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August 2012 - RTC TrailBlog

  • Virginia Celebrates New Section of Tobacco Heritage Trail

    Great rail-trail news out of southern Virginia with a once overgrown and unused (below) section of rail corridor opened this week as a new section of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

    Thanks to the hard work and commitment of the nonprofit Roanoke River Rails-to-Trails, Inc., and the 15 towns, cities and counties pursuing their rail-trail plans in the region, the town of South Boston is this week celebrating a new 2.6-mile segment of rail-trail in their community. The rail-trail features picnic tables, benches, animal-proof garbage cans and platforms for mounting horses. Already, bike riders, equestrians, hikers, geocachers, bird watchers, dog walkers and many others have flocked to the new recreational trail made of aggregate compacted stone.

    And the Roanoke coalition is thinking big. The new path, along a disused section of the old Norfolk Southern rail system, is a step toward a planned 150-mile network of trails throughout southern Virginia.

    With a broad cross-section of support, from former Governor, now Senator Mark Warner, to land and recreation agencies and local municipalities, the vision for a signature rail-trail network for Virginia has been made possible by numerous grants through the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) and Recreational Trails (RTP) programs.

    Unfortunately for the people of Virginia, Congress' decision this year to weaken dedicated funding sources for trails, biking and walking through changes to the TE program jeopardizes the construction of future phases of the Tobacco Heritage Trail.

    A Friends of the Tobacco Heritage Trail group has been formed to raise funds, make improvements and increase awareness of the trail. Their facebook page is www.facebook.com/TobaccoHeritageTrail. If you are interested in volunteering for the trail, or want to know more, contact Heather Susee at hsusee@southsidepdc.org or call 434.447.7101.

    Photos and maps courtesy www.tobaccoheritagetrail.org

     

  • Pinellas Trail the Centerpiece of Brian Smith's Legacy in Florida

    At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration last October, we honored a group of men and women--the inaugural Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions--who have made a remarkable contribution to the rail-trail movement during the past quarter century. During the past few months we have been recapping the achievements of each champion. Today we recognize Brian Smith's enormous contribution to developing a network of trails and pathways in Florida.

    In his four decades in urban and regional planning, Brian Smith has witnessed firsthand the evolution of the role of trails in communities. During this time, planning professionals began to move the transportation focus away from traditional highway systems and toward bike and pedestrian facilities, a progression Smith refers to as a "maturing of the transportation system."

    Combining his planning focus with an energetic service spirit, Smith was instrumental in the creation and expansion of the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, one of Florida's most popular and unique urban pathways-and a member of the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. Connecting the cities of St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs on Florida's Gulf Coast, the Pinellas Trail is a marvel of non-motorized urban connectivity in a state where such pathways are rare and sorely needed. Its success as a recreational facility and transportation corridor has made it a model for urban pathways across the nation, and the Pinellas Trail helped jumpstart the rail-trail movement in Florida. Smith is currently the planning director for Pinellas County and the executive director of the Pinellas County MPO.

    Smith's experience with the Pinellas Trail and in planning at the regional level has made him a valuable member of the broader trails, bike and pedestrian community. He has worked with many other areas to establish trails based on the successes of Pinellas County. Smith is nationally recognized as a generous technical resource for others planning pedestrian and bike trail projects, and as a passionate and knowledgeable advocate of urban pathways.

    Smith dedicated the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion grant given in his honor to the creation of new signage and navigation markers along the Pinellas Trail.

    Photo of Brian Smith receiving his Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion award from RTC President Keith Laughlin by Scott Stark/RTC

     

  • Bouncing Back: After Big Storms, Trail Groups Respond

    It's been a wild 18 months, weather-wise, on America's rail-trails. From snowstorms in Vermont to flooding in Iowa (right) and tornados in Alabama, severe weather events across the country wrought havoc on trails, bridges, woodlands and watersheds, and stretched to the limit the resources and resilience of the people who manage and maintain them.

