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  • RTC's List of the Top 10 Trails in Illinois

    As part of our feature this month on the great energy behind trails, biking and walking in Illinois, we've opted to take on the probably unwise task of listing our Top 10 Trails in the Prairie State.

    We asked you to submit nominations and make the case for your local trail - and the people of Illinois responded en masse. Not many shrinking violets there.

    Although it will certainly frustrate at least some of the passionate trail champions whose favorite pathways didn't make the list, it was great to hear so much love for a few perennial favorites, as well as a couple of underdogs you might not have expected.

    Without further ado, RTC presents (in no particular order):


    The Top 10 Trails in Illinois.

    1. The Illinois Prairie Path

    57.4 miles - Cook, Du Page and Kane counties.

    One of the first rail-trails inducted into RTC's Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, and a true icon of America's rail-trail movement, the Illinois Prairie Path (right) has a significant legacy.

    In 1963, when the word "rail-trail" hadn't yet entered the American vocabulary, a local naturalist named May Theilgaard Watts wrote to the Chicago Tribune about the out-of-service tracks of the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Railroad through the city's western suburbs.

    "We are human beings," she wrote. "We are able to walk upright on two feet. We need a footpath. Right now there is a chance for Chicago and its suburbs to have a footpath, a long one.

    "If we have courage and foresight... then we can create from this strip a proud resource. Look ahead some years into the future. Imagine yourself going for a walk on an autumn day. Choose some part of the famed Illinois footpath... That is all in the future, the possible future."

    Half a century later, Watts' words look prophetic. Thanks to a community of volunteers and the nonprofit Illinois Prairie Path organization, more than 800,000 users now visit the trail each year and it has inspired the creation of other rail-trails in Illinois and across the country. Get involved: www.ipp.org.


    2. Fox River Trail

    43.4 miles - Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties

    5-star review after 5-star review at www.TrailLink.com testifies to the love for this idyllic but feature-filled gem west of Chicago.

    Windmills, a myriad of bird species, trestles, woods and wildflowers make the Fox River Trail feel like a genuine escape. Intermingled with the natural areas along the way are old mill towns, now great attractions for trail visitors, with pedestrian-friendly downtowns that boast museums, casinos, cafés and shops.

    Extra points for its connections to other trails, including the Prairie Trail in Algonquin, and the Virgil Gilman Trail and Illinois Prairie Path in Aurora.


    3. Tunnel Hill State Trail

    55.6 miles - Johnson, Pulaski, Saline and Williamson counties

    A destination trail that has been a huge boost for local businesses, the Tunnel Hill State Trail (left) is bringing renewed attention to the small communities of Illinois that suffered from the withdrawal of the Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric Company railroad.

    Its 23 trestle bridges (including one that is 450 feet long) and the namesake tunnel are the big highlights. However more and more visitors these days are coming for the welcoming communities along the route, such as Vienna and Harrisburg, and the wildlife, which is accessible and wonderfully on display at the Cache River Wetlands Center, a number of nature preserves along the trail, and the bordering Shawnee National Forest.  

    If you need an excuse to go, the Taste of Tunnel Hill trail ride in June combines a celebration of local growers and produce with trail rides and tours through the area. More info: www.tunnelhilltrail.com.


    4. Madison County Transit Nickel Plate Trail

    21.6 miles - Bond and Madison counties

    The MCT system is a remarkable vision well executed. A hundred miles of urban and suburban trails, many of them former railroad corridors, all link to the public transit system on Illinois' side of the St Louis metro area.

    The Nickel Plate Trail is the longest and most diverse of the MCT trails, connecting suburban neighborhoods close to the metro center with rural rail-trail scenery, tree-shaded lanes and open farmland as the trail runs northeast.

    This beautiful piece of community planning also connects with a number of the other MCT trails, and the Glen Carbon Heritage Bike Trail. Hook into the excitement behind active transportation in this growing metro area: www.mcttrails.org.


    5. Rock Island Trail

    35 miles - Peoria and Stark counties

    Credited with inspiring former United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood's interest in biking and walking, this "slender oasis of woodlands and prairies" ranks with the Illinois Prairie Path as one of the touchstones of the rail-trail movement in the Midwest.

    Built along an out-of-service section of the Peoria and Rock Island Railroad, the Rock Island (right) is now credited with bringing new business to the small communities of Toulon, Wyoming, Princeville, Dunlap, and Alta, which in turn are becoming famous among trail travelers nationwide for their hospitality.

    At its more developed end in Peoria, trail advocates and planners are working to complete missing segments and extend the trail into downtown Peoria and down to the Illinois River. Behind every great trail is a great friends group - there are few better than the nonprofit Friends of the Rock Island Trail, Inc. Learn more about them at: www.ritrail.org.


    6. Des Plaines River Trail

    56.3 miles - Cook and Lake counties

    This recent review at www.TrailLink.com about sums it up: "The trail has a little bit of everything. Some sections go through prairie, others through forests and still others travel next to the river. The trail is relatively flat, making it an excellent trail for biking, running or horseback riding."

    The Des Plaines River Trail traverses north to south along its namesake waterway, and plays an important role in protecting a huge tract of riverine habitat in the counties. Beginning deep in the Chicago suburbs, this trail connects a population of millions to numerous forest preserves, parks and natural wonders, all the way to the Wisconsin border.

    Each year a group of energetic folks stage a half-marathon, marathon and 50-mile ultra marathon along the trail. Start training: www.desplainesrivertrailraces.com


    7. Chicago Lakefront Trail

    18.5 miles - Cook County

    "A fantastic representation for the incredible City of Chicago." A must for visitors and locals alike, the Lakefront Trail (left) is a brilliant example of what centrally-located trails bring to big cities.

    The list of highlights and amenities is long and varied: beaches, volleyball courts, playgrounds, baseball diamonds, tennis courts, soccer fields, neighborhoods, transportation connections, museums, galleries and cultural centers, a Ferris wheel and an amusement park - if the pure joy of stretching out alongside sparkling Lake Michigan isn't enough.

