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February 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • RTC Featured in North Carolina Public Health Publication

    5 Easy Ways to Create Walkable/Bikeable CommunitiesMarch is just around the corner, with warmer weatherand thoughts of getting outside and getting activenot far behind.

    It's also National Nutrition Month and, in observance, North Carolina Public Health has published a tip sheet outlining simple steps one can take to create a more healthy, active lifestyle.

    In "5 Easy Ways to Create Walkable/Bikeable Communities," the advice is sound and to the point:

    • Understand the issues
    • Speak your mind
    • Write a letter, send an e-mail message
    • Get involved with local trail groups
    • Walk and bike the talk

    Even better, both Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and TrailLink.com are featured as go-to resources for connecting with the trails and trail groups near you.

    For more, see 5 Easy Ways to Create Walkable/Bikeable Communities from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health.

  • Listen: Learn More About Urban Pathways to Livable Communities

    The Urban Pathways to Livable Communities conference begins tomorrow in New Orleans. Hosted in part by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the conference aims to create connections between the fields of transportation, public health and planning on the local, state and national levels. The first day of the conference is hosted by RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative. It will bring together trail advocates and professionals from across the nation to discuss best practices for building and encouraging use of trails in low-income urban neighborhoods. In preparation, RTC and our conference partners have produced a podcast to highlight some of the conference objectives. Take a listen:

  • Active Transportation Included in TIGER Program Funding


    Trail/Bicycle/Pedestrian Projects to Help Create Jobs and Spur Economic Growth

    Announced Wednesday, Feb. 17, several active transportation investments were included among 51 projects to receive TIGER funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) Discretionary Grant Program is a highly competitive, national opportunity to fund transportation projects that are “innovative, multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional,” and that “promise significant economic and environmental benefits to an entire metropolitan area, a region or the nation,” according to the press release from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

    “TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs,” said LaHood. “This will help us meet the 21st century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”

    More than 1,400 applications were submitted. RTC encouraged its partners in our Campaign for Active Transportation to enter the competition back when the TIGER program guidelines were posted in June 2009. It is an exciting measure of progress that several Active Transportation Campaign projects made the final cut, including:

    • Philadelphia, Pa., and Camden, N.J., together received $23 million to develop a pedestrian and bicycle network, including commuter routes close to downtown. The work will provide a double economic lift, creating immediate construction jobs as well as impressive ongoing economic development benefits for areas hardest hit by the economic downturn. The Camden GreenWay will receive $5.8 million, a substantial down payment on the inspiring vision of an interconnected trail system that our partner, Cooper's Ferry Development Association, helped develop for RTC’s Active Transportation Campaign. This grant also will fill gaps in the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, part of the East Coast Greenway.
    • Indianapolis, Ind., was awarded $20.5 million to complete an eight-mile trail in the heart of downtown that will provide critical connectivity to their active transportation system. The project will link commercial, residential and cultural destinations. As with Indianapolis’ case statement for RTC’s campaign, the project reflects careful prioritization to maximize economic, environmental and health benefits of the investment. A video (embedded below) describes this project in more detail.
    • Burlington, Vt., will receive $3.15 million for waterfront development, including a trail that is an important piece of Burlington’s planned active transportation system.

    These three projects alone will receive more than 3 percent of TIGER funding, and nearly half of the funded projects include bicycle and pedestrian elements, such as complete streets or bridge access. View the complete list of the TIGER projects chosen, and check out the Active Transportation Campaign Case Statements RTC gathered from communities across the country in support of more federal investment in trails, biking and walking. They are evidence of a groundswell of support for focused federal investment to complete active transportation systems to make it safe and convenient to choose bicycling and walking for shorter routine trips.

    This post has been edited by Kartik Sribarra to reflect minor corrections to the Philadelphia, Pa., and Camden, N.J., bullet and by Stephen Miller to include a video about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

  • RTC's Active Transportation for America featured by IssueLab

    Bike Pedestrian Detour SignIssueLab, the website that archives and shares research by nonprofit organizations on a number of social issues, has recently featured the work of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC).

    RTC's report, Active Transportation for America, appears in the special feature "Pedaling and Walking: An IssueLab Closeup," a collection of reports, whitepapers and policy briefs on improving access and infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. The report makes the case and quantifies the benefits—for the first time—that increased federal funding in bicycling and walking infrastructure would provide to all Americans.

    This is a critical time for RTC's Campaign for Active Transportation, with the Active Community Transportation Act of 2010—authored by U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer—soon to be introduced on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Learn more, and find out how you can help, at:


    Image provided under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

  • First Lady's Anti-Obesity Initiative Targets Physical Activity Among Youth

    This week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let's Move, an initiative to fight childhood obesity by focusing on nutrition and physical activity at both school and home. At the White House launch of Let's Move, Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, Mass., spoke about Shape Up Somerville, a seven-year-old partnership in his city that has aggressively tackled the problem of obesity. The Somerville Community Path, a rail-trail though the heart of this densely populated city that connects to both the Minuteman Bikeway and the MBTA Red Line, has been an important part of the city's anti-obesity efforts by providing residents of adjacent neighborhoods with a safe place to walk and bike for recreation and transportation.

