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March 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • New Poll from T4America: People Want Active, Healthy Transportation

    Transportation for America just released some exciting findings from a new poll exploring what Americans would like to see in their transportation system. At the heart of things is a strong desire for greater access and choice in transportation options.

    “In small towns and big cities alike, Americans are saying loudly and clearly that their lives would be better, and their nation stronger, if we had world-class public transportation and more options for walking and bicycling,” said Geoff Anderson, co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign and president and CEO of Smart Growth America.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is part of Transportation for America’s broad coalition of organizations committed to enhancing our nation’s transportation choices. Read their press release, plus learn more about RTC’s role in transportation change, and how trails, walking and biking can provide more Americans with access to healthier, more active lifestyles, through our Campaign for Active Transportation.

  • Help Make a Difference for Florida at the Florida Bike Summit

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is pleased to be helping the Florida Bicycle Association with an upcoming event at the Florida Capitol. Come to Tallahassee for the 2nd Annual Florida Bike Summit at the Florida Capitol Courtyard, April 8, 2010, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and help protect the rights of bicyclists to ride safely and freely.

    • Learn what Florida is doing for bicyclists
    • Meet with legislators throughout the day
    • Connect with other bicycle advocates
    • Ride to the Capitol from the St. Marks Trailhead at 9 a.m.
    • Secured bicycle parking in the courtyard
    • Summit gathering spot: Tallahassee/East KOA Campground
    • Summit legislative training: 4/7/10; 7 p.m.
    • Summit celebration reception: 4/8/10; 5-6:30 p.m.
    • The 2010 Florida Bike Summit is FREE - register today
    • Press event at 10:30 a.m.

    Our first Summit in 2009 focused on educating legislators about the benefits of bicycling. For 2010, we need your input to define what cycling really is and how it can change Florida one rider at a time. Join us to take advantage as more people are riding bikes. The time is now to show how powerful and influential we can be as a unified voice. Be a part of the solution to advance Florida as the best state to ride a bicycle. Register today!

    Photo: Florida Bicycle Association President David Henderson.

  • Getting to Park Connectivity in Built-Out Cities

    By Ben Welle, City Parks Blog

    Planners have long held up the idea of connectivity – links between people and places that tie everything together. Within park systems, the concept goes back at least to when the walls of European cities came down, as many of them (e.g. Paris), were turned into grand boulevards ringing their cities and linking up places. And when the American park movement was in full swing in the late 1800s, park planners in nearly every city were laying down parkways between green spaces — think Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the Grand Rounds of Minneapolis, and others in Louisville, Denver, Kansas City and Chicago to name a few.

    We've written before about how many of these spaces have been retrofitted probably too much for automobile use, and described the ways to refit them back for more rambling and two-wheeling. But another issue is present today — that many places still aspire for connectivity between parks but seem unable to do it because streets have been laid and the city built out. For instance, in Hartford, Conn., a parkway system was once envisioned but never implemented, and the dream of connections seemingly lost.

    But this isn’t necessarily the case. There are a variety of ways to make connections that even the most built-out cities can do. Based on what we’ve seen, here are a few ways:

    Read more at City Parks Blog...

    Image: A conceptual plan shows how a network of riverfront trails (partially completed), easements and street upgrades could connect Hartford's parks.

  • More Than Just a Ride: RTC’s Greenway Sojourn Packs Economic Punch

    Registration for RTC's 8th Annual Greenway Sojourn, July 17-24, is more than half full, and we expect to sell out the final 100 spots before the end of March. Like past years, most of the participants will come from areas other than the host states. Already, we have more than 30 states represented. We expect the total economic impact to the communities we visit this summer, when combined with the economic impact of past Sojourns, will put us over the $2 million mark since the ride began nine years ago.

    That economic impact includes all the rentals for the event – buses, trucks, tents, camping fees and catering several hundred meals a day – not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars participants purchase in soft and hard goods before, during and after the Sojourn. Our comprehensive questionnaire each year indicates, for example, that 53 percent of participants stay at a hotel because of the event, and 34 percent of the riders’ household incomes exceeds $100,000.