    The lakefront has done a lot to boost Chicago's reputation as an attractive home for people of all ages - and has inspired a succession of bike-friendly planners and leaders in the city looking to build on its drawing power. As far as trails go, this one packs a punch. Keen to live the good life in Chicago? www.activetrans.org.


    8. The Constitution Trail

    36.4 miles - McLean County

    A connected web of trails weaving in and throughout the Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington, the Constitution Trail is known and loved as one of Illinois' most important trail systems.

    So named because it was dedicated on the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, September 17, 1987, the strength of the Constitution Trail is its great utility, connecting a wide range of employment, educational, shopping and recreational spots.

    In addition to the unique collaboration between Normal and Bloomington, the trail benefits greatly from the support of the Friends of the Constitution Trail, a nonprofit that works for expansion and beautification of the trail. More info: www.constitutiontrail.org


    9. Green Bay Trail

    8.9 miles - Cook and Lake counties

    A terrific blend of transportation and recreation, the utility of the Green Bay Trail (right) is multiplied by its connection to Chicago's Metra commuter rail line, which it parallels. Commuters can take the trail to train stations along the way, bikes are allowed on the Metra (in limited numbers), and residents and tourists alike use the trail for exercise and car-free travel between communities.

    Restaurants, community parks and lovely gardens in the North Shore towns of Kenilworth, Winnetka, Highland Park and Lake Bluff line the trail and double the pleasure of the already expansive lakefront views. Beauty and function = a perfect match.

    The Green Bay Trail is actually a rail-with-trail. What, you ask? Learn more: www.railstotrails.org/railwithtrail


    10. Hennepin Canal Parkway

    104.5 miles - Bureau, Henry, Whiteside

    Originally built in the early 1900s to link the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, the length of the Hennepin Canal is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hennepin Canal Parkway which follows it is an excursion into the area's past and a peaceful rural journey.

    The landscape changes slowly from forest to grasslands, to marsh to farmland, and the trail is particularly pleasing during fall when the leaves are changing colors. During winter the canal often freezes, making it suitable for ice skating. In warmer months, fishermen come for the stocked bluegill, crappie, walleye and bass.

    The deteriorating condition of the trail, which is managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, has become a growing frustration for riders. Rather than bemoan the state of affairs and wait for someone else to do something, Friends of the Hennepin Canal have started an adopt-a-trail program, and is eagerly trying to raise the profile of the trail to help attract more investment. Get involved: www.friends-hennepin-canal.org


    11. The Old Plank Road Trail

    22 miles - Cook and Will counties

    Because 10 just wasn't enough and it's impossible to leave out what is one of the most heavily-used trails in the state...

    This rail-trail through the towns of Joliet, New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Chicago Heights follows a route that was originally a Native American transportation corridor, later used occasionally by traders, trappers and missionaries. The old Michigan Central Rail Road (MCRR) line followed, from Lake Station in East Gary to Joliet. Today, more than 127,000 people ride or walk the trail each year. The Old Plank Road Trail is now becoming a crucial part of redevelopment efforts in the region and is boosting transportation and recreation options for many more thousands of residents on the outskirts of Chicago.

    Plug in to the local effort to extend the Old Plank: oprt.org


    Got a favorite local trail you'd like to see get the credit it deserves? Or think RTC got the Top 10 (11) about right? Let me know: jake@railstotrails.org

    All photos courtesy www.TrailLink.com




  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in St. Joseph County, Indiana


    On or about October 17, 2013, Norfolk Southern Railway Company filed for the abandonment of 1.5 miles of interconnected track in South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A "boiler plate" letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-290 (sub-no. 349x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is November 16, 2013. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing, or view a clearer version of the map here.

    The STB has imposed a $250 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project's progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC's website may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the "Trail-Building" section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact Eric Oberg at eric@railstotrails.org.


  • Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to defend rail-trails in the Supreme Court: Wyoming landowner threatens public ownership of rail corridors

    A case scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court over the next few months could threaten America's ability to convert disused rail corridors into public multi-use trails.

    At issue in Marvin S. Brandt Revocable Trust et al., v. United States is whether the American people retain a reversionary interest in railroad rights-of-way that were created by the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, after railroad activity has ceased on the corridor. It is only the second time that a rail-trail case has been heard by the nation's highest court.

    The corridor in this case passes through a segment of land surrounded by Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming that the U.S. Forest Service patented to the Brandt family in 1976. Bisecting that parcel is a 200-foot wide corridor of federally-owned land that had been granted to the Laramie, Hahn's Peak and Pacific Railway company in 1908, for the purpose of constructing a railroad.

    These federally-granted rights-of-way have played a key role in the nation's rail-trail movement, which has built thousands of miles of hiking, biking, equestrian, skiing and ATV pathways across America over the past 25 years.

    Recognizing the great importance of providing public access to the nation's public lands, in 2007 the U.S. Forest Service and local groups converted most of that disused corridor into the Medicine Bow Rail Trail, which has become one of the most popular rail-trails in America.

    This spectacular 21-mile rail-trail, which has provided a significant boost to the state's trails tourism economy, has but one disconnection point - the Brandt property. The Mountain States Legal Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Pacific Legal Foundation are behind the Brandt's effort to sue the United States to bring the public corridor into private ownership and prevent its reuse as a publicly accessible rail-trail.

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming and, later, the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, found that the United States did have a reversionary interest in the corridor, that this federally-held right-of-way could be made available as rail-trail, and rejected the Brandt's claim of ownership. However, unsatisfied with these rulings, and supported by well-financed interests, the Brandts continue to appeal.

    As the only organization in America committed to defending the preservation of former railroad corridors for continued public use, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court this month defending the grand vision of our forefathers that explicitly held that these linear public spaces should remain of, and for, the people. 

    The case affects more than a century of federal laws and policies protecting the public's interest in railroad corridors created through public lands - and could have lasting impacts on the future of rail-trails across the country. Just like our national parks and treasured lands to which they connect, these rail corridors are protected assets in which the public has a unique interest.

    A loss before the Supreme Court would not only potentially block the public rail-trail providing access to Medicine Bow National Forest, but would also threaten rail-trails across America that utilize federally-granted rights-of-way.

