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January 2011 - RTC TrailBlog

  • RTC Releases New Report on Trail Crossings at Major Roadways

    One of the challenges we face on urban pathways, and particularly in our work with the Compton Creek Bike Path, is how to get a continuous and extended trail experience when the trail is regularly bisected by major streets with high traffic volumes and speeds.

    Trail users need and should be able to get across these streets to continue their journeys. Many cities are able to bridge over or tunnel under these major streets, but in some cases it is not feasible or desirable to invest in grade separation.

    Fortunately, there are devices that can be used to improve the safety of these crossings with signs and markings, raised medians and refuge islands, and new beacons and signals. RTC's Western Regional Office has compiled a report of methods that can be used to improve at-grade mid-block crossings of multilane roadways, including examples of the treatments used together and examples of improved and planned crossings in California. You can download the report from our library.

  • Research Shows Zig-Zag Markings Create Safer Trail Crossings

    Back in April 2009, the very first post on RTC TrailBlog reported on an experiment by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) with zig-zag markings on roadways approaching trail crossings along the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. Now, more than a year later, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research has released a report showing that the markings have reduced vehicle speeds and improved motorists' rate of yielding to trail users.

    "Before the study, we thought the zig-zag pavement markings would have an immediate impact on motorist awareness, but over time would lessen," researcher Lance E. Dougald said in a statement. "The markings actually had a sustained positive impact on speed reduction even after the markings had been in place for one year. One possible explanation for this is that markings installed within the roadway, especially unique markings, are more visible than signage and are less likely to blend into the roadside environment."

    These high-visibility markings are especially cost-effective when compared to other trail crossing controls such as flashing beacons. The report recommends that VDOT lead an effort to have these markings included in the next version of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices so that traffic engineers across the nation implement it as a standard trail crossing marking.

    However, the report also notes that there are some drawbacks. Motorists "have limited understanding regarding the purpose of the markings," though this may improve as the markings become more commonplace. Finally, the markings did little to clear up continued confusion among both trail users and motorists regarding right-of-way at trail crossings.

    More coverage of the report is available at WTOP-FMTheWashCycle and the Washington Post.

    UPDATE 02/01/2011: Hawai'i County, Hi., also uses zig-zag markings to slow motorists at pedestrian crossings.

  • Team RTC Gearing Up for Climate Ride--and You're Invited!

    We're excited to announce that, for the third year in a row, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been named as a beneficiary of Climate Ride. If you've followed our friendship with Climate Ride, you'll know that we've been with them from the start, fielding Team RTC and supporting their important work that champions the bicycle as a viable, planet-friendly transportation alternative--a natural fit for us since rail-trails are often major arteries in a community's active transportation network.

    And this year, for the first time, participants can choose RTC from a list of nine beneficiaries that Climate Ride is supporting. That means if you sign up, your fundraising dollars can go directly to RTC to help support our work in communities around the country!

    Registration is open and filling fast for team members who want toTeam RTC on Climate Ride California experience Climate Ride with us this year. Luckily, you have two options: the classic Climate Ride NYC-DC ride, May 13-17, 2011, or Climate Ride California from Eureka to San Francisco, October 2-6, 2011.

    First up: Climate Ride NYC-DC. Starting in Manhattan, you'll experience epic biking, amazing scenery and dynamic speakers. You'll cycle through the Garden State, explore the historical Delaware River Valley, discover Pennsylvania's Amish Country, and pedal through horse heaven in Maryland before arriving at the U.S. Capitol in downtown D.C. This option offers an added bonus of allowing you to meet with the office of your congressional representative(s) after the ride.

    This fall: Climate Ride California begins under towering redwoods in Humboldt County, before turning west toward the coast for two full days of some of the most scenic cycling in America. After a quick spin through the Russian River Wine Country, Climate Riders will pedal across the Golden Gate Bridge to finish in Golden Gate Park! 

    "If you want to experience world-class biking while learning about renewable energy and meeting environmental and cycling leaders, you should sign up for Climate Ride," says RTC Policy Outreach Manager Kartik Sribarra, who rode with Team RTC during the first Climate Ride. "It's a life-changing adventure that combines action with supporting some crucial causes. And because you can raise funds directly for RTC, you're supporting the fight for trail-friendly policy and the creation of trail connections across the country."

