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I got so excited this week reading my issue of Rails to Trails Magazine, that I decided to buck the schedule and write about the Rail Trails this week.  

Here's a bit about the Rails to Trails Conservancy:

Twenty-five years ago, on February 1, 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) opened its doors. At the time, only a few hundred miles of rail-trail existed in all of America. In the years since, we've helped create more than 1,600 rail-trails, totaling nearly 20,000 miles of rail-trail and representing all 50 states. What began as an interesting concept has become a national movement enjoyed by tens of millions of people every year. Like the railroads before them, these trails have transformed the American landscape and touched countless communities, from rural whistle stops to metropolitan centers.

I encourage you all to check out the Rails to Trails Conservancy website, and join up!  

Rail Trails are a fantastic community asset.  Communities take unused train tracks and convert them to paved paths for commuting, recreation, and fitness.  

Most cities and towns hate the idea at first.  Opposition is fierce!  It's expensive -- on average $1 million per mile.  People fear that the multi-use path will invite strangers into their neighborhood, perhaps dangerous strangers scoping out houses for break-ins. The path might allow access to people's homes to these potentially dangerous strangers!  (For me this always conjures up the amusing image of the Hamburgler teetering away from a house on his bike with big-screen tv lashed to his back.)  Litter!  The noise and activity would reduce their privacy!  House values would go down!  Horrible!

But when the paths actually go in?  Communities love them!  Path-accessible house values increase! Homeowners create their own shortcuts to the path for ease of access.  They walk their dogs, stroll with babies, go for runs, get their families out on bikes, improve their commutes by biking/walking/rollerblading to work or to the train/subway.  Some families even set up rest areas on the border between their property and the path so that family members and path users can relax, picnic, and enjoy watching the world go by.  Towns the trails pass through experience an upsurge in commerce from path users stopping for coffee, ice cream, lunch, bike repair, etc.

My first happy experiences biking as an adult were on the Minuteman Bikeway.  I was very insecure about biking in traffic, so I felt much more comfortable on an off-road path.  Another big plus for a beginner cyclist is that train tracks are generally built on the flats.  So NO HILLS!!!   What hills there may be are carefully graded to be long and gradual, so you hardly notice them.   I soon learned that when biking the length of the Minuteman Trail Lexington Center is approximately the high point.  It's a gradual uphill towards Lexington from either direction and a nice easy downhill from Lexington towards Bedford or Somerville.

On an average Summer morning, I see thousands of people using this path.  It's very heartening.  Look at us!  We're out enjoying the Summer, getting some exercise, and having fun.  This crush of people can be terrific companions or annoying hindrances, depending on the extent of path etiquette.

Path Etiquette
I'm putting this as a sub-heading because for many - runners, walkers, skaters and bikers alike, path etiquette (or, more importantly, lack thereof) completely ruins the path experience for them.  Here are the basic rules of most paths:

* Stay to the right.  Again, bold because this is a very important principle.  Pretend you're driving.  Stay to the right side of the path so that oncoming traffic can pass to your left and so that faster traffic can pass you on the left if oncoming traffic permits.  This is especially important if you're biking with friends or family.  It's tempting to bike side-by-side so you can chat, but as you spread across the path you're blocking oncoming and passing traffic.  Stay to the right and pass on the left.

* At road intersections, car, bike, and pedestrian traffic on the road has the right of way.  Even with a crossing marked, traffic may stop but then again it might not.  Don't risk it until you're sure.  You probably won't need to completely stop at most crossings but certainly pay attention, slow down, and prepare to stop if necessary.  If traveling with friends, the first person can check for traffic and either signal a stop or shout "clear!" so everyone can get through.

* Alert others to your presence.  Nobody likes having somebody swoop past and startle them.  Ring a bell or call out "on your left!"  Politely and cheerfully if possible.  Nobody likes having orders shouted at them either.  As annoyed as you may be that people aren't obeying the cardinal rule of Stay to the Right, you are not there to enforce this rule.  Idiots People who don't follow path etiquette have a right to be there too and they're more likely to cooperate if asked politely.

* Move over if requested.  No matter how fast you are or what a nice conversation you're having, there is always somebody wanting to pass.  Let them! As a matter of custom, get used to riding on the right side of the right side of the path and ride single-file with friends so you can be passed easily.  

* Stay alert.  If I were in charge, I'd completely forbid running, cycling, walking, or skating with headphones.  I know music can help keep rhythm and makes workouts less boring, but it's important to hear cues from your environment, such as me shrieking at you to get the frak over to the right so I can pass you.  Ooops!  Did I just say that out loud?  I mean, "me politely and sweetly requesting you move over." It's not just headphones.  Sometimes people chatting are so intent on their conversation that they completely tune out everything else.  Tuning out or zoning out can be dangerous.  Pay attention to your environment.