    Oral argument in the case is expected in January, with a decision expected later in 2014.

    Learn more about our previous court win in this case ⇒

    For the latest on the case and to get the up-to-date news on trails from across the country, sign up to be a part of our online community.

    Photo of the Medicine Bow Rail Trail courtesy Cycle Wyoming


  • Historic Moment for Great Allegheny Passage as Amtrak Tests Roll-On Bike Service

    Rail and trail is a match made in heaven. All over the world there are great examples of rail operators and trail users working together for mutual benefit. Sometimes that involves trails connecting with light rail stops, or it could be a train carrying riders back to the trailhead so they can enjoy a one-way ride. 

    For years, visitors to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) have expressed their frustration at not being able to combine their ride along the GAP and C&O Canal with trips between popular destinations on the Amtrak Capitol Limited train that runs between Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh (and Chicago), and stops at a number of wonderful trailside communities including Harpers Ferry, Cumberland and Connellsville.

    Why? Amtrak wouldn't allow roll-on and roll-off bike service on the train.

    Local businesspeople and trail advocates were frustrated, too, as they related feedback from overseas and interstate trail tourists that they would be much more likely to visit the area frequently if the same bike carriage service common to many countries, and a number of other rail lines in the U.S., was available along the GAP.

    Finally, progress is being made toward what could be a tremendous partnership between the many thousands of people that use the GAP each year, and Amtrak, which is eager to boost ridership. On Tuesday, Amtrak conducted a very brief "pilot" run of allowing roll-on bike service, with six vertically-mounted bicycle restraints installed in a lower-level baggage area of one Superliner coach.

    As Malcolm Kenton of the National Association of Rail Passengers reports, riders secured their bikes by hooking the front wheel to a padded metal hook, then sliding the rear wheel into a U-shaped metal restraining device that springs up from the floor to prevent the bike from moving.

    According to our friend Champe Burnley of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, though there have been several other roll-on bike tests in Michigan, New York and Vermont, this is the first time that Amtrak has equipped its two-level, Superliner rail cars with bike racks.

    The six slots were quickly snapped up by some of the trails and bike advocates who have been working toward this moment for a number of years, eager to be a part of this historic trip. The Allegheny Trail Alliance, the Virginia Bicycling Federation, and many others deserve credit for urging Amtrak to consider the great potential represented by biking customers. Tuesday was at least some recognition that the penny is starting to drop.

    Largely ceremonial though it was, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and our local partners hope Tuesday's test run is a pivotal moment in our efforts to better integrate train service and trail use along this heavily travelled corridor. As Champe puts it:

    "After this test run of roll-on bike service, it's clear to me that carrying an unboxed bike on a train can work in the US, just as it does across Europe. My only concern is that on routes like the Capitol Limited, which serve bike-friendly cities and hugely popular corridors like the GAPCO and US Bike Route 50, there won't be enough racks on each train to adequately meet demand. If ever there were an opportunity to fill our trains with cycling enthusiasts and grow choice ridership, this is it."

    Photos courtesy Virginia Bicycling Federation


  • In Illinois, Corridor Purchase Paves the Way for Kickapoo Trail

    Some wonderful breaking news out of Illinois today with the announcement that, 20 years since the dream was first dreamed, the land has been purchased for the proposed Kickapoo Rail Trail in Champaign County.

    "The acquisition of the old CSX rail corridor is official," announces the Champaign County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) website. CCFPD led the purchase of a 12.7 mile portion of the rail line from East Urbana to the Vermilion County line, an acquisition was made possible by a mix of local, state and federal funds.

    Even more exciting for locals - it shouldn't be long before actual construction on the corridor begins. Funds are already in hand to begin development of the new trail, thanks to a Transportation Alternatives grant (formerly Transportation Enhancements). The next step is to complete the purchase of the portion of the corridor that runs from the border of Vermilion and Champaign counties east to Kickapoo State Park.

    According to Steve Rugg, current chair of the CCDC Board of Directors, CSX deserve credit for being a generous partner in the project. Rugg says the sale price of $1,208,550 million ($600,000 for the Champaign County portion) is below the appraised value for the property as CSX agreed to make a donation of the difference in the purchase price and the appraised value.

    "We appreciate CSX's willingness to complete the deal at this level," he says. "They've recognized the public benefit of a project like this while still receiving a measure of compensation for their asset.  Everyone's a winner." 

    RTC's Midwest Region Office worked closely with CCDC in their negotiations with CSX over many years, and we are all very pleased to see them close the deal. To all the people who undoubtedly have been working behind the scenes over the past two decades to bring this wonderful project to fruition, our heartiest thanks and congratulations! Another great trail soon to be added to our nation's rail-trail network!

    More information about the trail will be provided as plans develop. If you'd like to learn more about the Kickapoo Trail, contact the CCFPD at kickapoo_trail@ccfpd.org or 217.586.3360.

    Photos courtesy CCFPD



  • Two Minutes With Mike Buehlhorn - Executive Director of MEPRD

    With lots of attention being paid these days to how trail systems encourage healthy communities, there is a lot of buzz around Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois' St. Louis Metro Area. The reason for the buzz? The Metro East Park and Recreation District (MEPRD), which since 2000 has helped build hundreds of miles of dedicated bike facilities and sparked a surge in active transportation. Keen to learn how they do it, RTC grabbed a couple of minutes with its executive director, Mike Buehlhorn.

    In one sentence, what does MEPRD do?

    Metro East Park and Recreation District (MEPRD) was formed to build an interconnecting system of parks and trails throughout Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

    When we asked our members and supporters in Illinois to tell us what great things were happening in their state around trails, biking and walking, you guys kept coming up. What's all the excitement about over there?

    We are unique in the state of Illinois. MEPRD not only builds trails, we also assist other entities, a.k.a. "our partners," by providing grant program funds to them, so together we improve and expand the park and trail infrastructure throughout our shared jurisdictions. We are proud of these partnerships. We all work toward a common goal of providing quality recreational opportunities to everyone in the two-county area. Not only do we think these partnerships are the key to our success, but they allow the region to leverage funds from multiple sources which is vitally important these days with fewer dollars to go around.