     And, my, how they responded. Here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) we have been hearing of whole communities rallying behind fundraising campaigns, emergency work crews and volunteer round-ups. Not only do residents and businesspeople feel personally connected to these local assets, they also understand their importance. With the rail-trail out of action visitor numbers dried up, community celebrations were cancelled, and all of a sudden that favorite place for a jog or morning walk wasn't there anymore.

    So it was great to see Friends of the Little Miami State Park (FLMSP) in Ohio recognized for its rapid response after severe weather closed the Little Miami Scenic Trail (below) in June. Ohio State Parks this month honored the non-profit organization with a certificate heralding the trail groups' "outstanding assistance" after the derecho storm of June 29 brought down trees across much of this RTC Hall of Fame rail-trail.

    According to an article at cincinatti.com, the wide range of groups which had "adopted" a section of the trail were summoned first thing the following morning and labored as a coordinated team throughout the weekend. In spite of the extensive deadfall throughout the trail, segment adopters had cleared 20 of 24 segments by the end of Saturday. Ohio State Parks then moved in after the weekend to pulverize and remove the remaining debris.

    The certificate cites the "outstanding assistance to Ohio State Parks staff in clearing the trail," and emphasizes the "true partnership between the friends' group and Ohio State Parks for the benefit of trail users."

    Ohio State Parks Community Partnerships Manager Jim Henahan said the effort of FLMSP is an example of how Ohio State Parks has come to rely on the efforts of 57 friends groups in Ohio. About 7,000 volunteers across the state gave 400,000 hours of service to the Ohio parks in 2011.

     

    To find the "friends of" your local rail-trail, contact the RTC office in your region:

    Florida and the Southeast: rtcflorida@railstotrails.org

    Northeast: rtcnortheastoffice@railstotrails.org

    Midwest: rtcmidwestoffice@railstotrails.org

    The West: rtcwesternoffice@railstotrails.org

    Everywhere else: info@railstotrails.org

     

    Photo of Iowa Heritage trail flood damage courtesy Dubuque County Conservation Board
    Photo of the Little Miami Scenic Trail by RTC 

     

     

  • Community Mapping Helps Detroit Take Back the Neighborhoods

    I'll admit it. I never thought I'd be moved by a video about Google Maps.

    Enter our man Todd Scott of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance. Scott is doing some very cool things in Detroit to make the motor city more bike-friendly, and to connect the people of this economically-struggling area with the power of two-wheels.

    "It's not that we were always the motor city," Todd says in this video about Google's Map Maker Community. "The Dodge brothers made bikes before they made cars. Henry Ford built his first car out of bike parts."

    Who knew?

    In addition to his work running an Earn-a-Bike program in the Osborn neighborhood (funded by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Metropolitan Grants Program - a partnership with The Coca Cola Foundation), Scott has been busy using Google's open source platform to make a comprehensive map of bike friendly routes across the city. His simple purpose: make it easier for Detroit residents to choose a healthier, cheaper and more efficient way of getting around.

    "It goes beyond map making," Todd says. "It's a way to take back your neighborhood."

    RTC has played a big role in getting bike and pedestrian routes online. When you visit Google Maps today, many of the biking and walking options you see are based on Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data provided by RTC from our recent trail mapping initiatives. This mapping work has enabled us to build the most comprehensive trail-finder website around, TrailLink.com, with photos, reviews and accurate maps of more than 20,000 miles of trails. It's free, by the way, so check it out.

     

     

  • Good News Mixed With the Not-So-Good in Massachusetts

    Inspired by the great success of its more famous rail-trails, such as the Minuteman and Shining Sea bikeways, and Cape Cod, Manhan, Nashua River and Norwottuck rail-trails, the state of Massachusetts is looking to further extend its network of nonmotorized pathways.

    According to Westford Patch, earlier this year the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMPO) allocated $8,788,000 in its Fiscal Year 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to extend the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail from its current terminus in Westford, south through Carlisle and Acton, for a total length of almost 5 miles.