    Both rides are fully-supported by a team of talented leader-hosts, bike mechanics, medics and massage therapists. Climate Ride is also one of the 'greenest' multi-day, cause-based rides in the world. Riders are asked to bring no bottled water (recyclable water bottles will be used, and filtered water will be provided by the title sponsor Brita). There are no disposable plates or cups, the support vehicles are hybrids and vans that run on veggie grease, and every effort is made to recycle and compost materials used on the ride. Along the way, Climate Ride's nightly speaker series will inform and entertain Climate Riders through educational talks about solutions to the climate crisis, bike advocacy and living green.

    The cost for each ride is a $75 registration fee, and then you raise a minimum of $2,400 to participate, with most of your fundraising money going directly to RTC if you choose RTC as your beneficiary of choice when you register. We'll see you on the ride!

    Photo: Members of Team RTC in 2010 before the first day of Climate Ride California  © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • RTC Signs On to Equity Caucus Statement

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a member of Transportation for America (T4). Joining more than 70 other organizations, RTC signed on to T4's Equity Caucus response to last night's State of the Union Address. Read the full statement below: 

    "We applaud President Obama's State of the Union call for smart, targeted transportation investments that connect all Americans to opportunity.

    The infrastructure Americans build, operate, and repair today will create jobs now and lay the foundation for a competitive and prosperous tomorrow. But our inadequate, outdated, and underfunded transportation systems are keeping too many struggling Americans--young and old, rural and urban--from fully connecting and contributing to the national economy.

    Millions of Americans rely exclusively on public transit, walking, or biking to get to work, to the doctor's office, to school, and to the grocery store. Nearly 20 percent of African American households, 14 percent of Latino households, and 13 percent of Asian households live without a car. Fifteen percent of Native Americans must travel more than 100 miles to access basic services.

    Smarter transportation investments can unleash the under-realized economic power of communities across America.

    We look forward to working with President Obama and Congress to move forward a surface transportation authorization in 2011 with investments that:

    • Create affordable and flexible transportation options for everyone, regardless of income, race, age, disability, or background;
    • Create, protect, and ensure fair access to quality jobs, training, and contracting opportunities in the transportation industry;
    • Promote healthy, safe, and inclusive communities with housing opportunities for families of all incomes; and
    • Encourage fair and transparent investment of public dollars invested in transportation.

    The American people want these changes, too. A recent Transportation for America poll revealed that more than two-thirds say they "would like more transportation options."

    By investing in transportation projects, America can get people back to work now, lay a strong foundation for future economic growth, and expand opportunity for millions of people. But we must target our investments equitably to the people and places that need them the most.

    Americans are ready to get back to work building our future."

    The Equity Caucus at Transportation for America--formed by the nation's leading civil rights, community development, racial justice, economic justice, faith-based, health, housing, labor, environmental justice, tribal, public interest, women's, and transportation organizations--drives transportation policies that advance economic and social equity in America. 

  • Trail Voices: Edgar Chase

    Edgar Chase is always moving. "I used to be a runner," says the New Orleans native and former Marine Corps captain. Now 62, he and his wife Alva are looking to keep active as they get older. "I can't run like I used to," he says, so instead he and Alva "walk every day, and we don't miss a day. And when my knee acts up too much, I ride the bike." But for Chase, walking and biking are about more than staying healthy. It's a way to get around town.

    After raising children in suburban New Orleans East, the Chases were drawn closer to the city's heart by family connections and a desire to have daily necessities within easy reach. Chase's parents live in the city's Tremé neighborhood, and his family's business, Dooky Chase restaurant, is in Lafitte. The couple settled in nearby Mid-City. "We have small retail shopping districts--neighborhood grocery stores, neighborhood pharmacy stores, neighborhood churches," Chase says. There's no need "to use an interstate highway to go to shop. We could walk, we could bicycle."

    Chase began bicycling in 2005, before Hurricane Katrina hit the city. After the storm, he began riding more--to community meetings, to festivals. Spurred on by his wife, Chase became involved with Friends of Lafitte Corridor, a group advocating for a rail-trail through Chase's neighborhood that would connect the French Quarter to City Park. He eventually joined the group's board of directors. "The whole point of the greenway," he explains, "is to encourage people...to use bicycling and walking to go to shops, to go to restaurants, to do everyday living." Chase sees the greenway not only as a way to revitalize local businesses, but to bring more families to the area, who, like him, "would like to have safe spots for our grandkids to bicycle, for us to walk every day."

    Chase has passed bicycling on to his twin sons, as well. Now 35, they both commute to work by bike. "They have cars," Chase says, "but they like to bike because they don't have time to get in the exercise they normally would." It's an excellent way to make time to stay fit," he says, especially if, like his sons, "you're a busy person and you're raising young kids."

