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April 2011 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Going Dutch

    Story and photos by Sun Kim

    When I visited The Netherlands a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but notice that bicycles are a major part of the Dutch lifestyle. One of the first things I saw were rows and rows of bicycles parked in garages and racks next to every public transportation station, as well as near most businesses, schools and shopping areas. Some of the stairs at the train stations even have grooves along the sides so cyclists can roll their bikes up as they climb the stairs.

    Out on the streets I saw toddlers and retirees, and everyone in-between, all getting around town on their bicycles. They ride in wide bike lanes that have their own traffic lights. Some of these bike lanes are separated from the car lanes by a small median or a line of parked cars, giving bike riders an extra barrier from car traffic. I also saw that cars and pedestrians often yield to bike riders. I’m guessing that's because everyone who's driving remembers they'll be riding or walking at some other point during the day!

  • New Leash Ordinance and Improved Signage Create Safer Trails in San Jose

    by Yves Zsutty, City of San Jose, Calif., Trail Manager

    In San Jose, we’ve spent a lot of time over the year studying the issue of trail safety. Today’s economic struggles reaffirm the reality that we have to create safer trails through good design, amenities and operational practices instead of hoping for more police or rangers.

    Community outreach helped us define the major safety concerns on our trails. Dog leashes were of concern because their long length was a known tripping hazard. The existing city of San Jose rule for 20-foot retractable leashes was consistent with other parks and open space. However, after the tragic death of a pedestrian who became entangled in a dog leash, staff looked at sidewalk laws that would better reflect the conditions on 12-foot-wide trails. The city then altered its ordinance to permit 6-foot, fixed-length leashes on trails. The rule requires that the person, dog and leash all remain to the right of center line (marked or unmarked).

    New signage is also being deployed with positive messaging. Our Trail Rules sign now uses "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" icons to display key rules, and supplemental signs are being posted along the trails to remind trail users to pass to the left, slow for pedestrians and be aware of hazards or nearby destinations. The graphics-based signage aims to be more memorable than simple text. Mileage markers posted at quarter-mile increments create “addresses” known to our 911 Center so that we can obtain more rapid emergency response and record keeping.

    For more information about San Jose’s efforts, visit www.sjparks.org/trails. See “Reports” for signage guidelines and the ordinance.

    Image of Trail Rules sign courtesy of the city of San Jose. Click for larger version.

  • Watch: Do You Count? Our Webinar on Measuring Trail Use

    A few weeks back, we held a webinar with experts from around the country discussing various methods of measuring trail use.

    As the adage goes, "You can't manage what you don't measure." This rule is especially true for trails, which host a wide variety of transportation and recreation users. Learn how nonprofits, governments and the private sector are using trail counts to better understand bicycle and pedestrian behavior, and how these resources can assist your pathway. We discuss counter technology, volunteer management, using trail counts to conduct economic impact studies and the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project.


    • Jennifer Donlon, Alta Planning + Design 
    • Mel Huie, Oregon Metro Regional Government 
    • Eric Oberg, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy 
    • David Patton, Arlington County, Va.

    Read biographies of the webinar presenters (PDF). For more information on RTC's trail user surveys, please visit the Trail-Building Toolbox. Special thanks to Greg Billing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for editing assistance.

    Did you watch the webinar? Let us know how we did by completing this survey. Thank you!

  • In Minnesota, Lessons for Managing Suburban Sprawl

    In a blog post originally published by the National Complete Streets Coalition at www.completestreets.org, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy intern Jason Frantz takes a look at the modern development of Red Wing, Minn., a town of 16,000 that recently launched an ambitious Complete Streets program to help mitigate the effects of urban sprawl.

  • Video: RTC Joins Tree Planting on the Met Branch Trail

    Last Thursday, April 21, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) joined Casey Trees out on the Met Branch Trail in Washington, D.C., for a tree planting. RTC and Casey Trees staff were joined by a great crowd of friends, supporters and volunteers to plant golden rain trees and sweet gum along a particularly exposed section of the trail just north of the New York Avenue Metro Station, as well as a strand of fruit trees in one location adjacent to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station. 

    "The idea is that we're going to line this section of the trail with trees so that we have a continuous tree canopy, so during the very hot summers in D.C. it will be much cooler, and much more pleasant on the trail," says Heather Deutsch, bicycle program specialist and trail planner with the District Department of Transportation. Deutsch lives right along the Met Branch Trail and is a regular user.  