    The money is coming from Massachusetts Department of Transportation's Green Dot program, which aims to make Massachusetts' transportation system the most sustainable in the country, by increasing transit and active transportation facilities.

    The extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was one of the priority projects of the Bay State Greenway project, focusing on seven key corridors (most of which include rail-trails), to connect a 740-mile network of shared-use pathways throughout the state.

    According to Friends of the Bruce Freeman Trail (FBFRT), this financial support for rail-trail development is the hard-earned fruit of many years of advocacy labor.

    "Our reading of the tea leaves is that the strong and persistent support of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail by citizens, legislators and the FBFRT tipped the scales for inclusion of Phase 2A in a planning process that is severely budget constrained," FBFRT wrote in its summer newsletter. "We have been garnering support and commenting on TIPs since 2007."

    And the good news keeps coming for the FBFRT. This month Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a state transportation bond bill that included an additional $200,000 for the design of phase 2B.

    However, although the bill also included $150,000 for the construction of the Yankee Doodle Bike Path in Billerica, only a tiny portion of the $1.5 billion bill was dedicated to bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects. 

    Transportation for Massachusetts wrote on its website that "the bill is a lost opportunity to start the creation of a national 21st century transportation network, and a step backwards at this crucial time," adding that the bill does "not support creating safe streets for all, and resources for options like biking and walking."

    Photo courtesy of FBFRT

     

     

  • Outdoor Recreation Industry Worth $646 Billion a Year

    Did you know... Americans spend more on bicycling gear and trips ($81 billion) each year than they do on airplane tickets and fees ($51 billion)? Or that the outdoor recreation industry accounts for $646 billion in spending each year, supporting 6.1 million direct jobs and generating $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue?

    That outdoor recreation amenities like rail-trails are powerful economic engines is no surprise to the many communities across America sustained and bolstered by trails tourism. And the data about their true value continue to pile up.

    The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) this month released an economic study that found that outdoor recreation is one of America's fastest growing industries and a major job generator in both the manufacture and sale of equipment, but also in the American communities served by recreation amenities. In fact, trips and travel-related spending accounted for $524.8 billion of the total $646 billion in outdoor recreation spending each year.

    The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) was highlighted in the report, a terrific example of destination rail-trails bringing life, commerce and sustainable business back to towns once decimated by the closure of primary industries. A 2012 study by the Center for Regional Progress at Frostburg State University found that trail tourism along the GAP injects an estimated $50 million dollars a year in direct spending in these towns.

    Of course, the message behind the OIA report is that outdoor recreation amenities, such as protected public lands and trails, are crucial to the continued success of this industry. With any luck, our state governors are paying attention, as this month they  prepare to decide whether to opt out of Recreational Trails Program (RTC) funding and instead use that tiny percentage of funds dedicated for public trails for continued highway expansion and maintenance.

    Does your Governor believe public trails are important amenities for the citizens of your state? Help us urge elected officials to retain RTP funding.

     

     

  • Union Pacific to Abandon Rail Corridor in Polk County, Iowa

    On or about August 06, 2012, Union Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 5.8 miles of track near Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa. We are providing this information because it presents an opportunity to develop a multi-use trail that can accommodate hikers, bikers, equestrians and other appropriate uses.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    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. 310x). 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 September 05, 2012. 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

     

     

     

  • Maryland Taps Transportation Enhancements for Easton Rail Trail

    A federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) grant and funding support from the Maryland Bikeways Program has allowed the town of Easton in eastern Maryland to finally build a rail-trail that has been on the town's comprehensive plan for 15 years.

    The Star Democrat wrote this week that Gov. Martin O'Malley had approved funding for the Easton Rail Spur Line project that will connect to the existing Easton Rail-Trail and extend the network another 2.3 miles.

    "Constructing the Easton Rail Spur Line will provide opportunities for Maryland's families, residents and visitors to explore and enjoy our great state's natural and cultural treasures," O'Malley said.

    The mayor of Easton, Robert C. Willey, says the new trail will not only encourage more ridership by local families, but would also be an asset for tourism in this town on the eastern shores of Chesapeake Bay.