    If you're not an avid biker or walker, what's the big deal? Why should your local citizens and businesspeople care about better trails and active transportation systems?

    That is an easy one! To provide healthy alternatives, to cut back on our carbon footprint, to provide alternative modes of transportation (whether that be for doing so out of necessity or those doing so for fun), to retain and attract younger populations, and finally, to understand the current demand for these types of community amenities.

    You guys are famous for throwing a great party. What's a highlight moment from one of your community celebrations that made you stop and say to yourself "gee, my job is pretty cool."

    I assume you are talking about our Independence Day Celebration at Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. On the last night during the fireworks over the Arch grounds, you get that feeling of "wow, I can't believe we pulled this off." It is without a doubt one of the premier locations on the Mississippi River to watch the fireworks from Fair St. Louis, and it's great to have an event that is alcohol free and geared completely towards children.

    There are a lot of counties across America trying to do what you have done, in terms of building connected trail systems. How have you been successful there in Madison and St. Clair counties?

    You need a great relationship between the Board of Directors, staff and the communities that make up the district to ensure the cooperation that is necessary to get projects done from start to finish.

    It's obviously not all victory dances and streamers. What are some of the challenges you face to encouraging more biking and walking in your community?

    There are always issues regarding funding that can be detrimental to any project, and that is where the political challenges take place. We are fortunate to have a great set of community, regional and state leaders that understand and embrace the importance of the work we're doing. Their cooperation and support makes the park and trail projects happen, in turn improving the lives of over half a million residents in the Metro-East.

    Check out a host of great trails events happening in the Metro-East area, including the Mission Possible 5k in O'Fallon, October 19, at www.meprd.org/calendar

    Photo courtesy www.facebook.com/MEPRD 



  • We Asked You - What's So Great About Trails in Illinois?

    As you may have noticed, October is “all things Illinois” here at RTC – all this month we’re diving into what’s happening around trails, biking and walking in The Prairie State.

    So we reached out to our members and supporters who live and work there to get it straight from the source - what’s so great about Illinois?

    We expected a response. What we got was an avalanche of praise and passion for trails all over the state. Here are just some of your comments.


    “Illinois is the home of the oldest rail to trail conversion in the county - the Illinois Prairie Path (right - photo courtesy Jean Mooring). We set the tone for the preservation and rejuvenation of railroad corridors into recreational and active transportation corridors that has spread throughout the country.”

    "The city of Decatur has a wonderful trail system. It's a cooperative venture of several governmental units. The linked trails run through urban, border, and forested areas. I am fortunate enough to live on a trail and I love it!"

    "Diversity - there are many choices, from urban and suburban to rural trails to choose from that makes living here great. I used to ride the streets in the northern Chicago suburbs, but when I retired I moved downtown on the Lakefront Path. With the Bikes on Trains option I can take the trains to many suburban trails and ride back to Chicago. As time goes on there are more marked lanes in the city, more transportation options to remote areas, and more paths to choose."

    “Bike trails in and around Edwardsville continue to improve with interconnectivity that allows for all day rides without back-tracing a single trail.”

    "In addition to Tunnel Hill and Rend Lake bike trails, the City of Mt Vernon is also actively creating bike trails. At some point, hopefully the Mt Vernon trails will connect with the Rend Lake trails."

    “Lots of efforts from big cities and small towns to get out there and use the trails. Accessibility and trail improvements all over the state are getting better. Route extensions and updated bridges are making things safer. Great usage by the young and the young at heart!”

    "The Great River Trail (left - photo courtesy TrailLink.com) from Port Byron to Rock Island follows the Mississippi with many views of this great river. Wildlife, good places to eat and friendly people make the trail more enjoyable.”

    “IDOT's Complete Streets policy allows for 20% local match for ped/bike facilities. This has been a big financial help to communities that support non-motorized travel and want to provide their residents with alternative travel modes.”

    “Galena has a nice trail system which winds along the Galena River from downtown Galena to the Mississippi. A new stretch of 2.8 miles will be added soon to it along the muddy Miss. to eventually bring it south to Savanna.”

    "Many towns and cities are improving their bike routes. We have routes all around the Chicago area that range from prairie to total tree-lined paths. Des Plaines River Trail (below right - photo courtesy TrailLink.com), Fox River Trail, Illinois Prairie Path, I and M trails at Starved Rock and other locations going east toward Lake Michigan. Towns like Buffalo Grove have miles of trails linking homes to parks and forest preserves, some of the best trails around."

    “Former Bloomington Councilman Hugh Atwood and Normal's Garrett Scott for working to establish our Constitution Trail (below right - photo courtesy Friends of the Constitution Trail), 25 plus years ago, despite overwhelming "Not In My Neighborhood" attitudes.”

    "We spend six months out of the year traveling the U.S. and there is no state that offers the variety of paths. As a senior citizen, I appreciate the fact that there are trails for every kind of rider and for the most part our trails are in excellent riding conditions. Illinois cares about its bikers."

    "In greater Chicago, trails are very heavily used! Illinois continues to build beautiful bridges over busy highways (cf. Lombard and Elk Grove). Illinois has maintained and expanded downstate trails, and connected to the Wisconsin system.”

    "The Constitution Trail in Bloomington/Normal serves as a vital link throughout the community. It provides easy access to both downtown Bloomington and Uptown Normal, Illinois State University, both libraries and much retail. I personally use the Constitution Trail literally hundreds of days each year and consider it a safe, economical, ecological friendly and healthy asset for the community."

    "Northeastern Illinois, with Chicago and its 270 suburbs, has hundreds of locally elected public officials (mayors, as well as municipal, park district, forest preserve district, and conservation district board members ) who are fully committed to developing off-road trail systems in their communities, have a great history of already having done so, and are chomping at the bit to get more miles built and connected to neighboring communities. Why? Because trails are increasingly popular and heavily used by local residents, and are among the most popular products public officials have provided from local tax dollars."

    "The new bike safety lanes in Chicago (left - photo courtesy CDOT), and the new bridges on the Great Western Trail in Lombard."