    The goal of the fruit trees is to create a small orchard that will become a popular community gathering place, with trail users stopping to enjoy not only the shade of the trees but also the persimmons and apples they will bear in a few years.

    For RTC staff, it was a great to roll the sleeves up and work side-by-side with Casey Trees and all the volunteers who came out on a lovely spring day to improve the trail and celebrate Earth Day. A number of passers-by showed their appreciation of the new trees by stopping to say thank you.

    "We are building life with our hands," said Jeff Ciabotti, RTC's vice president of trail development. "What could be better than that?"

    The planting was made possible through RTC's Metropolitan Grants Program (funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation) and supported by D.C.-based BicycleSPACE.

    (Also, read more about RTC's partnership with Casey Trees in the 2011 Green Issue of Rails to Trails magazine!)

  • Detroit Trail Maintenance Project Celebrates Completion of Pilot, Looks to Future

    By Ruby Brunk

    In 2010, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, through its GreenWays Initiative, awarded a $147,433 grant to The Greening of Detroit for a pilot project focusing on the maintenance of local greenways. The resulting project not only kept targeted greenways maintained but also provided jobs and improved community trail usage and stewardship. 

    The Detroit Greenway Maintenance Pilot Project focused on Detroit’s Conner Creek, Southwest Detroit-Dearborn and Lyndon greenways. Before the season began, The Greening’s project manager met with partners from each site to go over specific maintenance details. The three greenways were split into manageable sections, and extensive maintenance surveys were conducted. The Greening developed work plans based on the surveys and kept careful records of all work performed. Four individuals were hired to make up the project’s maintenance crew. In addition to pre-season field orientations, the crew was given an overview on their work in the larger context of greenway development. Crew members also benefited from trainings on tool use, horticulture and landscaping throughout the season.  

    The regular presence of the crew, along with the work they accomplished, boosted morale on the greenway and increased community use and stewardship. Crewmembers reported on daily positive interactions, such as greenway users thanking them for their work or seeking them out to address additional maintenance issues. The community was further engaged by the project’s Growing Greener Detroit Series, which brought together Detroit residents, schools, churches and community organizations for events on the greenway. Partnerships with community centers and the dispersal of 3,000 promotional flyers were part of a concerted outreach effort, resulting in 316 youth and adults from 68 different organizations participating in day camps, tree walks, service days, horticulture workshops and other programming. 

    One of the goals of the Detroit Greenways Maintenance Pilot Project was to develop best practices for Detroit’s current and future greenways. On the Conner Creek, Southwest Detroit-Dearborn and Lyndon greenways, the success of the project is palpable. With the Detroit Greenways Coalition moving the city's trail network forward, this project should help inform the planning of other greenways in Detroit.

    Photo: Detroit's Dequindre Cut Greenway by Flickr user Rex Roof.

  • Iowa's High Trestle Trail--In Less Than Two Minutes!

    Coming up on April 30, 2011, is the grand-opening of the 25-mile High Trestle Trail in Iowa. If you can't make the celebration for this incredible trail, which includes a 13-story-high trestle over the Des Moines River, then take a look at this video of the rail-trail--compressed into less than two minutes of fast-paced fun by the city of Ankeny!

    Also, we'll be out exploring the High Trestle Trail ourselves later this summer for a destination piece in Rails to Trails magazine

  • Award-Winning Documentary Film Coming to Miami April 27

    Ride The Divide, the award-winning feature-length documentary about the world's toughest mountain bike race, will descend on South Florida for two shows at the O-Cinema in Miami on the night of Wednesday, April 27. The event will be a fundraiser for the Virginia Key Bicycle Club.

    The film chronicles the story of several mountain bikers who attempt the 2,711-mile race named the Tour Divide along the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The movie was named best adventure film at the 2010 Vail Film Festival.

    This film has become an instant cycling classic and made its television premiere in September on the Documentary Channel. But the Adventure Cycling Association says the film should be seen on the big screen: "The cinematography is stunning!" says Epic Riding. "In a word? Fantastic. In more words? Moving, funny, inspiring."

    Ride The Divide embraces the stories of three of the racers who experience the immense mountain beauty and small-town culture as they attempt to pedal from Banff, Canada, to a small, dusty crossing on the Mexican border. There's Mike, a 40-year-old family man who uses this challenge to chart a new course in life; Matthew, a leader in extreme endurance racing who's competing for his 5th time; and Mary, the first female rider to race this route. As they set out, they will attempt to accomplish what very few have been able to do: During the course of a few weeks, they'll attempt to climb more than 200,000 vertical feet along the backbone of the Rocky Mountains.