    The Maryland Bikeways Program is behind some major bike/ped projects coming up in the next 12 months, including construction of the Baltimore city downtown cycletrack and bike network, and connecting the Anacostia Tributary Trail in Prince George's County with the Washington D.C. River Trail.

    Map courtesy of The Star Democrat.

     

  • With Little Backing From Municipalities, Volunteers Build Stunning Rail-Trail in Idaho

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's new report, Community Built: Stories of Volunteers Creating and Caring for Their Trails, contains inspiring examples of everyday Americans across the country using their community strength to create incredible trails.

    With resources for trail development and maintenance often limited or nonexistent, it can be disheartening for volunteers and advocates who face seemingly insurmountable planning challenges and multi-million dollar estimates.

    But Community Built gives trail champions a reason to take heart, because across the country, stories abound of trails getting developed, extended and cared for with minimal resources.

    In rural Idaho, Friends of the Weiser River Trail (FWRT) has been able to build and maintain an 85-mile rail-trail with no significant municipal or county backing. FWRT did all of the hard work themselves, encountering opposition from both county governments and private property owners along the way, several of whom filed lawsuits against the friends group.

    FWRT also had no meaningful way of enforcing trail regulations since they were not backed by ordinances. Despite the adversity, they wisely leveraged equipment and volunteer operators to help create and maintain a trail so beautiful that it was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2010. Much of the credit goes to the hard-working FWRT board of directors, which represented many different user groups and helped involve those groups in the trail-building process. Strong membership, support from multiple growing events, and an endowment will keep FWRT strong in its pursuit of improvements on the Weiser River Trail.

    This organization took title to the railbanked corridor in August 1997 through a donation by Union Pacific Railroad with an appraised value of $12 million. The corridor contains 60 trestle bridges, crossing the river, roads and highways numerous times.

    FWRT earns about $7,500 a year sponsoring a number of yearly events, including an annual relay run at the end of April between Council and Midvale. Events are used as an opportunity to recruit new members and introduce the trail to a wider audience.

    Each of the three local chambers of commerce supports the trail due to its economic benefit, and the few sponsored events during the year do bring in significant local investment. The trail development and maintenance budget is approximately $125,000 a year, most of which is spent on local vendors, businesses and contractors.

    Ridley grocery stores' Home Town Advantage program donates $6,000 a year to the trail, and all trestle repairs and most trail development have been funded by grants from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Other than grants, membership fees are the largest consistent sources of revenue. The trail has been paved through the towns of Weiser, Cambridge and Council, using Transportation Enhancement (TE) grants.

    To learn more about how FWRT, and trails groups elsewhere, have been able to do incredible things with limited resources, read or download Community Built at www.railstotrails.org.

    Photos courtesy of Friends of the Weiser River Trail

     

     

  • Breast Cancer Tragedy Inspires RTC Member

    Earlier this year we wrote about the heartbreaking, yet inspiring, story of Gary Wobler.

    Long-time supporter of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Gary and his wife Arlene loved running and riding on rail-trails across the country, and in their more than 50 years of marriage they traveled, lived in different cities, saw America, and raised a family.

    So when Arlene passed away in 2011 of breast cancer, it was a massive blow for Gary. Soon after her death, one of Gary's three daughters was diagnosed with breast cancer.

    Where lesser men may have been defeated by these tragedies, Gary is in a fighting mood, and a few months after losing Arlene he started Pedal 4 Pink, a nonprofit organization providing financial assistance to women battling breast cancer.

    "I believe it should be an equal playing field," Gary says. "Just because you aren't wealthy doesn't mean you shouldn't have access to decent treatment. Our country wasn't built like that."

    We are very pleased to report that Pedal 4 Pink has grown from strength to strength in recent months. Matter of fact, it's even made its way into the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)!