    Unlike road rides, we use mostly rail-trails, canal towpaths and other greenways and average 40 to 50 miles a day. Most riders use hybrids or mountain bikes since some paths are not always paved, and in some cases we are the first to use potential future public trails. We camp at mostly unique natural or heritage sites and prepare 17 meals from locally purchased produce. Come join us!

  • Watch: South Bronx Embraces a Greenway Before Pavement is on the Ground

    At the Urban Pathways to Livable Communities conference, Miquela Craytor of Sustainable South Bronx presented on her organization's efforts surrounding the South Bronx Greenway, a planned urban pathway through a neighborhood that confronts health, congestion and open space problems on a daily basis. Although pavement for the greenway has not yet been laid, Sustainable South Bronx has engaged the community through job training, trail amenity design, block parties and other events. In this video, Craytor explains the challenges her organization has faced with this project and outlines some of the greenway's initial successes.

  • Is U.S. DOT's New Policy for Active Transportation a Good Idea?

    Last week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood introduced a bold new policy that, as he noted, marks "the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized." Yesterday, National Journal's Transportation Experts blog asked: Is this new policy change a good move? RTC President Keith Laughlin responds:

    Absolutely. The time has come for walking and biking – or active transportation -- to be acknowledged as legitimate modes of transportation. Tremendous credit is due to Secretary LaHood for his leadership in catalyzing a “sea change” in federal transportation policy by recognizing the importance of walking and biking. And by introducing HR 4722, the Active Community Transportation Act, Rep. Earl Blumenauer has demonstrated how this sea change can be reflected in innovative federal policy.

    At present, 12 percent of trips in the US are taken by walking and biking. But only about 1½ cents on the federal transportation dollar are invested in furthering active transportation. Is it too much to ask that we increase that investment to three percent in the next surface transportation bill? ... Even that small increase will provide a multi-billion dollar return on investment in terms of reduced oil consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and avoided health care costs. At a time of severe fiscal constraint, it is simply common sense to target our limited resources to relatively small investments that can provide such a big bang for the buck.

  • Florida OGT Saved in 2010 - Due to Your Hard Work in 2009

    As it was last year, the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) was scheduled for elimination earlier this week by the Florida Senate despite the office's success in building partnerships and leveraging funding. However, due to the enormous and coordinated grassroots support that was demonstrated by RTC, our partner organizations and many dedicated trail supporters last year, the threat was quickly dropped. We owe a special thank you to Senators Aronberg, Lawson and Baker of the Senate General Government Appropriations Committee.

    We still have work to do. OGT is no longer targeted for elimination and most of the mission and subsequent positions have been restored. All but two of the office's positions will be back another year to continue building our ever-expanding statewide system of trails. Senator Aronberg supports us strongly and has sponsored an amendment to restore the remaining two positions at a meeting that will, most likely, occur on Friday. Please take a moment to thank our legislative champions--Senators Aronberg, Lawson and Baker--as well as to our important House friends--Representatives Robaina and Cannon. Without them, OGT, which won Florida the designation of Best Trails State by American Trails, would be roadkill!

    Their e-mail addresses are:

    Senator Aronberg: aronberg.dave.web@flsenate.gov
    Senator Lawson: lawson.alfred.web@flsenate.gov
    Senator Baker: baker.carey.web@flsenate.gov
    Representative Robaina: julio.robaina@myflorida.gov
    Representative Cannon: dean.cannon@myfloridahouse.gov

    Thank you and stay tuned. We hope to have an important announcement concerning the Florida Department of Transportation soon!

  • Bold Policy Statement Commits U.S. DOT to "Fully Integrated Active Transportation Networks"

    Video: Sec. LaHood speaks at the 2010 National Bike Summit, specifically mentioning the C&O Canal towpath and TIGER grants for active transportation networks.

