. More than a fifth of those accidents involved children younger than 15.

    "Like most of you, I find those numbers unacceptable," Cauley said. "We must provide better facilities for bikes, and we must have fewer people getting killed."

    Part of Newark's plan to accommodate more walking and biking now includes a proposed rail-trail traversing the city from north to south. The Pomeroy Trail, a multi-use asphalt trail along the inactive Pomeroy Rail Line (out of use since 1939), is expected to open later this year, connecting White Clay Creek State Park and the existing James F. Hall Trail north of the city with residential areas and a transit hub to the south.

    The Pomeroy Trail will be well-lit along its two-mile length and will feature three informational kiosks dedicated to aspects of the line's history.

    "This is a very exciting week for us," said Newark Mayor Vance Funk. "For four years, we've been working on the Pomeroy Trail. The trail came about because Senator Thomas Carper gave us more than $5 million to build it. Finally this week, we're sending out the bid package. Hopefully, we will award the contract in late June, and we will finally see it built."

    The state of Delaware has been praised in recent years for its concerted efforts to promote cycling and non-motorized transportation in urban areas. Cauley said much of this momentum was a direct result of political leadership.

    "Many of the recent changes have come directly from Governor Jack Markell, who has made it very clear that Delaware must become more bike friendly," Cauley said. "He made this challenge to us not because he is a cyclist himself, but because he can see what we must do to prepare for the future."

    A few weeks ago, in fact, both the Delaware House and Senate voted unanimously to direct the DelDOT to "create contiguous systems or networks of walkways and bikeways within and between cities and towns in Delaware in order to provide travelers with the opportunity for safe, convenient, cost-effective and healthy transportation via walking and bicycling."

    For more information about other rail-trails in Delaware, visit RTC's free online trail-finder website, www.TrailLink.com

    Photos (top to bottom): James F. Hall Trail, which will connect to the Pomeroy Trail; Pomeroy Trail Bridge in White Clay Creek State Park, by Heather Dunigan. 

  • Newburyport Celebrates Rail-Trail's First Year

    The Clipper City Rail Trail in Newburyport, Mass., was almost 40 years in the making.

    The idea of a rail-trail through the downtown area of this historical seaport on the mouth of the Merrimack River had been talked about since the railroad corridor there became inactive in the 1970s.

    But in the last decade, the city made the development of a rail-trail a priority in its strategic and recreational planning, and today the Clipper City Rail Trail, opened in May 2010, is a spectacular asset, popular among locals and tourists alike.

    So a few weekends ago, the people of Newburyport showed their appreciation for the trail by marking its first birthday with a community celebration, complete with a birthday cake designed by 8-year-old local resident Maddy Vining (pictured below with contest judges Bill Steelman and Mayor of Newburyport Donna Holaday). 

    A 1.1-mile multi-use pathway connecting a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail station with the downtown shoreline of the Merrimack River, the rail-trail provides a vital connection to many local businesses, as well as forming an ideal pathway for visitors to explore the picturesque area on foot.

    Recognizing the importance of the trail to commerce and recreation along the riverfront, more than 2,000 people came out to enjoy the birthday party, which featured a kids cake decorating competition, free cake samples, a raffle for cakes made by local professional bakers, trailside food vendors, roving musicians, planting and mulching with the Green Artist League, kayak rides on the Merrimack River, and free bike helmets courtesy of the Newburyport Police Department.

    The Clipper City Rail Trail features an impressive display of public art installations, a riverside boardwalk made of tropical hardwood, and a number of stairway and spur trail connections to local bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants. Two public schools located nearby, the River Valley Charter School and the Molin School, regularly use the trail for students and teachers to walk to downtown, the harbor, parks and other destinations.

    Learn more about this wonderful recreational and commercial resource in downtown Newburyport! 

    Photos courtesy of Geordie Vining/City of Newburyport.

  • In Ohio, RTC Promotes Cycle Safety for Kids


    This May, Eric Oberg, manager of trail development for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Midwest Regional Office, ran a bicycle safety station at Bremen Elementary School in Fairfield County, Ohio. Though much of his time is spent working with land managers and planners in council offices and boardrooms, poring over maps and technical documents, Oberg loves getting to work closely with rail-trail users. At Bremen Elementary, he was able to roll up his sleeves for bike maintenance courses, and to offer students advice on how to stay safe while zipping around on two wheels.

