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April 2010 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Join Us at the Pennsylvania Walk and Bike Summit

    May is Bike Month in Pennsylvania, and as part of the celebration the Pennsylvania Walk and Bike Summit is being held in Harrisburg, Pa., on May 4.

    The goal of the summit is to promote state legislation that supports safe pedestrian and bicycle use throughout the state. We would like to see several hundred participate and join us on the steps of the capitol building.

    The rally begins at 9 a.m., when bicyclists are encouraged to assemble at the State Farm Show parking lot and take a short ride to the west side of the capitol. Pedestrians are encouraged to form groups at City Island and meet us at the capitol steps. To learn more, contact Rick Nevins of the Harrisburg Bicycle Club at president@harrisburgbicycleclub.org.

    State legislators and executive officers have been invited to say a few words in support of Bike Month and safe walking and bicycling throughout Pennsylvania. Here are some highlights of the summit schedule:

    • Learn what Pennsylvania is doing for bicyclists
    • Ride to the capitol from the State Farm Show parking area (departs at 9 a.m.)
    • Walk from City Island to the state capitol steps (departs Walnut Street Bridge at 9 a.m.)
    • Press event at 10 a.m.
    • Luncheon with PA Walks and Bikes (registration necessary)
    • Meet with legislators in the afternoon

    Please visit PA Walks and Bikes and register to participate in the second annual Pennsylvania Walk and Bike Summit. 

    PA Walks and Bikes is a new advocacy organization working to make walking and bicycling safer and better across Pennsylvania. They are major sponsors of the PA Walk and Bike Summit. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Northeast Regional Office has assisted as a planning and promotional partner.

  • Meeting of the Minds on the Met Branch Trail

    Outdoor Afro author Rue Mapp, in town for the launch of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, stopped by the Metropolitan Branch Trail for a walk with D.C. neighborhood residents, park activists and cyclists. As contractors worked over the weekend to complete a major new section of trail, the group discussed how to sustain engagement with the surrounding neighborhood and the city's larger African American population after the trail's grand opening celebration on June 5.

    Recently, Outdoor Afro hosted a bike ride in Richmond, Calif., aimed to get many of that city's black residents back on their bicycles. Many aspects of that ride can be applied to rides near other urban pathways; for example, having the ride snake through the heart of a neighborhood before going to the trail helps raise consciousness among area residents. When a group of 25 cyclists go by on the street, after all, people tend to notice!

    The potential of the Metropolitan Branch Trail to be more than a simple right-of-way also inspired many of the walk's participants. Along the trail's length, there are spots for permanent murals, gardens, bike stations and more. Although construction on this section of trail is nearing completion, the work is just beginning for many who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and care about this trail.

  • People Like to Use Trails, Virginia Beach Edition

    On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, it somehow seemed appropriate this morning to see an ad espousing the joy of bike trails on the back of a bus. As part of the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau's "Live the Life" tourism campaign, the website on the back of the bus takes you to a charming video of bikes on Virginia Beach's oceanfront trail, telling you that "life is too short not to enjoy the ride."

    My first thought upon seeing this ad wasn't that Virginia Beach wanted you to vacation on a cruiser bike, but that they were advertising to road-weary D.C. commuters that moving to Virginia Beach would change the daily commute from a burden to a pleasant ride a bicycle. Talk about quality of life!

    Although Virginia Beach would appreciate your tourism dollars, you don't have to go on vacation to enjoy the ride. This Earth Day, find a trail near you at www.TrailLink.com -- and get riding to work, to the store, with friends, or just for the fun of it.

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Orange County, California


    On or about April 1, 2010, Union Pacific filed for the abandonment of 1.15 miles of track near the City of Brea in Orange County, California. 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-33 (sub-no. 281x). 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 April 30, 2010. 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 $200 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 Web site 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 the Western Regional Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • People Like to Use Trails, Twin Cities Edition

    Back in February, Bike Walk Twin Cities -- part of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program -- released its 2009 Count Report, which surveyed cyclists and pedestrians during September 2009 in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding communities. The numbers are positive: bicycling was up 13 percent from 2007, and the report's details provide proof of the strong role trails play in a regional active transportation network. Of the 20 locations with the highest bicycle counts, 16 were on trails, including the Midtown GreenwayCedar Lake Trail and the Southwest Regional LRT Trail.

    With more trails and connections funded as part of Bike Walk Twin Cities, Minnesotans can look forward to an even better transportation network ahead.

  • Detroit's Midtown Loop Greenway and the Rise of the "Street Grid Greenway"

    Last week, Detroit broke ground on the Midtown Loop Greenway, a 1.8-mile route that connects educational and cultural attractions including the Detroit Science Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University and numerous hospitals. Long-range plans for the Greenway include a connection to the Dequindre Cut Greenway, which will allow a seamless active transportation route between Midtown and the Detroit riverfront.