    “The bike share program in the city makes it easy for residents to hop on a bike to numerous destinations. Keep up the good work Illinois!”

    "Biking along the Fox River, which is about 35 miles west of Chicago, is a lovely ride on a paved converted railroad trail. The path is quite busy during the weekends in the tri-cities of Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles, but there are wonderful small restaurants in all 3 towns and Kimmer's Ice Cream parlor in St. Charles is a must."

    "Lake County Forest Preserve has the best bike trail assembly I have ever seen. They are continually improving it. They have cooperated with other state and community organizations to connect their trails. If only our Congress could find this level of cooperation, many of our current problems would be mended."

    "The Madison County Transit trails are amazing. They are well kept, easily accessible and of varying lengths and elevation changes, making them perfect for everyone. The Metrolink trails are becoming just as good in St. Clair County as they begin to build them up and make them more accessible as well."

    "I live near the Salt Creek Trail (right - photo courtesy TrailLink.com) and the natural surroundings are just too good to be true, especially near a suburban environment. I take my grandsons twice a week and they enjoy the sights!"

    "Rock Springs Conservation Area is very supportive of its bike trail. We recently received a bike repair kit located at the Conservations District for trail users who need a quick repair. This was donated by a local business. It's a beautiful way to stay healthy, spend quality time with family and friends, enjoy the solitude and the well-being you feel from being in touch with nature."

    “Chicago is the best big city in the world because of it green space. You can bike or walk all day with very little exposure to cars! It is an oasis.”

    “I love the Tunnel Hill Trail and the Chain of Rocks Bridge over into Missouri.  I also love that Illinois is constantly working on increasing the number and quality of our trails.”

    "I use the Springfield trail system. All three trails are very different and offer very different scenery. Living amongst corn/soybean fields, the trails offer combinations of prairie, woodland and lake views.  I specifically love the section of the Wabash/Chatham trail that goes by the lake - a great bird-lovers ride."

    "The hundreds of miles of bike trails in Madison and St Clair counties. These well-maintained asphalt trails are completely independent of road traffic, and do a great job of getting travelers between several towns and the college campuses of the area. All buses in the region can carry bikes on their bike racks. Bikes are always accommodated on the Metro and new trails are being built to allow bikers to get non-road access to the Metro stations."

    "Great and numerous bike trails all around the Chicago and northern Illinois area. METRA allows bikes during certain times of the day. It's easy to bike around Chicago with CTA's Bike & Ride initiatives. You'll also find bike racks at or outside most CTA 'L' stations... and bikes ride free, with any paying customer!"

    "The trails in Madison County (left - photo courtesy mcttrails.org) have overpasses and underpasses at almost every road crossing making the trails safe for families and everyone to enjoy."

    “The City of Wheeling has completed a great east/west link on Dundee road that will solve many safety issues for bikers."

    "Our legislature is pro-cycling, along with Gov. Quinn.”

    "Fox River Trail is beautiful, if crowded on weekends. It connects to a number of other trails, and the list is growing. Not many states have as bike friendly attitude as Illinois."

    "Miles and miles of fantastic rail-trails, starting with the Illinois Prairie Path, the Fox River Trail, the I & M Canal trail, etc., etc. Also, the fact that there are efforts to link the trails to make off-road cycling from one end of the state to the next a reality (Grand Illinois Trail)."

  • How To Sell 200,000 Ice-Cream Cones: In Illinois, Hard Data Makes the Case for Trail Building

    Looking back, 50 years from now, I suspect this will be seen as the beginning of a new era for trails in Illinois.

    The publication of "Making Trails Count" - a count and study of trail user numbers and spending patterns on six trails across Illinois - is now arming trail planners and advocates state wide with the hard data they need to make the case for why trail building means good things for communities and economies.

    Led by Trails for Illinois and supported by RTC's Midwest Office and Illinois' Office of Recreation & Park Resources, Making Trails Count initially conducted counts and surveys on the Fox River Trail, MCT Goshen Trail, Hennepin Canal Parkway, Old Plank Road Trail, Rock Island Trail, and the Tunnel Hill State Trail in the summer and fall of 2012.

    The Old Plank, Fox River, and Goshen trails received an estimated 127,600, 86,500 and 67,600 annual users respectively, for the first time putting solid data behind what we knew anecdotally - there is a huge demand for biking and walking infrastructure all over the state.

    Says Trails for Illinois' Steve Buchtel: "We want to show Illinois and its communities the Triple Bottom Line benefits-economic growth, improved health, environmental stewardship-that trails are creating. We want to put a number on those benefits so decision makers take them seriously."

    And now, Trails for Illinois is getting ready to release user data for the granddaddy of them all, the Illinois Prairie Path. Given its popularity, we imagine data from the counts there (pictured), which were conducted July to September, will reveal another compelling story about the economic and health benefits of trails to the state.

    Some key pieces of data to emerge from Making Trails Count so far:

    35 percent of trail users reported spending money at restaurants and bars during their visit to the trail.

    Nearly 40 percent of trail users reported household incomes above $100,000.

    The average amount of all purchases during a trail visit was $30.40 per person.

    71 percent of users surveyed were 46 and older.

    32 percent of trail users expected to spend more than 150 minutes on the trail that day cycling, running and walking. The Centers for Disease Control recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity for adults.

    Want to understand what Making Trails Count really means to trail planners in Illinois? Check out this wonderful testimony from the recreation director for the City of Palos Heights, Mike Leonard.

    "If you're selling it to a city manager, or a council, you have to sell the economic benefit of it. The only way you can do that is with documents like this, that directly correlate economic impact to trail use."

    "When a developer comes to town, you can push this across their desk and say 'you know what would work really well here? A microbrewery. You know what would really work here? An ice-cream shop.' 'Why?' 'Well, you don't want to sell 200,000 ice-cream cones?"

    The full report is available as a free download at www.trailsforillinois.org/maketrailscount

    Photos courtesy Trails for Illinois


  • The Shutdown - Is It Impacting Trails in Your Community?

    My wife works for the federal government, so the government shutdown has, unfortunately, been pertinent news in our household this past week, as it has been for almost a million people here in D.C. and across the country.