* Pull off the path when stopping.  It's very frustrating and potentially dangerous when you're cruising along and somebody suddenly stops in front of you.  Just as you wouldn't suddenly stop on the highway, don't pull to a stop in the middle of the path.  Slow gradually and pull off the path to stop.

* Wear your helmet, and in any sort of dim conditions turn on your front and rear lights.  Safety isn't just for the roads!  We usually travel with a first-aid kit as well.  

* Bring a repair kit and air pump.  We're lucky on the Minuteman Trail that there's a bike shop right on the path and another at the end of the path in Bedford.  But that's not always the case, so be prepared to fix flats or make adjustments or repairs as necessary.  

* Greet folks you see!  This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but it's certainly a good way to welcome new users and have fun.  Smile!  You're on the path to enjoy yourself.  I can't tell you how encouraging it is to run into a batch of super-fast racers and they smile and yell "good morning!"  to me.  I'm not just a fat lady on a bike, I'm one of the tribe. One of the community. One of us.  

Some paths are patrolled by cycling city police officers or park rangers, but most are self-governing.  Like in any large gathering of people, conflicts may arise.  Especially if people have differing ideas about path etiquette. But I've never actually seen or participated in any of these conflicts.  I hope this is the experience for you as well.  

Last summer, we discovered the Nashua River Trail, and it is a gem!  Many fewer road crossings than the Minuteman, less traffic on those crossings, and less traffic on the trail itself.  We also like the Cape Cod Rail Trail and the Shining Sea Bikeway.

Some cyclists find it much easier to ride on the road - fewer runners, family bikers, skaters, dogs and pedestrians to avoid.  Because of all these other path users, you can't really ride much faster than 10-15 mph on the path.  So if you want to go 20+mph, the road will be a much better venue.  But for beginner or casual cyclists bike paths can be a great place to develop skills, stamina, and have a great time.  

Do you have rail trails in your area?  Are any planned?  Do you like them?  Do you use them?

If you don't know if there are rail trails in your area, the Rails to Trails Conservancy cited above is an excellent resource.  I check there before traveling to find out if there are good trails in the area I'm visiting.

This weekend, we plan to explore the Neponset Greenway with a group ride , so next week's diary will be a report on the Greenway as well as an introduction to group rides.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I got the Silver Streak out for the morning's commute for the first time this season.  WHEEE!!


Third in a series of Introduction to Biking.

Other topics include:

* How to get started if you haven't ridden since you got your driver's license
* BWOW (Biking While OverWeight)
* Rail  Trails  - today's topic!
* Group rides
* Safety and sharing the road
* Finding the right commuter bike
* Panniers, trailers and baskets
* Equipment and repair
* Community rides
* Community issues
* Bike porn

Originally posted to Velocipede Vanguard on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Public Lands and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  i have been a fan (18+ / 0-)

    of this group for decades. Useless abandoned tracks are perfect for trails. And the old rail ties are great for building raised gardens.

    As to this-

    Ring a bell or call out "on your left!"

    You'll be amazed how few people (50%?) know what "LEFT" is. I just ring my bell with increasing frequency and volume as i approach. The dumber they are, the more dings the get (Dingbats?).

    Finally, it might be unwise to begin a blog post going on about the stoopid NIMBY opposition. They do not deserve top billing. Bury them at the end where they belong.

    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

    by LaughingPlanet on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:11:53 AM PDT

  •  My wife and I (11+ / 0-)

    have cycled the Cape Cod Rail trails which are outstanding

    and include bike paths created beyond just the rail trails.


    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:15:01 AM PDT

    •  We did those a couple years ago (5+ / 0-)

      Great fun!

    •  Badly designed "furniture" (7+ / 0-)

      The cape cod rail trails are clearly designed by landscapers, and not people that understand traffic safety.  In particular, look at the eastern terminus of the trail.  To keep motor vehicles off, they have put a stone wall to either side, and a steel pin in the center of the trail, leaving two openings of at most 3'.   Plantings of trees leave the last 100' of the path in deep shadow, making the pin harder to see.  Its a bit of a downhill at that point, and they don't have any warning signage to indicate the end of the trail is approaching.

       The steel pin while designed to be removable is padlocked in place.  However to make it possible to lift it out of the way, it has a pin thru the steel section, with the ends sticking out several inches.  They did have enough of a clue, that they are pointing down the trail (so they don't snag those that pass too close) but not enough of a clue to realize that should someone riding the trail happen to hit the post, the pin is perfectly placed to perforate.  

      Yes, people hit the pin.  One of the charity rides (pan mass challenge)that I lend my bike repair skills to, uses the trail as part of the route. The first year they included that particular stretch, that very pin (before they added the "handle")  claimed two riders (one evacuated by ambulance, the other wound up with a two piece bicycle).  I was there, my EMT partner called in the ambulance request, and I hauled away the hunks of carbon that used to be an expensive road bike.