    "Bremen is only a small village, so often the children here ride on the street," says Oberg. "That being the case, it is especially important they know the correct hand signals and are conscious of rider safety."

    Joining Oberg at the school were local partners Lancaster Bicycle and the Fairfield Heritage Trail Association. The event also continued a great relationship between RTC and Bremen Elementary, where Oberg is a member of the school's Be Safe Committee, formed to promote health and safety in and around the school, including the development of safe routes to school and the recent establishment of a community garden.

    "At RTC, we are very much about creating safe places for children and families to walk and ride," say Oberg. "And this is a part of the job I really love. So much of what we do is behind the scenes, planning and building trails, working with cities and planners. This is about putting a face to RTC, working hands-on to promote our work and our goals."

    For Oberg, school safety has been a particular focus recently. A few weeks ago, he attended a workshop in Cleveland, Ohio, on "walking school buses." Hosted by RTC partner PedNet of Columbia, Mo., the workshop examined the positive impact walking to school can have on child health, and the importance of providing safe and enjoyable means to do so.

    For more information about the event, contact RTC's Midwest Regional Office at 614.837.6782. 

    Photos (top to bottom): Dan Peters, owner of Lancaster Bicycle, talking to a class, with Oberg in the background; and Peters fitting a helmet on a student, by Jennifer McMahon of Jennifer's Studio in Rushville, Ohio.

  • Mobile Muffins


    It happens to all of us at some point. We’re in a hurry trying to get our day started and forget to eat breakfast. If only someone would bring you a tasty treat--a delicious muffin, perhaps. Well, if you find yourself anywhere near Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, you might be in luck! Maid Marian Muffins, operated by baker, teacher and author Jessica Vander Salmis, offers just that. Salmis totes her fresh-out-of-the-oven baked goods in a custom-made muffin carrier attached to her trusty bicycle, a vintage English bike called “Robin Hood,” which inspired the name of her business.

    Salmis' bicycling muffin business has even motivated her to write a children’s book about her adventures. In an interview by Vanessa Marie Robinson of www.fortheloveofbikes.com , Salmis explains:

    Yes, people were very receptive. Children in particular. I think the whole concept of me on my bicycle selling muffins was very fairy tale-ish which is where the idea for the Maid Marian Muffins children's book came about. The book really reflects all the trials and tribulations I went through when getting my baking business rolling.

    Her book is available on the Maid Marian Muffins website, and you can follow her on Facebook to find out where she's pedaling and peddling her fresh-baked muffins.

    Photos by Vanessa Marie Robinson from www.fortheloveofbikes.com.

  • Commemorate Memorial Day on a Rail-Trail!

    Memorial Day marks a weekend of parades and other ceremonies to honor those who have died serving our country. It also signals the unofficial start of the summer season, when swimming pools open, barbecues fire up in backyards across the country, and families head off for weekend excursions. 

    This year, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has created a list of six rail-trails that offer the perfect way to get you and your family outdoors and active while exploring some of America's memorable historical sites and battlegrounds.

    From the Capital Crescent Trail in the nation's capital to the Minuteman Bikeway in Boston, you can experience key moments in our country's history. These former railroad corridors are deeply rooted in American tradition, trials and triumphs, and they provide easily accessible-and inexpensive-getaways.

    For interactive maps, directions, photos and reviews of each of the trails on our list, as well as hundreds of other rail-trails across America, visit TrailLink.com, RTC's free, one-stop trail-finder website. With more than 19,000 miles of rail-trail throughout the country, families everywhere can enjoy a recreational Memorial Day weekend and explore historical sites along former rail lines that helped shape our country.

    1.  Western Maryland Rail-Trail - Maryland

    This 22-mile rail-trail guides you through several eras of American history. The eastern trailhead is located a half-mile from Fort Frederick State Park, which features the stone fort used as frontier defense for the colony of Maryland during the French and Indian War, and later in the Revolutionary War.
    Location: Washington County
    Length: 22 miles
    Surface: Asphalt

    2.  Richard Martin Trail (Limestone Rail-Trail) - Alabama

    This 10-mile rail-trail passes through Sulphur Creek, the site of Alabama's bloodiest Civil War conflict. During the 1864 Battle of Sulphur Creek Trestle, a Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroad supply train moving Union Army troops and goods from Nashville to Atlanta came under attack; more than 200 soldiers were killed. The trail is named for local trail advocate Richard Martin, who continues to push for the improvement and extension of this popular corridor.
    Location: Limestone County
    Length: 10.2 miles
    Surfaces: Crushed Stone, Gravel