    I must admit, working for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which is funded by members, I hadn't anticipated much of an impact on my daily life.

    That was until I rode to work on the first day of the shutdown and saw a sign posted across my beloved Capital Crescent Trail at the Maryland/D.C. border, informing me that, as a National Park Service (NPS)-managed property, the rail-trail was "closed."

    I use the term loosely. In the past, collapsed tree trunks and powerlines across the trail haven't stopped the many thousands of commuters that use the trail each week, and there was not much chance this small sign and knee-high barrier would either. A similar sign had been posted on the C&O Canal trail into D.C., which shares the same NPS corridor.

    But it did get me wondering how else the federal government shutdown was impacting trail users in other parts of the country. One bike-commuter I spoke with last week told me he had heard "they" were handing out infringement notices to riders using other NPS-managed trails during the shutdown. Could this be true?

    So, I'm interested in hearing from you, the RTC community. How has the shutdown impacted your local rail-trail? Have trails been blocked for usage? Perhaps serious maintenance issues are starting to arise? Are the locals getting creative in keeping their rail-trail open and maintained during the shutdown?

    Let me know: jake@railstotrails.org. 

    Photo courtesy Bike Arlington


  • Illinois' Constitution Trail - a Backbone of Thriving Communities

    Living in the flat cornfields of central Illinois, it can be a challenge to find scenic areas for trails and greenways.

    But for almost 25 years the Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington have been working together to build a linear park treasured by the community that provides residents and visitors with a variety of terrains and experiences.

    Now a connected web of trail weaving in and throughout "Blo-No," the Constitution Trail is known and loved as one of Illinois' most important trail systems.

    With a quickly growing population and a large number of college students in the area, the Constitution Trail, dedicated and named on the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, has become a critical piece of transportation and recreation infrastructure. Its impact on boosting local quality of life, too, is undisputed. One recent review of the Constitution Trail at TrailLink.com described it as the "Backbone of Thriving Communities." We agree.

    This multi-use rail-trail was made possible through a unique cooperative venture between Normal and Bloomington. In May of 1986, the councils of both communities approved the process of acquisition of land for the new trail. At that time the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad was looking to sell their disused right-of-way that ran right through Normal's Uptown area, and the original section of trail was developed on the old railroad right-of-way going north and south, linking the communities.

    Having grassroots support for any public improvement is extremely important, and especially so for trail development. Friends of the Constitution Trail, along with numerous neighborhood organizations, have provided that support including funding for many of the numerous improvements along the trail. Helping continue this momentum, local groups such as Bike BloNo and McLean County Wheelers have helped keep grassroots pressure on local leaders for active transportation options.

    The Constitution Trail is being designed to link residents to park areas, recreational facilities, shopping and local businesses, students to educational institutions, and provide access to local offices and public libraries. The Town of Normal is currently in the process of implementing a pedestrian/bicycle plan that further links residential areas and provides for the development of shared roadways throughout the community, as well as the development of a wayfinding plan for both the trail and shared paths.

    What will the next 25 years bring? Hopefully an even broader network of trails and shared roadways that will meet the needs of residents in the future.

    Photos courtesy Friends of the Constitution Trail



  • A New Day in California - Reason for Optimism, Work Still to Do

    After months of uncertainty over the future of transportation funding in California, Governor Jerry Brown last week signed into law an unprecedented integrated funding program that we feel, at this early stage, is a step in right direction.

    The change will roll most existing state and federal sources of funding for trails, biking and walking into one fund, to be known as the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The Brown administration believes streamlining the process for financing biking and walking projects will reduce administrative inefficiencies and enable greater state and local control.

    The ATP will combine federal Transportation Alternatives, Recreational Trails Program (RTP) and Safe Routes to Schools program funding, along with state funding sources for biking and walking infrastructure, into a single $129 million fund.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy led a broad coalition of trail supporters to victory in preserving RTP, which the Brown Administration had intended to cancel. Federal transportation legislation gives state governors the right to opt out of RTP, but only one state in the nation - Florida - chose to do so.

    The trails community came out in force, and we successfully turned the Administration around on the important of the Rec Trails Program. Secretary Brian Kelly and his staff realized that RTP funds important projects that improve both active transportation and recreation in California.

    As a result of a compromise with the Brown Administration, RTP funds will be split, with 40 percent going into the new ATP, and 60 percent remaining in a separate Recreational Trails stand-alone program to be administered by California State Parks. But both portions are earmarked exclusively for recreational trail projects.

    That Governor Brown has made active transportation funding such a high profile issue is a great sign for the state's trails and transportation future. But, while we are optimistic about the new single funding source, rhetoric about the importance of active transportation must be matched by an increase in funding.

    The current iteration of the Active Transportation Program represents moving money from one pot to another. While we do appreciate the gains these administrative improvements will make, the next step is to see an increase in funding support for these investments from sources like cap-and-trade auction revenue. There is so much at stake. The evidence is overwhelming that communities with greater access to trails, bike lanes, greenways, and places of active recreation are healthier, economically stronger, and avoid many of the severe downsides of a transportation system dominated by roads. If this is the California we want, then we need to invest in these facilities.

    For more information about California's new Active Transportation Program, get all the facts in our dedicated page at www.railstotrails.org.

    Laura Cohen - Director
    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Western Region Office




  • Spotlight on the Prairie State - 10 Great Things Happening in Illinois

    We have to admit, RTC has a bit of a soft spot for Illinois.

    A lot of that goes back to May Theilgaard Watts, the much-loved writer, illustrator, naturalist, scientist and teacher from the Highland Park, north of Chicago. Her determination that Americans stay connected to their natural landscape in a time of increasing urbanization in the 1960s was the catalyst that led to the formation of the Illinois Prairie Path.

    This year, the Illinois Prairie Path celebrates its 50th anniversary - 50 years of not only serving the residents of Illinois and its many visitors, but also of inspiring the development of new rail-trails across the country. The rail-trail movement has a lot to be thankful for in Mrs. Watts and the other founders of the Illinois Prairie Path for showing us what is possible.