      This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

      by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:20:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've been riding a recumbent (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hikerbiker, RunawayRose

      for about a dozen years. Started with a Rans Rocket, now a Bacchetta Giro.

    •  Beautiful photos (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hikerbiker, RunawayRose

      Thanks for sharing!

      Fire burn and cauldron bubble, bendy straws or my fee is double - via Twitter about the half-term governor Sarah Palin

      by alrdouglas on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 07:51:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I did the American Tobacco Trail (8+ / 0-)

    south of Durham, NC a few weeks ago with friends. I'm a novice, but, as you say, not many hills on RTT and we ended up doing a 28-mile round trip. A beautiful ride.

    Take the high road.

    by esby on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:20:28 AM PDT

  •  And it's in one of the few Democratic areas here (6+ / 0-)

    There's a great trail that leads ends in Park City, one of the few Democratic areas in Utah.

    The woodchucks will glare at you as you ride by.  I've never seen one but supposedly, seeing a moose is not out of the question.

    It follows the old rail line that used to bring silver out of Park City.  

    I'll leave it to the reader to decide if Park City was better off with toxic waste from silver mining or with Paris Hilton visiting during the Sundance Festival.

  •  Wonderful trails in Nebraska (5+ / 0-)

    The trails in Lincoln are the nicest thing about the city. Omaha has them too but I haven't tried those. Our favorite ride was from Nebraska City south along the Missouri River to Brownsville, beautiful scenery, nice towns to stop at on the way (Peru). Bonus view at the end of Cooper Nuclear plant...:-(

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~

    by sillia on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:57:34 AM PDT

  •  I was on a greenway (6+ / 0-)

    Where six people were walking side by side in a swath about 20 feet wide. Counting other pedestrian traffic and strollers going around them, it was major event of cluelessness. For clearance (safety), I had to bike maybe 20 feet from the edge of the path.

    That tip against side by side is well advised.

    Take the high road.

    by esby on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 10:13:41 AM PDT

  •  Burke-Gilman in Seattle (8+ / 0-)

    Years ago I lived next to the Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle. It was great for commuting to the UW and for enjoying the city.

    Thanks for highlighting these bike trails.


  •  Illinois, Wisconsin (14+ / 0-)

    When we lived in Illinois, there was a fair amount of rails-to-trails conversion and we spent quite a bit of time on them. We also made a few forays to Wisconsin, which has a few notable trails. Side note, Wisconsin is great for highway riding—principally on the lettered secondary roads. There isn't a lot of traffic and the scenery can be astounding.

    Here are some of the places we rode:

    • Prairie Path (IL)
    • Great Western Trail (IL)
    • Fox River Trail (IL)
    • Virgil Gilman Trail (IL)
    • Sugar River Trail (WI)
    • Elroy-Sparta Trail (WI)

    Here are some things we learned:

    • Rail trails are not good training routes where near populated areas—don't plan on much more than 8-12 MPH. Don't even think about a pace line.
    • Common courtesy is quite uncommon in the same areas—plan to have to really adjust your path to get around baby stroller groups. And that's not to denigrate baby stroller groups—I mean really, how else would a mother air out her baby with a fellow mother along with hers?
    • We'll never achieve stay-to-the-right mentality on bike paths until we can achieve it on escalators in this country.
    • The closer to communities, the more civilians you can expect to encounter. Don't even think of trying to train on the Fox River Trail.
    • While most railroad grades (Class I, anyway) max out at around 1%, Elroy-Sparta, for example, has a lot of 3%. You'll be amazed at the difference a percent or two makes

    Learn about the trails and what, if any, facilities you can expect along them. For example:

    • Sugar River has New Glarus on one end with lots of neat shops and eateries. The other end, Brodhead, not so much. Really remote in between.
    • Elroy-Sparta has lots of stuff on the Sparta end (including an Interstate), but Elroy not so much. Not much in between, although there are three tunnels. The longest is about a mile, and you should have a light for it.
    • The Great Western has St. Charles on one end and Sycamore on the other—both great places for visiting. but nothing in between
    • The Prairie Path has nearby communities all along its length, although not immediately proximate, and west of SR-59, it's pretty rural until you get to the termini (it splits into three trails near Wayne)
    • The Fox River trails (they're actually on both sides of the river in several areas) go essentially right through the several communities (Aurora, North Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, South Elgin) so facilities are plentiful.
    • The Virgil Gilman Trail is pretty lonely once you leave Aurora, but Sugar Grove isn't far from the other end and has some facilities. On the other hand, it's quite short.
    • Compare trail length to abilities. We were able to manage Sugar River as a round trip (around 50 miles). Elroy-Sparta, on the other hand would be 66 (as I recall) and a metric century is a little much for families unless they're the Schlecks. We did Elroy-Sparta one way with another family and the logistics were quite challenging. Think two families and two families' worth of bicycles in one vehicle for nearly an hour.