    The Midtown Loop Greenway, like its ambitious cousin, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, is an example of an on-street greenway that forms a middle ground between more traditional street infrastructure (such as sidewalks, sidepaths or cycle tracks) and separated shared-use paths, including rail-trails. While most rail-trails, like the Dequindre Cut Greenway, connect separate neighborhoods to each other, these "street grid greenways" help form an easily identifiable connective tissue between destinations within a district or neighborhood. With these projects, Detroit and other cities are providing examples to the nation of attractive active transportation facilities both to and within a neighborhood.

  • Listen: How to Bring Communities Back to Bicycling

    Keith Holt is currently working to develop Milwakee Bicycle Works, a community bicycle shop. Before moving to Wisconsin, he was an organizer for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (now known as the Active Transportation Alliance), where he worked to engage communities surrounding trails on Chicago's South Side. The trail he is most associated with is the Major Taylor Trail. In the clip above, Holt describes some of the hurdles that keep a community from cycling, even if the trail is convenient and resources like maps are easily available. "If you're going through communities that have been disconnected from cycling for decades," he says, "hardly anyone that you really want to use those trails are going to use them. People from other neighborhoods will use those trails. We have to bend bicycling to fit the neighborhood, not forcing the neighborhood onto bicycling. Bicycling is so vast, it's so expansive, it can bend to what the community needs."

    Recorded at the Urban Pathways to Livable Communities conference, February 25, 2010.

  • Watch: Rhode Islander Uses Rail-Trail for Daily Commute

    In this video from George Washington University's Planet Forward project, the morning commute of a Rhode Island professor is exposed for what it really is -- an easy, refreshing ride down the East Bay Bicycle Path to work at Roger Williams University in Bristol. Enjoy the ride!

  • Formation of New Council in Florida Sets Stage for Statewide Improvements

    Recently, we hinted at a soon-to-be released announcement that would be significant for the Sunshine State. Last week, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced its plan to establish a statewide initiative on bicycle and pedestrian mobility. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council, to convene in early June, will make policy recommendations to FDOT and transportation partners throughout Florida on the state's walking, bicycling and trail facilities. Their mission is to assemble the many different partners needed to make statewide improvements in safety and facilities integration.

    The formation of the Partnership Council is the result of many state leaders aiming to make Florida a national model for bicycle and pedestrian safety, in the wake of national studies finding Florida to be among the most dangerous places for pedestrians and cyclists. Among the biggest supporters have been State Representative Julio Robaina, State Representative Gary Aubuchon, FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos and FDOT Assistant Secretary for Intermodal Systems Development Debbie Hunt.

    The Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council will include representatives from multiple state agencies, local governments and external stakeholders. They will make recommendations on design, planning, safety and other programs involving bicycle and pedestrian issues.

    "Our focus is building a partnership to make Florida a more friendly state for pedestrians and cyclists. Everyone on this council has a role in that effort," said FDOT Secretary Kopelousos. "This really will be a collaborative effort to make the Sunshine State a better place to get out and walk or ride your bike." Who can argue about that?

    Photo: Rep. Julio Robaina at the 2010 Florida Bike Summit. Photo courtesy Florida Bicycle Association.

  • Carbon Fees Shouldn't Undermine a Clean Transportation System

    As work continues on climate change legislation in the Senate, debate has arisen over how to use funds generated by a carbon fee on transportation fuels. RTC partner Transportation for America issued a letter calling for "additional policies to direct those funds toward transportation projects that advance our climate and energy goals." RTC President Keith Laughlin weighs in at National Journal's Transportation Experts Blog:

    Would anyone seriously argue that federal taxes on tobacco should be used to subsidize tobacco production or encourage smoking? Of course not. And the same principle applies here: fees levied to achieve a specific public policy outcome should only be reinvested in a manner that further supports – not undermines – that policy outcome. As a result, such funds should not be used for any purpose that cannot demonstrate significant reductions in greenhouse gases.

    Such performance measures would likely support investments in new technologies to better manage travel demand on existing roads or enhancing mobility by encouraging low carbon alternatives to driving, such as walking, biking, transit and rail.

  • New Section of Richmond Greenway Opens

    The Richmond Greenway in the San Francisco Bay Area is moving forward to connect the neighborhoods it serves with open space, recreational opportunities and transportation options. A new 1.3-mile segment of trail doubles the length of the greenway and parallels BART between 23rd Street and San Pablo Avenue. This new segment connects neighborhoods along it to central Richmond with its BART station and comes tantalizingly close to connecting to the Ohlone Greenway on its east end.