    From city street to rusty windmill, there are lots of great things happening behind trail development in Illinois, and encourage biking and walking as a healthy and sustainable form of transportation. As we kick off our month-long spotlight on The Prairie State, here's a list of 10 Great Things Happening in Illinois. What would you add to the list? Let us know! Email me at jake@railstotrails.org.


    1. Work Begins on the Bloomingdale Trail. The good things in life are worth waiting for, no doubt. It has been 10 years since Rails-to-Trails Conservancy helped local volunteers build support for the idea of an elevated rail-trail along a disused corridor through northwestern Chicago. A decade later, a great idea is about to become a wonderful realityPhoto flickr.com/bloomingdaletrail


    2. Chicago's Bike-Friendly Leadership. Chicago DOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have followed on from where former Mayor Richard Daley left off, building a bike landscape that has seen Chicago rise up the list of bike friendly cities. A boom in protected bike lanes, and the launch of Chicago's bike share program, DIVVY, are a couple of the biggest hits during this fine time for two-wheels in the Windy City. (Love this great video by the Active Transportation Alliance - Everything You Wanted to Know About DIVVY But Were Afraid to Ask).


    3. New State Law Supporting Public Recreation. This summer Governor Pat Quinn approved a new law that will give liability protections to private landowners that open their land to the public for recreation, conservation, and education. This is a massive win for Illinois' effort to connect more people with the great outdoors through trails and greenways. Congratulations to Openlands, The Nature Conservancy, Illinois Environmental Council, and the many other land and conservation organizations that worked to make it happen. Photo courtesy openlands.org

    4. The League of Illinois Bicyclists (LIB) committed effort over the summer to drive public involvement in the Illinois Bike Transportation Plan was coordinated advocacy at its best. In August, LIB Executive Director Ed Barsotti sent a letter to Illinois DOT head honchos with a list of detailed policy recommendations for the Illinois Bike Transportation Plan - foremost among them: factoring current bike/ped conditions into road project selection, and committing at least 80 percent of federal Transportation Alternatives money for bike-related projects. Keeping feet to the fire. The plan is due to be released in December.


    5. Active Transportation Alliances' (ATA) Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign. This much-respected hub of bike/ped advocacy in the state continues to drive Chicago to improve its bike infrastructure. Conscious that ward leaders often have the final say on what happens on the streets in their neighborhoods, the ATA launched the Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign to work block-by-block mobilizing grassroots support for positive changes to Chicago's streets. Among the highlights of this hyper-local campaign has been raising massive neighborhood support for safe bikeways along Milwaukee Ave., Broadway in Uptown, and Vincennes Ave. from 85th to 103rd. Photo courtesy activetrans.org 

    6. GITy Up! Aside from a great name and a great logo, Trails for Illinois' new(ish) annual bike camping weekend has done a great job of making trails touring family-friendly and accessible. GITy Up! is one of the many great initiatives launched by the young and energetic Trails for Illinois and its hardworking executive director Steve Buchtel.


    7. Speaking of Steve Buchtel, Mr. Trails for Illinois has contributed his savvy to the effort to extend the Tunnel Hill State Trail in southern Illinois. Advocates in Pulaski County are working on extending this wonderful rail-trail three miles southwest from Karnak to Grand Chain, and eventually, past Mounds City and across the levees to Cairo. The project has received Transportation Enhancements (now Transportation Alternatives) funding and is pretty much shovel ready. The sticking point now: negotiations with Norfolk Southern Railroad on acquiring the unused corridor. Photo courtesy Enjoy Illinois Blog/Michael Seroni

    8. The Old Plank Road Trail. This 22-mile rail-trail through towns of Joliet, New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Chicago Heights has grown to become one of the most heavily-used trails in Illinois. In fact the recent counts by Trails for Illinois and RTC found the Old Plank (127,637 annual users) attracted far more users than even the Fox River Trail (86,561). And, supported by grants from RTC, its growth continues. On its western end, a new multi-modal transportation center is underway in Joliet, which will link trains, buses, and trails. On the trail's east side, a connection to Chicago Heights is under consideration, which would tie the trail into the region's vast trail network.


    9. Bikes on the South Shore Line. Jon Hilkevitch at the Chicago Tribune wrote this week that railroad officials have announced it is hoping to allow bikes onboard the train between downtown Chicago and the South Bend Regional Airport in Indiana by next spring. The South Shore Line, which services an average of 15,000 people each weekday, is the only major transit operation serving the Chicago area that prohibits bicycles onboard. Congratulations to those local organizations, including the excellent Active Transportation Alliance, for keeping the pressure on. Photo courtesy cityphile.com 

    10. The Imminent Construction of the Cal-Sag Trail. A lot of work has gone in over the years to smooth the way for this 26-mile rail-trail through Chicago Southland to the Indiana border. When it's complete, more than 185,000 Southland residents live within a mile of the trail, and about 1.2 million people within a 15 minute drive. Construction is set to begin any moment, with the trail's western segment, Cicero Avenue in Alsip to Rt. 83 in Lemont, due to open by summer next year.


    Undoubtedly there are tons of other great projects, inspiring people and important works going on behind trails, biking and walking in Illinois. We want to hear about them! All this month we are devoting out blog and social media to sharing news and shout-outs from Illinois.  Using #RTCIllinois, get on our facebook page, retweet the tweets @railstotrails, post some pretty pictures to our instagram page @railstotrails, and help us spread the word about the good things happening in the Prairie State.



  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Linn County, Iowa


    On or about September 25, 2013, Chicago Central & Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 0.49 mile of track within Cedar Rapids in Linn County, Iowa. The corridor is located near the existing Lindale Trail. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a real regional asset: a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    NEXT STEPS: If this corridor is suitable for trail use, we strongly urge local trail advocates, or an appropriate local, regional or state agency or organization, to take action now. A "boiler plate" letter (found here) can be filed with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and the abandoning railroad using STB docket number AB-314 (sub-no. 6x). Filing this letter does not commit its authors to acquire the corridor; it merely gives time to develop a rail-trail proposal and undertake negotiations with the railroad. According to the information we have received, the deadline for filing this letter is October 25, 2013. Even if this deadline is missed, there is probably still time to contact the relevant parties, since the railroad may have experienced a delay in filing all of the paperwork, or the STB may still have jurisdiction over the corridor. However, it is important to take prompt action. The STB posts all abandonment decisions and filings on its Web site, including the complete filing for this corridor. More information on the rail corridor, including a map, can be found in this filing.