    We've been gone from Illinois for a dozen years, and I have no idea how things might have changed there or in Wisconsin. We had a great time and exposed our kids (and some friends and their families) to some fabulous adventures.

  •  Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin is great! (8+ / 0-)

    Haven't been there in a long time, but I always loved the trip.  I think it was the first of the Rails-To-Trails.  I stayed in a bed and breakfast whose owners claimed to have helped create it.  It is quite flat and goes through three different railroad tunnels, two are 1/4 mile long and one is 3/4 mile long.  I recommend going in the fall when the colors are at their peak.

  •  We have several trails like this in Montana (7+ / 0-)

    including the Hiawatha Trail that runs into N. Idaho.:)

    "If you don't do it this year you'll be another year older when you do"-Warren Miller

    by fishgirl26 on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 12:21:57 PM PDT

  •  South Dakota Mickelson Trail (5+ / 0-)

    If any make it to the Black Hills, the Mickelson Trail is incredible and can easily be turned into a 3 day ride.  Did the Trail Trek this last year and it's worth the trip for the scenery alone.

    As an aside, the trail was named for the last sane governor to run the state after his untimely plane crash.  Sure do miss him.

  •  Bah. I'd prefer rails to trails. (7+ / 0-)
    •  Amen, we need to stop abandoning (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Alexandra Lynch, rjnerd

      railways. We need to preserve, augment and rebuild them. For example, if the Chicago and Northwestern were made to preserve old lines many years ago, or the government had invested in the infrastructure when the RR's petitioned for abandonment, we would have clear rail connections to Chicago, Milwaukee and Racine within walking distance or a very short drive, none of which are the case today.

      The best thing about rail-trail to me is that the right of way can be preserved against the day that rail service can be restored to it. And many old Class I rights of way are wide enough to have both a bikeway and an active rail line. There is no reason they can't coexist.

      I am ready for the day that parts of roads and their rights of way are expropriated for either light rails or for bike paths. Its time. Quit abandoning railroads...

      Trickle Down Economics 101: They get the golden parachute, we get the golden shower.

      by NoMoreLies on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:16:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fred Meijer Trail in Mid-Michigan (5+ / 0-)

     is where I do most of my biking. Because of the economic problems of Michigan this trail hasn't been finished, but about 20 miles of it are usable with another 15 under construction. You get to go through some small towns and farmland while clearing your mind of day to day clutter. The rail trails really do add to the local quality-of-life factor. By the way, I also went for my first ride of the season today - not far and not fast - but it's the earliest I've ever started in Michigan.

  •  Bring a small first aid kit too. (5+ / 0-)

    I try to carry something cheap enough but decent enough that it is both useful and ok to give away.  

    Accidents happen.  

    Sometimes even to you.  

    Happy trails.

    Sometimes when life hands you lemons, you should throw them back.

    by Into The Woods on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 01:28:04 PM PDT

  •  The Illinois Prairie Path (5+ / 0-)

    Is 100 yards from my front door. It is in the Rails/Trails Hall of Fame. I live a couple miles from the eastern end of the Main Stem. The western end is the Fox River at 4 different points. From there I can ride the Fox River Trail, and even connect to other trails. It`s perfect, simply perfect.

  •  More good rides (5+ / 0-)

    Not much in this area for rail to trail rides, but there's always something in the 6000+ maps for 'Austin'.

  •  We've got a nice one near us, (4+ / 0-)

    the Putnam Trailway which runs into the Westchester Trailway. Really pretty, if understandably crowded at times.

    About the stay to the right dictum: I think it would help a lot if a line were painted down the middle of the path. That visual cue would help remind people to stay right. I've seen people practically tie themselves in knots trying to keep to the right side of a line painted on the ground, even when deep in conversation.

  •  Rail trails more dangerous (8+ / 0-)

    I hate to puncture a bubble, but studies have shown that bike paths and bike lanes are more dangerous than using the roads.  The most telling is the experience of Milton Keynes a so-called "new town" in England, that was designed from the start to have bike trails.  Yes people feel safer when riding on a trail, but objective measurements show that they are at higher risk.  (compare driving with flying - its actually safer to fly, but many people are more comfortable driving.)

    It helps to compare actual crash frequency, with what most are afraid of.  The most common collision is what is colloquially called a "right hook", where a motorist makes a right turn across the path of a cyclist proceeding straight thru an intersection.   In second place, is the "left cross", where a motorist makes a left turn across the path of a cyclist.  In third place, is the "door prize", where a cyclist is riding too close to a parked car, whose driver doesn't look before popping open a door.