    The success of the Somerville Community Path as part of a larger effort to combat obesity provides lessons for pathways in other cities. In an effort to understand the nuts and bolts of these and other best practices for urban trails and greenways, RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative is convening a forum in New Orleans on February 25, part of a larger conference called Urban Pathways to Livable Communities. The forum will bring together advocates and professionals working on urban pathways in cities across the nation, including a representative from Somerville, to discuss the challenges and successes they have experienced in their efforts to make pathways in urban neighborhoods safe, inviting and popular places for transportation and physical activity

    By providing space for a casual walk, jog or bike ride to residents of neighborhoods without many other options for regular physical activity, urban pathways become a key component of addressing the national challenge of obesity.

  • How to Ride Safely Across Tracks? Seattle Shows How it's Done

    Streetfilms recently visited Seattle, where they saw how the city addressed a tricky railroad crossing along the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail. By using sharrows that encourage cyclists to cross the tracks at a close-to-90-degree angle, the city has implemented a solution until this section of the trail is complete. In the video, John Mauro of the Cascade Bicycle Club explains how this nontraditional application of sharrow markings educates both cyclists and drivers on what can otherwise be a dangerous maneuver for cyclists.

  • Missouri Governor to Save Iconic Katy Trail Bridge

    IBoonville Bridge, Katy Trail, Missourif there is one stand-out in the rail-trail world, it may be Missouri's 225-mile Katy Trail—the longest rail-trail in the country and a hugely popular destination for trail tourists around the world.

    On Thursday, February 4, Katy Trail lovers had one more reason to laud their favorite trail as Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a plan to save the iconic "Boonville Bridge," a 400-foot-long, steel lift bridge on the MKT railroad corridor in Boonville, Mo. Once retrofitted, the bridge would seamlessly—and uniquely—connect the Katy Trail on either side of the Missouri River.

    The bridge, owned by Union Pacific, has been the subject of much debate and contention since the last train crossed its tracks in 1986. Union Pacific intended to dismantle the bridge and reuse its steel to create a railroad crossing on the Osage River. The Save the Katy Bridge coalition has long-fought this action, citing the significant tourism and recreation revenue the Katy Trail generates, as well as the historical importance of the Boonville structure.

    Gov. Nixon's proposal would give federal Recovery Act funds to Union Pacific to help construct the Osage River bridge, while Union Pacific would transfer ownership of the historic bridge to the city of Boonville.

    Boonville Bridge, Katy Trail, MissouriWe at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), long-time supporters of the Katy Trail, applaud this preservation progress. In 2008, during a trip to Jefferson City, Mo., to induct the Katy Trail into RTC's Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, RTC President Keith Laughlin and staff visited Boonville to see the bridge first-hand. We were awed by its magnificence.

    Congratulations to the coalition, Gov. Nixon and all the Katy Trail supporters who never gave up on preserving this piece of railroad history. 


    Top right: The Boonville Bridge extends across the Missouri River and would connect the Katy Trail on the north and south banks.

    Bottom left: A view of the Boonville Bridge from the south side of the Missouri River. (RTC/Jennifer Kaleba)

  • Does the Trail Cross the Road, or Does the Road Cross the Trail?

    View Larger Map

    Crossings have been on the brain here lately. RTC Blogroll member M-Bike.org has been thinking about them, as well, and recently noticed (in a post that was picked up by Streetsblog) that newly installed solar-powered crosswalk signs at crossings along the Huron Valley Trail in Michigan have been less than successful in getting drivers to stop for trail users:

    Their ineffectiveness may stem from their poor location outside of the driver’s view...Once the trees leaf out, it’s uncertain how much of the sign will even be visible... It should also be noted that these signs were installed on the wrong side of the trail. They should be on the right not the left. Their location is being changed. If we’re not mistaken, these were installed in the fall. Already a driver has taken one out. It’s being replaced.

    The Katy Trail in Dallas is also having visibility problems with flashing-light crosswalk signs. But the problem with this Huron Valley Trail crossing goes beyond design; the signs include audio instructions that tell trail users to "remember to thank the driver as you are crossing the roadway." While a friendly wave is always nice, these crossing instructions leave the impression in the minds of trail users that they use the crosswalk only at the whim of drivers who allow them to cross. In fact, drivers must stop for crosswalk users. Not stopping is a violation of the law.

    This road is scheduled to be rebuilt. Currently, it includes a center turning lane. With reconstruction, M-Bike.org sees an opportunity to include "bump outs, a refuge island, improved street lighting and zebra striping." These improvements could go a long way toward reversing the autos-first mentality at this intersection.


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