    The STB has imposed a $250 filing fee for all railbanking requests. Entities filing a railbanking request may request a fee waiver or reduction, and government agencies will receive an automatic fee waiver. Throughout the process, make sure local government officials and citizen activists are kept informed of the project's progress. We also recommend contacting your state trails coordinator or your state bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.

    Both of these individuals are knowledgeable about state laws and resources and may be able to assist your community with this rail-trail project. Also, you may want to contact the abandoning railroad to add your name to their service list.

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AVAILABLE: RTC's website may provide valuable tools as you plan for a rail-trail, including how-to manuals, the Trail-Building Toolbox, our Publications Library and the Trails & Greenways Listserv for trail advocates and professionals. These resources can be found within the "Trail-Building" section of our Web site. If you take advantage of this information and other resources promptly, you will be well on your way to creating a successful rail-trail in your community. For more information, or if you decide to pursue railbanking, please contact Eli Griffen at eli@railstotrails.org.


  • New Mayor, New Energy for Building a Healthier Compton

    From blazing the way for the nation's first rail-trails back in the 1980s, to the frontlines today of urban regeneration and battling the nation's biggest public health challenges, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has come a long way in a couple of decades.

    Nowhere is the relevance and importance of this urban work better illustrated than in Compton, the city in south Los Angeles that has received far more attention for the bad rather than the good in recent years. But we see great things happening in south L.A., and continue to work with our local partners there so trails, biking and walking can contribute to the city's effort to rebound.

    So we are super excited by the interest that new Mayor of Compton, Aja Brown, has already shown in supporting our goal of getting more young residents biking and walking to school. As an urban planner, Mayor Brown is conscious of how the built environment can either prevent or encourage healthy activity, like walking and biking for regular transportation.

    On October 9, Mayor Brown will join students from schools in South L.A. for International Walk to School Day, an event that RTC's Western Region Office has helped organize to get local kids using the Compton Creek Bike Path and increasing the amount of physical activity they get each day.

    It's no small problem here in Compton, where there is less than one acre of open space per 1,000 residents, less than 10 percent of the national recommendation. This means that children have few places to burn off all that youthful exuberance, to be active and healthy, and to buck the trend toward inactivity and obesity that is devastating communities across the country. That's why we see the Compton Creek Bike Path as being such an important element.

    It was great to see the Compton Unified School District throw their support behind our effort, too. Earlier this month it passed a resolution supporting "efforts to make the community a better place to walk to school in the interest of creating the healthiest and safest school and community environments," and "in the interest of fighting childhood obesity, promoting healthier student and staff lifestyles, and supporting stronger academic achievement." Nice.

    We think these new statements of commitment from Mayor Brown and Compton's education leaders to change a landscape that encourages inactivity and unhealthy lifestyles are great news. Stay tuned - with so much at stake we'll keep working in Compton until students here have the same access to options for biking and walking that many of us in other parts of the country take for granted.

    Photo courtesy www.scpr.org


  • Straight Outta L.A., the Locals Building the Bike Boom

    Los Angeles is really surprising a lot of folks lately, with tons of great energy for biking and walking initiatives emerging from a sprawling city usually known for being very car-centric.

    In my work as an advocate for trails, it is places like L.A. that intrigue me; where space for active recreation is desperately lacking, where the built landscape presents so many challenges, and where there is so much at stake for the people who live there.

    For example, in Compton, where we are working with locals to improve the Compton Creek Trail, there is less than one acre of open space per 1,000 residents, well below the national recommendation of 10 acres per 1,000 residents. And so the people of Compton have few opportunities to incorporate physical activity in their day-to-day lives - to ride a bike, to jog, to walk to the store or even to take a relaxing stroll with friends, all of which has a huge impact on their health and well-being.

    So it is awesome to see L.A. producing so many passionate and engaged locals promoting biking and working to improve their communities in one way or another. Here are just a few things I've been excited to hear about lately...

    CicLAvia. This L.A. version of the worldwide phenomenon now attracts upward of 150,000 riders, a clear indication of the pent-up demand for a car-free bicycling environment. Main roads are temporarily closed to car traffic and replaced with bikes (right), music and entertainment. The next CicLAvia event is October 6. All the info at: www.ciclavia.org. Last year the City of Los Angeles gave $1 million to CicLAvia, a sign of the administration's pro-bike efforts but also recognition that the event is doing tremendous things for the city's public profile! Photo courtesy www.ciclavia.org/ 

    L.A. River Ride. Realizing the powerful message that thousands of riders in one place sends to the city's planners and decision makers, our friends at Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition host the L.A. River Ride each year. The River Ride is a catalyst of the growing momentum behind plans to build and connect a thorough network of trails and bike lanes along the rivers in the L.A. area. More info at: la-bike.org/riverride

    East Side Riders. Based in South L.A., the East Side Riders (below, left) is a bicycle club with a mission to prevent kids from joining gangs and using drugs, and helping efforts to enrich their community. The Watts area is rife with high rates of obesity, asthma and other health problems, and so bike riding is seen as an important, affordable and accessible activity to encourage. Similarly, in a community with clear gang-related boundaries and territories that limit the movement of young people based on where they reside, bikes represent freedom of movement, and access to other social and employment opportunities. It's incredible when something as simple as two wheels and a paved pathway becomes so loaded with significance. More info (and photo courtesy of): www.eastsideriders.org.

    Downey Bicycle Coalition. This volunteer-based organization is a new chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and is encourage their community to make the most of the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River bike paths - part of the Emerald Necklace trail network - that pass through the community of Downey. This group got started just this year, and led its first Bike to School Day event last May, with about 300 participants. It's a group I think we are going to hear a lot more about in the future. More info: www.facebook.com/downeybike  

    Keep it up, L.A. RTC is proud to be working with you.



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