    The right-of-way is narrow in this section and only allows for some landscaping, but the route includes a bridge over the BART tracks and a tunnel under Interstate 80. Like most urban projects, there are some challenging gaps that still need to be finished to connect the two segments to each other and to the Bay Trail to the west and the Ohlone Greenway to the east. The city of Richmond is working on grant funding to connect the two completed segments across the railroad tracks and the 23rd Street undercrossing, which pose a major barrier to connectivity.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has promoted the greenway for more than a decade, including featuring the trail in the 2009 Green issue of Rails to Trails magazine. We celebrate each new piece that comes into place. Urban greening groups are working to make the greenway live up to its name with the Watershed Project spreading native plant gardens and Urban Tilth growing food with raised bed gradens and fruit trees. Despite challenges, the future continues to look bright for this urban greenway.

  • Trails and Trees: A Natural Fit in the City

    Yesterday morning, RTC staff, volunteers and members joined with Casey Trees and NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) to plant trees on streets leading to the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C.'s Eckington neighborhood.

    The morning kicked off with an introduction to the day's tasks and a few words from D.C. Council member Harry Thomas, Jr. Yesterday's planting was unique in that it featured plantings along the street, in residential backyards and on commercial property--a full-court press in an effort to restore the District's tree canopy. The District Department of Transportation pitched in, as well, cutting new tree boxes on Eckington Place, a street adjacent to the trail, in time for yesterday's planting.

    There is more in store: street trees planted yesterday will be maintained by NoMa BID, and Casey Trees will be joining RTC at the June 5 grand opening of an important new section of the trail. Also, for those in D.C., be sure to be on the lookout for the Casey Trees Water By-Cycle, the greenest way to keep the capital green.

    UPDATE (04/06/2010): Photos of the event from NoMa BID are available on Flickr.

  • Never Too Late to Ride a Bike: Reintroducing Cycling to Communities of Color

    By Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro

    On Sunday, 23 cyclists of a wide range of ages and abilities wheeled though Richmond, Calif., in the inaugural Outdoor Afro Bike Ride, a ride with the goal of getting people of color to be visible in both urban and natural spaces, inspiring others to get out and enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.

    East Bay Regional Parks naturalist Bethany Facendini provided loaner bikes for those who did not have one and gave talks during breaks with demonstrations to educate the group about the local watershed. Urban Tilth’s Doria Robinson was also on hand to share information about native plants and other fascinating lore about Richmond’s expansive shoreline.

    The ride was mainly a flat 12 miles that meandered along the Wildcat Creek line, through neighborhoods, and ended at the San Francisco Bay with sweeping views of Mount Tamalpias in the distance. This ride went farther than many in the group had ever travelled by bicycle. Even more compelling is that several participants were either new bike riders or had not been on a bike in decades. More experienced riders, including two from the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, seemed glad to slow their pace and support the newer riders.

    Richmond Spokes, a community bicycle coalition and job training organization, was on hand adjusting many of the bikes that had not seen the light of day in years. Executive Director Brian Drayton assisted on the route and coached less experienced bikers to make small changes in posture and pedaling to help them get more enjoyment out of the bicycling experience.

    As we rode through neighborhoods, residents were more than a little curious to see so many people of color riding through on bicycles. But there were frequent cheers and other gestures of support. Participant Delane Sims said, “A black bike ride has more impact on our inner city neighborhoods than we might imagine. It made my heart smile to hear all the love and support via car horns and cheers from our brothers and sisters!”

    Comments like Delane’s were echoed by other participants, and a reminder that the most powerful way to get more people involved with outdoor spaces is through role-modeling culturally relevant examples.

    Crossposted at Outdoor Afro. Photo courtesy Outdoor Afro.

  • Trail Days: Planning Fun Trail Events with Community Health and Stewardship Focus

    It’s that time of year. The flowers are in bloom, the birds are singing and people are lacing up their shoes or hopping on their bikes to visit nearby trails. Meanwhile, trail managers and friends groups are busy planning fun trail programs and events for the spring and summer months. Some trails focus on community stewardship opportunities for National Trails Day (June 5, 2010) or Earth Day (April 22, 2010). Many trails host annual running and walking races or organize clean-up or adopt-the-trail events. Looking for new and exciting ways to get people out on your trail throughout the rest of the year? Here are some examples to get the creative juices flowing:

    • Last year, East Bay Regional Park District teamed up with Bay Area Regional Transit to host Tracks to Trails, an event to promote physical activity on the Iron Horse Regional Trail in California's Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Participants were encouraged to “Walk, Run, Roll, or Ride” and visit a series of energy stations along the 24-mile trail.
    • The Morgana Run Trail in ClevelandOhio's Slavic Village neighborhood knows how to party. As part of Walk + Roll, a large neighborhood walking and biking festival, neighborhood residents took to the streets and the trail to play games, visit local business and organization open houses, paint murals and eat ice cream. Among many other events on the trail, Slavic Village Development organizes Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, an annual event for dog owners and lovers to enjoy the Morgana Run Trail with their four-legged friends.

    Visit American Hiking Society’s website to learn more about National Trails Day and how to participate.

    Photo: A young Slavic Village resident enjoys "Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound" on the Morgana Run Trail in Cleveland, Ohio. Courtesy of Slavic Village Development.


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