    Now we get to the big fear item, the overtaking collision.  You might have expected it at the top of the list, but no, you will find it at the very end, lumped into the "Misc" category, representing less than 2% of all collisions.  Most motorists are actually pretty good at not hitting things in front of them.

    So the trails do nothing to fix the most common collision modes, and it can be argued, that they make them worse.  Its traffic engineering 101 that you separate traffic by destination, not by type.  And you if at all possible, don't cross flows.    But the design of bike trails put straight thru traffic to the right of turning traffic.  The typical urban bike lane puts cyclists in the door prize zone.  (the only way they could do a worse job, is to have the lane running against the motor traffic direction.)

    The motto of the "Effective Cycling" classes (think drivers ed for bicycles) is

    Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

    I would recommend the book "Effective Cycling" by Forrester, but it a bit too much to digest (600 pages).  Instead read Bicycling Street Smarts by John Allen.

    To keep this data driven, here are some studies.  Digest of research results (summarizes many studies)

    This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

    by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 02:35:04 PM PDT

    •  Very helpful comment! (7+ / 0-)

      I loved Effective Cycling, and found it very useful.

      I think you're very right that cyclists aren't as safe as they think they are on trails.   Whether on trails or roads, being alert, aware of what's going on, obeying the rules of the road, and biking defensively all help prevent accidents.  

      I support public employee's unions.

      by Tracker on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:06:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not the ones here (5+ / 0-)

      The rail trail I use in Santa Fe, NM runs alongside the train and does not have any parallel car traffic on the vast majority of its route, thus I don't see how the left/right turning dangers can take place.  But thanks for the great safety references, espec. the online Allen guide.

      "And once again, the forces of niceness and goodness have triumphed over the forces of evil and rottenness." --Maxwell Smart

      by emobile on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:09:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  um, I think this diary focused on something else (5+ / 0-)

      That looks like interesting information about bike lanes, cars, and streets.

      When I read this diary, it seems to focus on trails built on former railroad right-of-way. The rail trails I've pedaled are specifically designed to be (nearly) totally separate from streets and cars.

      Could you perhaps clarify how your comment applies to the sorts of trails described in this diary?

      Thanks, and cheers

      •  The studies referenced (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced, VeloVixen, RunawayRose

        Do study separated facilities.  For example the "redways" of Milton Keynes are paths separate from the street network, as were the Dutch facilities - both have measured out as significantly more dangerous.

        Around here suburban RR ROW's will have an at grade crossing every few hundred yards.  In any case, such facilities are rare, and if you actually want to use your bicycle for actual commuting, you will want to go places that aren't served by a former RR ROW.

        This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

        by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:50:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Data appreciated (7+ / 0-)

      I agree that urban bike paths don't seem all that safe, although they seem to work well in Amsterdam.  But they also have separate traffic lights that stop cars while letting bikes through intersections.

      Most rails/trails are rural, and have very infrequent intersections with motorways.  Given the choice of riding next to 50 mph traffic or being on a separate trail and slowing down every half mile or so to cross a road, I'll take the trail, thanks.

      On the other hand, we have a bike trail on the edge of town that crosses a lot of driveways and roads, I'd rather just have  wide shoulders on the roadside.

      Bike trails aren't a cure-all, but they do have their place.

      •  A recent Dutch study (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pHunbalanced, VeloVixen

        Showed (like everywhere else) that their separate facilities have higher injury rates than the street network. (compared on a per-mile-ridden basis).

        This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

        by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:53:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Your assertion makes… (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          …absolutely no sense whatsoever. Have you ever been on an American bike trail?

          Teh stoopidTM, it hurts. Buy smart, union-printed, USA-made, signs, stickers, swag for everyone:

          by DemSign on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:26:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I tried them (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            pHunbalanced, VeloVixen

            They require far more concentration to ride than using the road.  All those pedestrians, dogs and rollerbladers are much to unpredictable to share road space with.  Cars have their own dangers, but they are much more predictable in their operation.

            In any case, the data says what it says.  Since they started building them, objective studies have shown that you are more likely to get hurt riding the supposedly "safer" facilities.

            This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

            by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:36:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  When I read the comment (9+ / 0-)

      ...I thought, is this John Forrester behind the screen name?  I guess not, but I see you are a disciple.

      My cycling dues are paid in full.  I started riding in 1970, raced on the road and dirt, lived without a car for twenty years or so, was president of my bike club, wrote for all the bike mags and published one of my own.

      I don't have a problem with rail-trails, and I use them even though they are crowded with non-cyclists.  Rail lines cut off major distances compared to roads.  In addition to auto traffic and the resultant exhaust, surface roads require a traffic crossing with a light or a stop sign at frequent intervals.  The rail trails go for miles between any such impediments, and they stick to a railroad gradient that is gentle even for the most remedial cyclist.