    3.  Palmetto Trail/Swamp Fox Passage - South Carolina

    Famous for his guerilla tactics during the Revolutionary War, General Francis Marion earned the nickname "Swamp Fox" by confounding British troops in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. If you're retracing his steps, be wary of recent rainfall. The notoriously swampy conditions from Marion's heyday occasionally overtake parts of the trail as you head through coastal pine forests and wetlands.
    Location:
    Berkeley and Charleston Counties
    Length: 42 miles
    Surfaces: Grass, Dirt

    4.  Capital Crescent Trail - Washington, D.C.

    This 11-mile rail-trail takes you from the peaceful woods of Silver Spring, Md., to the historical waterfront of Georgetown in Washington, D.C.-and only a short bridge ride over the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery, where you can take part in Memorial Day activities. It's a great route to reach the fireworks show in the nation's capital without the hassle of crowds or parking.
    Location: Silver Spring, Md., to Washington, D.C.
    Length: 11 miles
    Surface: Asphalt, Gravel, Crushed Stone

    5.  Minuteman Bikeway - Boston

    This 11-mile rail-trail offers a rolling history lesson. The corridor carries visitors through Lexington and near the Lexington Battle Green, where colonial militia-the minutemen-fired some of the first shots, and suffered some of the first casualties, of the American Revolution in 1775. The pathway begins just west of Boston near the Alewife metro station.
    Location: Boston, Mass.
    Length: 11 miles
    Surface: Asphalt

    6. Jacksonville-Baldwin Rail-Trail - Florida

    Running just outside of bustling downtown Jacksonville, this rail-trail crosses McGirts Creek near Camp Milton, a site steeped in Civil War history. Halfway along the trail's route is the Camp Milton Historic Preserve rest area, once home to the largest encampment of Confederate troops during the Civil War. Today, you may hear naval aircraft on training runs at nearby Whitehouse Field.
    Location: Duval County
    Length: 14.5 miles
    Surface: Asphalt

    Wherever you end up, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

    Photos (top to bottom): Western Maryland Rail-Trail, Capital Crescent Trail and Minuteman Bikeway, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. 

  • Compton Rolls out for First-Ever BikeFest

    Last Saturday, May 21, 120 Compton, Calif., residents rolled out for the first-ever Compton BikeFest. In celebration of Bike Month this May, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) joined forces with the city of Compton Parks and Recreation Department and Hub City Teens to teach local riders about bike safety and the best ways to get around on two wheels in Compton.

    Participants visited several stations featuring demonstrations on bike maintenance, how to ride safely on roads, footpaths and bike lanes, and even took slalom runs through a mini course set up in Gonzales Park just for the occasion. The majority of  participants did not come with bikes, so they borrowed a friend's or took turns on donated bikes to spin through the course.

    A few lucky locals who didn't have a set of wheels rode away with a brand-new bike of their own, thanks to RTC and our partners Kaiser Permanente and the LA County Sheriff's Department, with seven new bikes offered as raffle prizes at the end of the day.

    For those bikes that needed a touch-up here and there, Watts Cyclery mechanics and Cyclists Inciting Change Thru Live Exchange (CICLE) helped out with some running repairs, teaching kids how to take care of their own bikes with some simple maintenance tips.

    For more photos from Compton BikeFest, visit hubcityteens.com.

    Photo of BikeFest by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • New Report on Pedestrian Safety Released

    This morning, Transportation for America released its annual study of pedestrian fatalities in America's urban centers. According to Dangerous by Design, more than 47,000 pedestrians were killed in the United States in the last decade, the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing about once a month.

    More than 10 percent of all of these fatalities occurred in Florida, where Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami filled the top four spots as America's most dangerous cities for pedestrians.

    The study found that an overwhelming proportion of pedestrian fatalities occur on roads lacking safe sidewalks, crosswalks and signals. Also, Americans older than 65, children and minorities are killed or injured in disproportionate numbers.

    Other key findings from Dangerous by Design:

    • Pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of total traffic deaths. Safe walking improvements constitute about 1.5 percent of available federal funding (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is working to double federal investment in trails, walking and biking!);
    • The average pedestrian death rate for African-Americans was 48 percent higher than for non-Hispanic whites;
    • Nationwide, older Americans are nearly twice as likely to be killed as those under 65 years of age;
    • Between 2000 to 2009, 5,163 Floridians were killed in a traffic accident while walking.