    The Indiana Fever, the WNBA team based in Indianapolis, has thrown their support behind Pedal 4 Pink, and if you live in that neck of the woods you can too. When the Indiana Fever play the Minnesota Lynx on Friday, September 14, a portion of select ticket sales will go to Pedal 4 Pink to financially assist cancer patients.

    And after the game, the Fever will host their 3rd Annual Breast Health Awareness Postgame Live Auction, where they will auction the pink jerseys the players wore during the game.

    If you can make it to this fantastic event, be sure that part of your ticket proceeds benefits Pedal 4 Pink. To place your order, you can call Nathan Burger at 317.917.2805, or buy tickets online at www.fevergroups.com/tickets/377. The password is PEDAL.

    Way to go, Gary. 

     

     

  • Notice: Upcoming Railroad Abandonment in Pocahontas County, Iowa

    On or about August 3, 2012, Union Pacific Railroad Company filed for the abandonment of 1.95 miles of track in the city of Laurens, Pocahontas County, Iowa. 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.

    RECEIVE RAILROAD ABANDONMENT NOTICES FOR YOUR STATE VIA E-MAIL

    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. 304x). 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 September 02, 2012. 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 National Office of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

    Photo courtesy of www.TrailLink.com

  • $1 Million for Charities the Goal of Canada-to-Mexico Ride

    Long-distance rides have become a popular way of raising money and awareness for important social issues. Here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we are always pleased to see our cycling and trails communities dedicate themselves to such worthy causes.

    Early next month, Chicago's Bob Lee will begin an epic 2,500-mile ride from Canada to Mexico, with the goal of raising $1 million to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and cancer, and to support hospice care.

    Already Lee has raised nearly $500,000 for these three causes. In 2001, he rode 3,200 miles across the southern border of the United States, and in 2007 he completed 6,500 miles along the East Coast and across the northern border of the country. With this third ride, "Ride for 3 Reasons," Lee will have cycled the perimeter of the country, educating the public about the three issues and raising funds for the Les Turner ALS Foundation, American Cancer Society, National Hospice Foundation and Hospice and Palliative Care of Northeastern Illinois.

    Lee's inspiration for the initial ride was the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. He was profoundly affected by the example of Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor and author diagnosed with ALS, who advocated for living in a fully conscious, compassionate and loving way. 

    "During my ride, I will meet with ALS and cancer patients and caregivers, as well as visit hospice facilities along the route," Lee says. "The ride is about the people. Although I do need to train to prepare for the physical challenge, nothing fuels and motivates me along the journey as much as the people I meet and the stories I hear." 

    To learn more about the Ride for 3 Reasons, visit www.3Reasons.org

    Photo courtesy of www.3Reasons.org. 

     

  • Massachusetts Cheers as Work Begins on Northern Strand Community Trail

    The residents and businesspeople of Saugus, close to the Massachusetts coastline, are celebrating today with the long-awaited beginning of work on their section of the Northern Strand Community Trail.

    "I think it's awesome," Saugus Board of Selectmen Vice-chairmen Steve Castinetti told the Daily Item last week. "It's a huge step up for the town, and I think it will bring a lot of interest to the town. This is a win-win for the business community, as well, if we could get people from outside of Saugus to just ride through town and see what there is to offer."

    The Saugus section is part of what will one day be a 10-mile rail-trail between Everett, to the southwest, and Lynn, east of Saugus on the shores of Nahant Bay.

    Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is especially pleased to see work beginning on this formally abandoned section of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority railroad line. In 2011, RTC and The Coca-Cola Foundation awarded Bike to the Sea, Inc., two grants totaling $12,500 to provide a match for an $84,000 Recreational Trails Program grant to aid the trail's construction.

    According to the Daily Item, work is also under way in nearby Malden, and "in the pipeline" in Revere. However, the city of Lynn is being described as a "holdout" on the project.

    Thanks to a partnership with a group called Iron Horse, Saugus will get a 2.5-mile gravel trail with recycled asphalt for "next to nothing." Iron Horse will remove the rail line tracks and ties, which they then sell for scrap metal. With this profit, Iron Horse will construct the trail.