      As a skilled rider, I'm comfortable mixing it up in traffic.  My philosophy is that drivers don't see me, and if they did they would try to kill me.  In forty years of cycling I have not had an auto collision, but it's not my preferred form of company on my bike.  

      I think the kids on the tricycles are cute, and I'm skilled enough to miss them.  If I want to ride hard, I don't ride the road or the path, I ride my mountain bike and I am fortunate to live in a place where they are useful.  YMMV

      Every bike I own has an IncrediBell.  I don't sneak up on anyone, and many people thank me for using it.

      Orwell was an optimist.
      My Home Page

      by RepackRider on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 06:17:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I haven't read all the studies mentioned above, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hikerbiker, RunawayRose

        but my experience supports yours. The first thing I wonder is what types of events are recorded as accidents in the respective environments, how many are due to trail design or traffic interaction, what are the respective lethalities of the recorded events, and what is the denominator - are there 5x more trail accidents in the face of 20x more users? My own experience of 25+ years cycling on and off road is that trails are a very enjoyable adjunct, but street riding skills are essential, because trails don't go everywhere. The difficult part has to do with the occasional a**hole in a car who doesn't care to acknowledge the fact that cyclists are legitimate road users too. Most drivers are very reasonable, but it only takes one halfwit to kill you.

        Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

        by OrdinaryIowan on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:53:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Comparing apples (0+ / 0-)

          The differences in risk are per cyclist/mile, they have adjusted for differences in usage.

          If you want a calm place to start riding, find a quiet street, and not a busy linear park.

          The only bike facility I would contribute to the construction cost is a velodrome.  (a banked race track for bicycles, like the ones you see at the olympics)

          This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

          by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 10:38:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  When it began... (5+ / 0-)

    In the earliest days of the rails to trails movement, rail advocates saw it as the enemy of rail travel. At that time many rail line abandonments were happening and the U.S. rail network was being seriously diminished. Rail advocates wanted the rail lines preserved as they were so that possibly rail service might some day be reinstated. The railroad companies on occasion probably used the rail-to-trail idea to give further weight to their abandonment proposals.

    This diary makes the idea very appealing, and no doubt a lot of the routes would now be impractical for train service, though many of them might be feasible for commuter train lines.

    Anyway, it's good that the routes have been preserved this way, and maybe someday we'll have a trails-to-rails movement (followed by a highways to bikeways movement?).

  •  I see you made Community Spotlight (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeloVixen, hikerbiker, RunawayRose

    (top of page) Good job!

    Take the high road.

    by esby on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 03:02:34 PM PDT

  •  $1 Million Dollars a Mile? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, VeloVixen, hikerbiker


    In northwest New Jersey the old Lackawana tracks were pulled up but not paved over. The horses prefer it that way.



  •  We rode the Katy Trail (7+ / 0-)

    in Missouri last year and it was wonderful.  It's the longest rails to trails - 225 miles.  We took 6 days, staying at B&Bs along the way.  Great experience.

  •  Edwardsville, IL (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeloVixen, RunawayRose

    Just about anywhere you go, there's a dedicated paved bike trail going underneath the road.

    If bin Laden owned an oil company, [the GOP would] be wearing long beards and shooting at US troops in Afghanistan.-Geekesque

    by Dr Squid on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:07:15 PM PDT

  •  Iron Horse Trail, (5+ / 0-)

    Contra Costa County, CA. Those are some great tips; even the ones I don't always follow. Most of it boils down to being aware of your surroundings. I would add that if you use your local multiuse trail in more than one way yourself, you are better equipped to see the point of view of other trail users. You know how cyclists perceive runners or walkers, and vice-versa.
    FWIW, my closest brush with an accident was when I jogged to a turn-around point and turned around left, without looking, almost into an oncoming bike. I won't do that again.

    "Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous." -- Molly Ivins

    by dumpster on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 04:53:39 PM PDT

  •  why is it so expensive? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeloVixen, RunawayRose
  •  I did a day's ride on Idaho's Coeur d'Alenes trail (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VeloVixen, hikerbiker, RunawayRose

    in July. The trail goes for 72 miles so I only saw a portion.  

    "We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children"

    by Lefty Coaster on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 05:39:20 PM PDT

  •  My family has supported Foothills Rail to Trails (4+ / 0-)

    since shortly after its inception in the mid 80's

    and somewhere a little west of Orting are trees planted over the trail in memorial of my mother, uncle, maternal grandparents and father.  Thanks for the diary

    Its better to be over the hill than under it

    by Tonga 23 on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 06:02:35 PM PDT

  •  Rail-to-Trail Agreements... (4+ / 0-)

    ...often have the clause that if the railroad needs that right-of-way, they have the right to take it back.

    Which is not necessarily a bad thing: if the take-back is for the purposes of mass transit, getting people out of their cars and into a train will trump my desire for a pastoral bike ride. But I'll sure enjoy the scenery in the interim.