    U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood has issued some of his strongest statements yet in support of active transportation networks. Encouraging state agencies and local communities to "go beyond minimum design standards and requirements" to treat "walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes," this new policy is a bold step that includes the following trail-specific points:

    • In encouraging active transportation plans to go beyond the minimum requirements, the policy notes that trails "designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility." Many communities are learning this lesson the hard way; here in Washington, D.C., the local government has been working with the National Park Service to widen the popular Rock Creek Park Trail.
    • "DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths." Bridges are particularly important links between our communities; in Cleveland, cyclists and pedestrians have been fighting for a bike path to be included as part of a major bridge replacement project. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has listened, asking his DOT to reconsider its opposition. Now advocates have the official policy of U.S. DOT on their side, as well.
    • Calling for "routine collection of non-motorized trip information" and "setting mode share targets for walking and bicycling and tracking them over time," the policy places new priority on counting bicyclists and pedestrians. The case for active transportation becomes stronger with solid numbers to detail exactly how many people are using sidewalks, trails and bikeway systems.
    • The policy also encourages "removing snow from sidewalks and shared-use paths...in the same manner as other roadway assets." This should come as welcome news along the Keystone Trail in Omaha, Neb., where cyclists have organized to shovel the trail where the city leaves blockages, or along the Capital Crescent Trail in Maryland, where a county refuses to clear a commuter route.

    While it's exciting that these measures are now official U.S. DOT policy, and recommended policy for state and local agencies, Sec. LaHood noted that these were only "initial steps forward." Communities that want to commit to active transportation as a cost-effective component of our larger transportation system still need funding to make it happen. The Active Community Transportation Act will do just that by providing $2 billion--that's less than one percent of our national transportation spending--to communities for investment in trails, walking and biking. This bill needs your help. Please encourage your representative to co-sponsor this very important legislation by taking action now.

  • What Do a Rail-Trail and a Grocery Store Have in Common?

    Last week, the Safeway grocery store at the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center in Washington, D.C., closed its doors. Although the store location was walkable from the Edgewood neighborhood and close to a Metro station, the neighborhood is bisected by a traffic-choked road and a rail line, leaving the shopping center cut off from many potential customers arriving on foot and by Metro. Many elderly residents of the Edgewood Terrace complex had used the Safeway but now must negotiate narrow sidewalks on busy Rhode Island Avenue to access a different supermarket instead.

    At NRDC Switchboard, Kaid Benfield took a look at this closing as a case where a potentially transit-oriented neighborhood has the right ingredients but an insufficient connection between development and transit, with the result hurting both businesses and residents:

    Craig Muckle, an official for the Safeway chain, told Washington Post writer Hamil R. Harris that the Edgewood Safeway had been unprofitable for a decade: "While we are closer to the Metro, the Giant is more convenient for people coming off the Metro, and it is located in a plaza that is frankly more vibrant."

    In addition to the Metro, the rail corridor bisecting the neighborhood is home to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. With the trail comes an opportunity to better connect the neighborhood with its Metro station. The Edgewood section of the trail is being completed this spring, and plans are already under way for a pedestrian bridge between the trail at the shopping center and the Metro faregates. Students of nearby schools and residents of Edgewood Terrace will no longer have to risk walking alongside speeding traffic on Rhode Island Avenue, or jumping a fence to cross active CSX tracks illegally. Along with a mural painted last summer (the city's largest), these new connections provide Edgewood an opportunity for transit- and trail-oriented development.

    Rendering of pedestrian bridge concept by The Louis Berger Group

  • Sign of the Times: Regional Cooperation in Ohio Yields Results

    Central Ohio Greenways (COG) is a collaborative in central Ohio whose mission is to help communities build and expand their trail and greenway networks. The group is run by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Franklin County MetroParks, city of Columbus and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Midwest Regional Office. In working with the numerous jurisdictions that attend COG's quarterly meetings, the group decided that a clear, concise and professional signage program for the region was needed.

    While each participating community realized that signage was needed and that consistent regional standards were important, the cost of quality signage was prohibitive to many. So with MORPC's lead, COG took on the challenge and funded the professional design services necessary to create a sign template, which is now available to all jurisdictions in the area. With design costs taken care of and the template available free of charge, each community now only had to find funding for manufacturing and installation.

    The first of the newly designed COG signs have been installed by the city of Columbus Parks and Recreation Department along the Alum Creek Trail. The unique color and design of these signs will brand the entire trail system throughout the region, thus allowing users to quickly identify the trails and know they are in the Central Ohio Greenway network.

    Photo by Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

  • Watch: The Story of a Local Trail Effort in New Orleans

    As part of the Urban Pathways to Livable Communities conference in New Orleans, a walk of the Lafitte Corridor introduced attendees to the Crescent City's own urban pathway project. The first stop on the walk was hosted by Bart Everson of Friends of Lafitte Corridor and Daniel Samuels of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee. In this audio slideshow, they provide some background on the history of the corridor itself and the effort to convert it to a multi-use greenway.