    But Chase says his sons will bike the city's streets even when he won't. "They're a little braver than I am. Sometimes they work late into the evening, but they'll ride their bikes." That's where Chase draws the line. "I don't ride my bike at dark, because I'm afraid of getting hit by a truck. There's a little bit of danger so you have to be careful." 

    "I like to ride in a safe area," he says. "It's hard to find streets with bike paths." Chase enjoys riding on Gentilly Boulevard because of its bike lane. "We don't have that on Broad Street, we don't have that on Carrollton Avenue, we don't have that on Tulane Avenue, we don't have that on Nashville Avenue. We have to cross bridges," which, Chase notes, can be difficult to traverse on a bike. "There's no bike path over the Broad Street overpass. Then I turn on Nashville; there's no bike path there. There's no bike path on Tchoupitoulas. We need it on all those streets," he says. And once you arrive at your destination, Chase says, "There aren't enough bike racks for you to safely park your bike. I think that's something we can improve on."

    As the city rebuilds its streets, he says, "We're building back better." Some now include dedicated bike lanes. Despite the city's progress, there is still a long road to achieving the vision Edgar Chase shares with many of his fellow New Orleanians. "We could get back and forth to those essential neighborhood services by bicycling or walking if we had some secure bicycling or walking paths. It's a beautiful city here in New Orleans, and the people are very friendly. We just need to develop the infrastructure."

    Photo courtesy Edgar Chase

  • Watch: Detroit's Public-Private Partnerships for Trails

    As part of the Detroit 2020 Project, WXYZ-TV took a look at the RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut Greenway, two connecting trails created through public-private partnerships between the city of Detroit and the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy. As Blogroll member M-Bike.org points out, the Conservancy has taken the lead in the partnership, with staff dedicated to trail planning and maintenance.

    On a related note, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy is also looking for volunteers to serve as RiverWalk ambassadors. Detroit trail supporters are highly encouraged to get involved!

  • Share Your Project with the CDC: Anti-Obesity Active Transportation Initiatives Wanted

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking for projects that promote active transportation infrastructure for leisure or commuting purposes. Submitted initiatives should target low-income and minority populations with higher rates of obesity.

    Selected programs will be invited to participate in an assessment to determine readiness for evaluation, which will include a spring 2011 site visit to assess implementation, data availability, intended outcomes and staff capacity. CDC project staff will also offer ideas for improvement and evaluation design. Projects will also be featured on the CDC website and may be considered for a comprehensive evaluation.

    Programs must have been under way for six months or more at time of submission, be federally funded and not have already undergone rigorous evaluation. View the submission form to nominate your project. The deadline is January 28, 2011. Contact Kari Cruz at kcruz@icfi.com or 404.321.3211 with any questions.

  • New NYC Park Design Guidelines Emphasize Connecting Parks with Trails

    New design guidelines from New York City's Department of Parks & Recreation and the Design Trust for Public Space, brought to our attention by Streetsblog, give greenways and trails an important role in connecting Gotham's park system. The guidelines say that park facilities should "connect parks to greenways and bike routes to expand those routes, and provide easy access to parks, as well as opportunities for recreation by bicycle commuters." The benefits of using greenways to connect parks are wide ranging, as the guidelines note: "Park connectivity efforts can be planned in tandem with, and reinforce, efforts to increase tree canopy coverage, develop green infrastructure, revitalize streetscapes and commercial corridors, and bolster active modes of transportation." 

    The guidelines also provide details for park planners that may bring cheers from regular users of crowded greenways. Specifically, the guidelines advise designers to "separate bicycles from pedestrians whenever possible," but "when bicycles are mixed with pedestrians," it says, they should "increase sightlines at potential points of conflict such as intersections and entrances." Busy urban pathways demonstrate the demand for trails and greenways but can lead to sometimes-dangerous user conflicts. It's good to see New York taking these potential conflicts into account within the city's guidance for park and trail planners.

    In some ways, the guidelines are playing catch-up to inspired efforts already under way in New York and across the nation. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative utilizes cycle tracks and multi-use paths to connect parks along the borough's waterfront, including the acclaimed Brooklyn Bridge Park. The South Bronx Greenway connects Hunts Point Riverside Park with Barretto Point Park and numerous piers. Also in the Bronx, the Bronx River Greenway connects parks along the Bronx River watershed. In Memphis, the Shelby Farms Greenline is using a rail-trail and complete streets to connect two of that city's landmark green spaces.

    These new guidelines from New York are good news for trails and greenways in urban areas, as official policy and guidelines recognize the important connection between physical activity, transportation and the built environment.


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