    Congratulations, Massachusetts! The Northern Strand Community Trail will be a great addition to the growing rail-trail network in the Northeast.

    Map courtesy of www.biketothesea.com

     

  • A Simple Machine Opens Big Door for Kids in U.S. Cities

    Detroit knows what time it is. We love this great story at Mode Shift (right) about the Earn-a-Bike program Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is funding in Detroit's Osborn community. The reporter, Achille Bianchi, makes good note of the fact that programs like this one are about more than just bikes--they are "teaching youth about the benefits of place, transportation alternatives and a sense of pride in a community."

    Funded by RTC's Metropolitan Grants Program - a partnership with The Coca Cola Foundation - and run by Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and their partners in Detroit, the four-week Earn-a-Bike program has the group of boys and girls ages 10 to 14 not only learning how repair a bike but also undertaking a number of community service projects, including cleaning up the nearby Milbank Greenway.

    Through the Metropolitan Grants Programs, RTC has supported Earn-a-Bike programs around the country, an important part of our recent focus on urban areas as the role of biking and walking in solving the nation's pressing health, environmental, economic and social issues becomes increasingly evident.

    In Michigan, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey and Maryland, RTC-supported Earn-a-Bike programs have targeted neighborhoods where kids often have few transportation options, where obesity is a problem, where incomes are low--places where a simple machine with two wheels can make an enormous difference to young students seeking a vehicle to freedom, to exercise, and to mobility.

    Next up: Houston's Third Ward neighborhood, where our friends at Workshop Houston are using an RTC grant to expand their existing bike repair shop so they can serve more kids in their popular summer Earn-a-Bike program.

    Roll on, young 'uns.

    Photo from Camden CYCLE program by RTC

     

  • All Across Texas, Cities Boost Bike-ability

    Ah, so now I understand why all my exes live in Texas...

    Historically, the Lone Star State has not always been the most bike-friendliest of places, with car-centric development and a lack of a robust biking and walking culture defining many of its cities and larger towns.

    The times are a'changing, however. In centers like Denton, San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Fort Worth, planners are recognizing the importance of bike (and pedestrian) infrastructure, and as a result, ridership and bike-inspired initiatives are on the up.

    The latest developments:

    The city of San Antonio is expanding its bike-share program, which when launched in 2011 was the first fully developed bike-share program in the state. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is partnering with the city, and San Antonio Bike Share, to expand the B-Cycle bike share system south of downtown to connect to the park.

    Already the second-busiest B-Cycle system in America, with an average of more than 6,700 riders per day logging a total of more than 106,000 miles, San Antonio officials have set themselves the goal of further expanding the bike-share program beyond the existing 23 stations in downtown San Antonio to connect other key points of interest in surrounding areas.

    In Austin, the local energy for better bike infrastructure is so great that local businesses have kicked in $500,000 to help pay for, and manage, a bike-share system. Supported by a federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) grant, the managers of Lance Armstrong's Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop in downtown Austin and a number of other Austin businesspeople are setting up a nonprofit organization to run the bike-share program, which will feature 30 to 50 stations covering downtown and central east Austin.

    Securing TE money for the bike-share system is part of a broader initiative by the city of Austin to improve their local traffic capacity and performance, and livability rating, by adding more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly bridges and protected bike lanes. The bike-share system is expected to launch in 2013.

    Elsewhere in the state, earlier this year the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approved more than $3 million in Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants for 26 trail projects across Texas. The funded projects include sections of the North East Texas Trail, an ambitious rail-trail plan to develop a connected corridor from New Boston, just west of Texarkana, to Farmersville, just north of Dallas.

    A large and dedicated group has committed themselves to this 132-mile trail along former rail lines, which run through beautiful Texas backwoods and unspoiled blackland prairie. When completed, it will be the longest trail system in the state, and an incredible trail tourism asset for the region.

    Nice work, Texas. You're on a roll.

    Both photos courtesy Lisa Krantz/San Antonio Express-News

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