  • RTC Teams with Google for Biking Directions

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is proud to announce its partnership with Google™ as an official content provider for Google Maps’ brand-new biking directions functionality.

    The release of this long-awaited feature allows Google Maps users to type in their destination and receive directions for the best bicycling route. Previously, Google was able to provide walking, driving or transit directions. Now, RTC is providing its extensive trail-map data to Google Maps for the seamless integration of safe, accessible and fun bicycling routes into daily travel.

    See for yourself. This Google Gadget, below, demonstrates a cycling route from Arlington, Va., to RTC’s National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.—via the Custis Trail and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail. Just click “Go.”

    For months, the blogosphere was buzzing with speculation about the release, which has cyclists and active transportation advocates rejoicing.

    This morning’s announcement is already receiving national media attention. Earlier today, it was picked up by NPR’s Morning Edition, including a nice mention of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

    Check it out: Google Unveils Newest Map for Cyclists : NPR

    Happy Trails!

  • Walking Challenges as a Tool to Encourage Trail Use

    Walking challenges are a great way to raise the awareness of trails in the community and inspire regular use. A challenge motivates people to join groups and aim for a target number of steps, miles or minutes walking. As participants report their miles, their team can trace progress toward a goal that they couldn't do alone. Hopefully after the challenge is over walking will be a routine for the participants.

    Here are a few examples of Walking Challenges on the west coast:

    • With the completion of the Whittier Greenway Trail in Los Angeles County, Activate Whittier is challenging groups to take the Hollywood Walk to Fame by traversing the country from New York City to Hollywood with star-studded stops along the way to the Oscars. The website has suggested routes with mileage that include 4.2 miles along this rail-trail.
    • Walk the California Coast with San Francisco's Shape UP Walking Challenge. Challengers join teams and walk 1,016 miles, the equivalent of the length of the California coast, in 10 weeks. If they complete that level, participants can continue their virtual tour across the country or even around the world. The San Francisco Department of Public Health reports that the program has gone viral and gained momentum since inception.
    • With the Itida-Walk you can track your progress across Alaska as you follow the sled dogs in the Itidarod. Instead of tracking miles, this program tracks minutes of walking, encouraging participants to walk 30 minutes a day for 35 days for a total of 1,049 minutes.

    Photo from Shape UP San Francisco.

  • Youth Activity Leagues Connect Kids to Trails

    Activity Leagues operated by local law enforcement agencies are often a good match for trail advocates looking to encourage cycling among youth. As part of our Urban Pathways Initiative work along the Compton Creek Bike Path in southern California, RTC came across a program of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department called Bicycle Education and Registration (BEAR). This program gives local youth the opportunity to work with deputies and learn about bicycle education, safety and repair. In addition, the program recycles confiscated bicycles and offers them to local youth who successfully complete the five day course. After completion of the class, local youth gain bicycle education, a new bike, a helmet, parts, and a positive relationship with law enforcement. The program graduates about 60 new riders each year and has about 100 graduates so far. As a part of our work in Compton, we are investigating ways to improve the connections between the trail and the Youth Activity League location so that the new riders can access the trail safely.

    Youth Activity Leagues or Police Activity Leagues are located across the country and can be found through the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues.

    Photo from Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

  • Walking in a Winter Wonderland

    Of all a rail-trail’s charms, one of the most endearing is that a pleasant surprise always may be just around the bend—an unexpected vista, a rare bird sighting, a chance encounter with a family of deer crossing the path.

    Apparently, even in the winter wonderland that was the Northeast—where the trails themselves were hidden by knee-deep snows—this holds true.

    On the NJ.com blog, “The Adventures of Betty the Bike,” Denise Copeland shares the tale of last week’s walk along the Sussex Branch Trail, New Jersey, near the Waterloo Trailhead.

    An anonymous snow artist (or was it elves? Sprites? Fairies?) transformed a stretch of the trail into a curious wintry statuary with jovial figures and menacing wild things alike.

    See for yourself—check out Snow sculptures on the Sussex Branch Trail, New Jersey.

    Photo by Denise Copeland / Betty the Bike

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