    They'll experience mental breakdowns, treacherous snow, hellacious blisters and total fatigue. Above all, they'll race with no support--at times in total isolation. The tests of endurance and the accomplished moments throughout Ride the Divide prompt us to reflect on our inner desires to live life to the fullest.

    Reviewing the film, Outside magazine proclaimed that "(t)he toughest bike race in the world is not in France."

    Ride The Divide will be shown at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the O-Cinema, located at 90 NW 29th Street in Miami. Tickets are $15 at the door and $10 in advance online purchase. The event is sponsored by Mack Cycles, All 4 Cycling and Scott Skate & Bike of Miami.

    Media contact: Garry Harrington at 603.209.5010 or gharrington3165@hotmail.com.

  • Tree Planting with Casey Trees

    One of the great things about being part of such an active community organization like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is getting to partner with our friends in the nonprofit world on projects where we share a common interest.

    For the past couple years, we've especially enjoyed working with Casey Trees, which since 2002 has partnered with the neighborhoods of D.C. to make sure we have enough trees is this urban metropolis.

    Improving the tree canopy of communities has a close relationship to the mission of RTC. Shady areas for rest and relaxation are important amenities for rail-trails, especially in the summer. Strands of healthy trees make trails more appealing places to visit; they also play a crucial role in the broader ecosystem, in busy cities as well as in wilderness areas.

    This Thursday, April 21, RTC and Casey Trees are teaming up to celebrate Earth Day with a community tree planting along the Metropolitan Branch Trail in D.C.

    If you live in the area and use the trail, this is a great chance to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty--improving this vital community facility and partnering with two nonprofits doing great things in your neighborhood.

    There will be snacks and drinks from 3 to 6 p.m. Commuters--stop by on your way home from work!

    For more information and to register as a volunteer, visit Casey Trees' website.

    Photo of tree planting courtesy of Casey Trees.

  • D.C. Couple to Celebrate Anniversary on Climate Ride

    By Stephany Small

    I have lived in the Washington, D.C., area for the past several years and have taken advantage of the amazing trails and commuting routes found throughout the area. In fact, I was car-free for more than five years, using feet and bicycle as my main modes of transportation. Commuting by bicycle is wonderful: It is incredibly economical, the fastest commute and the most time-efficient form of exercise. Plus, it felt great to know that I wasn't contributing to traffic and was making a small impact on preserving our planet.

    For our first anniversary, my husband Doug and I are riding our bikes from New York City to Washington, D.C., as part of Brita Climate Ride. This 300-mile, five-day ride from May 13 to 17 raises support and money for alternative transportation, bike advocacy and protecting the environment.

    I have decided to make Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) the sole benefactor of all funds I raise. I believe in RTC's mission and want to contribute to the growth of trails around the country so others may be able to have the same opportunities for safe, outdoor activities and alternative transportation that I have been privileged to enjoy.

    Please support me as I pedal toward a healthier, safer, happier place for us to live. Any donation you're able to make will go directly to benefit RTC's trail-building work around the country!

    Learn more about Climate Ride, and find out other ways you can get involved.  

    Photo: Doug and Stephany Small, courtesy of the Smalls.

  • RTC Works to Engage Supporters of New Orleans Greenway

    Getting to know the Lafitte CorridorRails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has been closely involved with the efforts of New Orleans residents to incorporate rail-trail projects into the rebuilding of their city in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

    The latest initiative is a "Greenway Ambassadors" program for the Lafitte Corridor, a 3.1-mile section of inactive railroad line and former portage canal that will soon be rejuvenated as a commuter and recreational rail-trail and linear park. Greenway Ambassadors work to engage interested citizens in the creation and management of the Lafitte Corridor, which would provide a crucial link downtown and, organizers hope, help revitalize neighborhoods along the greenway.

    Kelly Pack, manager of trail development for RTC, proposed the Greenway Ambassadors program to Friends of Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) earlier this year as a means of empowering and educating those who were interested in the corridor's development and wanted to stay involved.

    RTC and FOLC prepared a Greenway Ambassadors training program and packet containing information about the corridor's history and the greenway planning process.

    "The Ambassadors program provides a stronger voice for the greenway," Pack says. "Even with all the communication tools available to advocacy groups today, conversations between neighbors and friends can still be one of the most powerful ways to capture people's interest."