    But there was some good news coming out of Florida. After a poor ranking in the 2009 Dangerous by Design report, Lee County in southwest Florida made immediate steps to adopt a complete streets program, committing to making regional roads safe for all users!

    For the full Dangerous by Design report, visit http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011.

    Image: Dangerous by Design report, by Transportation for America.

  • Tornado Levels Trestle on Virginia Creeper Trail

    In the violent storm system that tore through the Southeast a few weeks ago, one of the many tornadoes it spawned completely destroyed a trestle on the 34-mile Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail.

    The rail-trail runs from Abingdon to Whitetop in the far southwest corner of Virginia. It passes through rolling foothills and farm country and provides a huge economic boost to communities along its route. Local outfitters offer shuttle service for visitors who want to pedal the trail in one direction (and with a slight downhill grade), and community businesses, including bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, advertise the Virginia Creeper as a valuable recreation option. 

    Hitting at the end of April, the tornado scattered trestle # 7, located about six miles from the Abingdon trailhead, like a pile of matchsticks. John Mongle, who lives next to the trail, took a few photos of the damage in the days after the storm. Mongle says he spoke with Kevin Worley, director of parks and recreation for Abingdon, and Town Manager Greg Kelly about plans to rebuild the structure. The trestle is insured, and planners are meeting with property owners along the damaged section--between mile posts 6 and 7--to create an alternate route so they can re-open the segment as quickly as possible. The town of Abingdon oversees this section, and managers ask that trail users reaching this break respect private property owners and not trespass on adjacent land. 

    If you are planning a trip to the Virginia Creeper, contact the town of Abingdon parks and recreation department at 276.623.5279 for up-to-date information on repairs and when this trail section will be open to users again.

    Photos by John Mongle.

  • Climate Riders Arrive in D.C.

    On Tuesday afternoon, the rain and storms cleared in time to welcome the 2011 Climate Ride to its finish line on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C. 

    Well-wishers lined the street to cheer the group of more than 150 riders pedal up Constitution Avenue, the final stretch of a 300-mile journey from New York City to raise awareness and funding for organizations working for sustainable energy solutions--including cycling and other alternative transportation choices. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been a partner and beneficiary of Climate Ride since the inaugural event in 2008, and this year 12 riders rode and raised money for Team RTC. We are extremely proud and grateful for their enormous contributions and efforts in completing this ride, and for supporting our work across the country!

    "It was pretty wild," said a tired but happy Steph Rio, one half of the Pedal Pushers duo riding with Team RTC. "When we started, this was more of a personal challenge for me. By the end, I had learned about some of the initiatives, the grassroots organizations and the work in Congress."

    "It's a great time to be able to come here and ride, to push our bodies physically and raise money for a great organization," said fellow Pedal Pusher Sara Lanious, who lives in Philadelphia. "It's exciting--it's surreal right now!"

    Leading Team RTC on the ride was Ken Bryan, Florida state director. It was his first Climate Ride, and on Tuesday RTC President Keith Laughlin joined him and the rest of the Climate Riders for the last 18-mile leg from Silver Spring, Md., to downtown D.C., in part along the Capital Crescent Trail. For Laughlin, who spoke at the final rally, Climate Ride was a great opportunity to stress the important message that trails, walking and cycling have huge potential to help solve a number of pressing social and environmental issues.

    "People in communities across America are tired of high gasoline prices, they're tired of not having any choice but to drive, they're concerned about the obesity epidemic, they're concerned about the impact of their travel on the environment," Laughlin told the riders and their friends and family, against the backdrop of the Capitol building. "All of these things are really leading to a cultural shift... to something new and exciting and different, and the bicycle and walking is at the center of it."

    Author Bill McKibben, founder of the nonprofit 350.org, joined several others speakers--including U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland--at the final rally at the Capitol. 

    "Bicycles are powerful," he said. "They're part of the solution the world over. The bicycle is one of the few things that both rich and poor people can use, that makes as much sense in the global south as it does in the global north."

    But, McKibben said, events like Climate Ride would only achieve so much toward a transportation policy that encourages riding and walking as environmental and public health solutions.

    "We are not going to change things one bike at a time," he said. "If we're going to deal with this climate crisis, and that is what it is, we're also going to have to work politically. Your lobbying is important. And for that lobbying to work, we need a bigger movement."

    Photo: RTC President Keith Laughlin, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

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