  •  Rails to Trails....a great ride! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pHunbalanced, RunawayRose

    Bike paths and greenways are an awesome draw to any community.  As you have written,  those who object find that they actually INCREASE revenue, wheel and foot traffic, and are generally very well accepted by the community.

    One of my favorites is the Virginia Creeper Trail that starts near Abingdon, VA.

  •  learn something new everyday. (5+ / 0-)

    After reading this diary I clicked on the Rails to Trails link only to discover that the trail that I ride is part of the oldest Rails to Trails route in the country! The Illinois Prairie Path.
    In fact a portion of the trail, The Fox River Trail is highlighted as the March trail of the month.
    I access  this trail about a 1/4 from my house.



    "Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." Marianne Williamson

    by Canadian Green Card Alien on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 07:13:26 PM PDT

  •  Canada's got some great trails too (5+ / 0-)

    Canada Trails

    One of my favorites: Victoria Rail Trail just north-east of Toronto.

    Great cycling in Quebec on a huge network of trails and designated roadways: La Route Verte (The Green Route)

    How about bicycling a circumnavigation of Lake Ontario? Follow the Erie Canal trail on the US side. Use the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail on the Canadian side.

    Can't wait for spring!

  •  I'm not able to bicycle currently, (4+ / 0-)

    but about fifteen years ago when I lived in Cottage Grove, OR, they converted an obsolete rail line to a bike path, and it is unbelievable! It goes from that small timber and mining town for miles into the foothills of the Cascades, and the grades are manageable even for relatively novice riders. I can't think of a better way to promote these towns after the end of the boom timber years.
    Great diary, thanks!

    Just spitting out emails from my sanctimonious purity-castle.

    by porchdog1961 on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 07:25:12 PM PDT

  •  Sorry, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but advising pedestrians to stay "on the right" is really not a good idea.
    Long ago, I'd been taught that, when walking along a road, do it on the LEFT. That way you can see vehicles coming toward you. Bikes and 'bladers are vehicles, too.
    I ride a bike path regularly to work and am often confronted with pedestrians, often two or more abreast, lost in conversation and unaware of my approach from behind.
    I take care passing, clink my bell in warning, but near-misses do happen, and they don't need to.

  •  Thanks so much for the diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hikerbiker, Tracker, RunawayRose

    I am loving this series!  Makes me all sparkley thinking about both my road bike and mountain bike.  Plus my new job is downtown and the trails/bike paths can take me almost the entire way.

    Just a reminder to those that will make it all the way down here, HAND SIGNALS!  And a bell.

    Fire burn and cauldron bubble, bendy straws or my fee is double - via Twitter about the half-term governor Sarah Palin

    by alrdouglas on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 08:56:11 PM PDT

  •  Topic suggestion: Family biking (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hikerbiker, Tracker, RunawayRose

    Let's talk about options for transporting the kids: Toddler seats, child trailers, trail-a-bikes, Dutch-style family bikes.

    And for teaching kids to ride: Tricycles, training wheels, run bikes, kangaroo seats, trail-a-bikes.

    And for taking your dog for a ride: Dog trailers, bicycle leashes.

    How about it?

    •  Stokid kits for a tandem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, RosyFinch

      Basically an accessory for upright tandems, that attaches to the rear seat tube, and brings pedals up to where the kid can reach them.

      As to teaching a kid to deal with two wheels, the system that I found to work is to take the pedals off, and lower the seat until the kid can put feet flat on the ground.  (basically re-inventing the "Draisienne" that preceded the invention of the bicycle).  The kid can get around scooter style, while learning to balance and steer.  Once they get some confidence, the pedals go back on.  Let them try pedaling for a bit, seat still low, when they are showing some confidence, the seat can get raised to the correct location.

      This planet needs a lot more kids who think taking a lawnmower apart is more fun than playing a videogame.

      by rjnerd on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 09:51:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Taking the pedals of a bike (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've read that this is a great way for kids to learn. You can also buy a toddler-sized bike without pedals; they're called run bikes or balance bikes.

        My two-year-old has both a tricycle and a run bike. She likes them both, though she doesn't get very far on either one yet.

      •  conversion kit (0+ / 0-)

        We used a child stoker conversion on a nice Santana tandem.  The original handlebars for both positions were drop bars.

        Darling Daughter (age 4-7) had stingray handlebars and the extra chain moved the pedals up to where she was.  

        It was a great set up for touring and camping (Canadian Rockies).

        Sustainability is about maintaining a balance of: abundance in the environment, wealth in the economy, and trust in society. RichRandal found on dailyKos March 29, 2007

        by RosyFinch on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:45:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Go for it! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm kidfree, so I have no expertise.  But if ya wanna contribute to the series, pm me!