    This coming Saturday, April 16, Greenway Ambassadors will lead tours of the corridor at "Hike the Lafitte Corridor," an annual event organized by FOLC (register now if you'd like to take part in the hike).

    RTC has also worked with FOLC to create fun activity stations along the corridor on Saturday. Visitors doing the hike can stop and play volleyball or other group sports, and speak with the team designing plans for this exciting new greenway. Pack hopes that after the hike the Greenway Ambassadors program can be expanded to engage residents and local businesses with the greenway design process.

    Learn more about the Greenway Ambassadors program, including how to sign up and get involved.

    Photo: RTC and FOLC members along the Lafitte Corridor, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

  • Help Win Funding for Florida's Rail-Trails with a Click on Facebook!

    This April, one of our long-standing partners, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSFL), has launched a community engagement campaign called The Pursuit. This month-long voting competition invites BCBSFL's Facebook fans to vote for their favorite nonprofit, and we're excited that Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is one of three organizations on the ballot!  

    If we get the most votes by the end of the month, we could win up to $3,000 for our trail-building work in Florida -- not to mention great promotion of rail-trails across the state. So how can you take part and vote?  

    1. Visit the BCBSFL Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BCBSFL, and then click to "like" them as an organization.
    2. After that, you can find "The Pursuit" page through a link on the lefthand sidebar.
    3. Next, select the "click here to vote" button. You'll be asked to accept the voting "app," but rest assured our agreement with BCBSFL prohibits them from accessing, utilizing, storing or sharing any personal information other than using a voter's login ID to ensure individuals vote only once per day.
    4. On the next page, you can vote for RTC out of the three choices.
    5. If you're still not clear on the process, BCBSFL has posted a quick how-to video on YouTube.

    Even a single vote from you will be a huge help. But in this competition, you can vote every day until the end of April. So if your clicking fingers are up to the challenge, we'd love for you to vote as often as you're able or willing to do so!  Also, to spread our reach as far as possible, you can forward this e-mail to friends, family and colleagues and encourage them to support RTC as well.  

    Thank you for your great support. Let's win The Pursuit!

  • California Rail-Trail Projects Pick Up Steam

    In the past few months, we've been tracking some exciting developments in the California rail-trail community. Several high-profile projects are reaching and passing milestones this spring, with a pipeline of big projects under way that will help weave the state's trails together.

    Along the Central Coast, Santa Cruz County has secured funding for a 32-mile rail line that has long been proposed as a rail-with-trail project. This project  could link in with the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail to provide a 50-mile active transportation and recreation corridor along the scenic Monterey Bay.

    In the Sierra foothills, Friends of the El Dorado Trail just reached a compromise with railroad enthusiasts that makes trail construction on the complete corridor from Placerville to Folsom feasible and brings us much closer to a trail from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe! Look for trail extensions coming soon.

    In the great Central Valley, the city of Modesto is extending the Virginia Corridor with a half-mile of pathway that includes a bridge over a major street. Modesto is also working to acquire five miles of additional corridor length from Union Pacific that will allow the trail to be extended northward to Escalon.

    In the North Coast region, a grassroots drive to turn the damaged Eel River section of the North Coast Railroad into a multi-use trail has gathered thousands of signatures in support and prompted the North Coast Railroad Authority board to begin discussing options for railbanking the line. A trail along the Eel River through the redwoods of California would be an excellent tourist attraction and amenity for the residents of Humboldt County.

    To learn more about these and other rail-trail projects in California, contact Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) Western Regional Office at 415.814.1100.

    Photos courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: At left, Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail; at right, Virginia Corridor.

  • Your Expertise Needed on Trail Conflict and Safety in California!

    El Dorado Trail

    The California Department of Parks and Recreation is conducting a Statewide Roads and Trails Change-in-Use Program Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR). The department's goal is to study trail use conflict, safety issues and solutions.

    They are seeking hard data and documented practices, including success stories and failures. This report is not a trail user opinion survey; rather it is an attempt to find the most complete and objective documentation of the issues, and the best practices for addressing them. The plan is to complete the research collection and document review by April 30, 2011.

    How can you get involved? You can help by letting the department know of any study, strategy, contact or other source of information on techniques for managing multiple user types on trails and shared-use paths. Please direct all suggestions and questions to Hannah Kapell, research coordinator, at hannahkapell@altaplanning.com or 510.540.5008 x111.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas!

    Photo of California's El Dorado Trail courtesy of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.  


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