      I support public employee's unions.

      by Tracker on Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 05:37:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Capital Crescent Trail in DC area (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is gorgeous and lush and is used by 10,000 people weekly.  We regularly ride bikes into town on the bike path, enjoying the shade and greenery.

    Sadly, 17 acres of mature forest along this trail are slated to be bulldozed by the State of Maryland in order to make way for a high-speed train that is not expected to even take cars off the road.  :(   This would destroy the green and serene atmosphere in our linear park.

    Anyone in the DC area interested in joining in efforts to save the trail should please connect with Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail.  There are many ways to get involved, and a 5K race along the trail is planned for Memorial Day Weekend.


    Consider adopting a homeless pet at (Progressive Animal Welfare Society)

    by hikerbiker on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 10:14:25 PM PDT

  •  Dayton-Xenia, Ohio Area Great Trails (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We have rail-trails and river-trails radiating out from both Dayton and Xenia Ohio. System almost completely connects Piqua-Troy-Dayton-Brookville-Xenia-Loveland-Eastern Cincinnati-Yellow Springs-Springfield-Urbana-London-Jamestown-Middletown-Fairborn. The one between Dayton and Fairborn has a spur to the historic flying field of the Wright Brothers where they experimented on plane designs. Xenia has "Bicycle Capital of the Midwest" painted on one of the water towers. Riverscape in downtown Dayton and Xenia Station are the two major hubs in the system. Most of the major parks and preserves, as well as scenic rivers are connected. Revitalization in the smaller towns has been connected with bike paths in a number of cases. See the Miami Valley Trails website for info. Most major attractions in the region are accessible by bike.

    There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

    by OHeyeO on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 10:33:47 PM PDT

  •  Silver Comet in GA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    runs 61 miles from Smyrna to the Alabama state line, where it connects to the Chief Ladiga trail for another 33 miles.  

    Thanks for this great diary!

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you" -- Greetings from "Idiocracy"

    by martinjedlicka on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 11:44:56 PM PDT

  •  Headphones . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, rjnerd

    When I commuted to downtown Long Beach, I used to ride the city bikepath along the beach each day. One morning I'm just riding along (JRA, in cyclist slang) as a roller blader is glissading along in the opposite direction.

    Actually, glissading is completely the wrong word for it; she's coasting to a slow crawl, legs splayed out like she's snowplowing on skis, head-down as she fiddles with her iPod, oblivious to the fact that's she's approaching, then crossing over, the yellow line into the oncoming bike lane.

    The lane in which I'm bearing down on her at fifteen or sixteen miles per hour.

    I'm yelling, "Hey! Rider up!" and when I say that, understand that my basso-profundo yell makes drill sergeants stand at attention and whales to breach in the open ocean. I have little choice - pedestrians in the ped lane, more cyclists and bladers in the oncoming bike lane - basically she's taking away the only strip of concrete left to me, and while sand may look soft, at that speed it just doesn't get out of the way fast enough to cushion a fall, and while I'm riding a 'cross bike, my too-fat-for-road-too-skinny-for-dirt tires aren't going to keep me vertical very long before Newton takes over the steering.

    No joy - whatever she's pumping through the earbuds has vaporlocked her brain.

    In that moment I'm remembering another person, a runner in Griffith Park, who decided to step off the curb into the bike lane without so much as a glance backward, and straight into my path. Both of us ended up in the hospital, her with abrasions and a chipped bone in her wrist, me with two separated shoulders.

    This is not how I want to start my day.

    With a literal split second to decide to grab a handful of brake and hope I can stop in time or speed up and hope I can slip past literally on the edge of the path, I dropped the hammer and bellowed a final "HEY!" which literally - no exaggeration here - echoed off the cliffs and beachside condos. I zoomed past, close enough to see her pupils go wall-to-wall and her mouth in a gaping rictus as I hurtled by.

    I like to say that I gave her a near-life experience.

    Tracker, I just gotta say I'm enjoying the heck out of this series.

    The real enemy of the good is not the perfect, but the mediocre.

    by Orange County Liberal on Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 11:49:24 PM PDT

  •  intersections deserve care by each rider, driver (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks for telling people to yield at intersections.

    At road intersections, car, bike, and pedestrian traffic on the road has the right of way...  Don't risk it until you're sure. ...  If traveling with friends, the first person can check for traffic and either signal a stop or shout "clear!" so everyone can get through.

    It is NOT correct that people in the bunch or the back of the pack should rely on a shouted observation by the first person.  While it's true that a gaggle of cyclists can move as a mass and take control of an intersection, still it is a personal responsibility to judge the safety of entering the intersection.  
    A small group or one with gaps between riders cannot be safe just tagging along.

    Sustainability is about maintaining a balance of: abundance in the environment, wealth in the economy, and trust in society. RichRandal found on dailyKos March 29, 2007

    by RosyFinch on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:51:02 PM PDT

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