point of view
Recycled Paper
The magazine of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), a
nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide
network of trails from former rail lines and connecting
corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.
Keith Laughlin
Charles N. Marshall, chair; Richard W. Angle Jr.;
Mary Bandura; Kathy Blaha; Robert M. Campbell, Jr.;
Mike Cannon; Matthew Cohen; Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr;
David Ingemie; M. Katherine Kraft; Gail M. Lipstein;
Rue Mapp; John Rathbone; Guy O. Williams
Karl Wirsing
Editorial Consultant
Wendy Jordan
Staff Writer
Laura Stark
McMurry/TMG, LLC
Art Director
Brian Rees
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy was incorporated in 1985 as a
nonprofit charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the
Internal Revenue Code and is a publicly supported organization
as defined in Sections 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) and 509(a)(1). A copy
of the current financial statement, or annual report, and state
registration filed by RTC may be obtained by contacting RTC
at the address listed below. Donations to RTC are tax-deductible.
Ward Court, NW, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037-1213
Web site
Field and Regional offices:
Canal Winchester, OH
Camp Hill, PA
San Francisco, CA
Tallahassee, FL
Rails to Trails
is a benefit of membership in Rails-to-Trails
Conservancy. Regular membership is $18 a year, $5 of which
supports the magazine. In addition to the magazine, members
receive discounts on RTC gifts and publications.
Rails to Trails
is published four times a year—three in print, one digital—
by RTC, a nonprofit charitable organization. Copyright 2013
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. ISSN 1523-4126. Printed in U.S.A.
Send address changes to
Rails to Trails
, 2121
Ward Court, NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20037-1213.
Is That a Trail?
A few years ago, a local survey in Portland, Ore., sought to determine whether
residents were interested in being able to ride more as a form of transportation.
Respondents fell into three main categories. On one end of the spectrum, seven per-
cent of the population already used their bike for transportation. On the other end,
percent had no interest in cycling whatsoever. But in the vast middle, 60 percent
of the population was “interested but concerned.” These people were eager to cycle
more, but were greatly concerned about the safety of riding in traffic with cars.
The membership of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy falls into all three categories.
Some of us are “road warriors,” who have no problem riding in thick traffic. Others
enjoy rail-trails for walking, running, skating or riding a horse and have no interest
in getting on a bike. But a large share of our membership
falls into this “interested but concerned” category. Many of
our members—me included—love rail-trails because they
provide safe and pleasant places to ride that are separated
from the stress of car traffic.
Many of our communities have had bike lanes for years.
While a well-designed bike lane can better integrate cyclists
into the roadway, it is still part of the roadway. As a result,
there is no evidence that bike lanes increase the confidence
of cyclists who are concerned about riding in traffic. And
no one would ever mistake a bike lane for a trail.
But as interest in cycling has blossomed in communi-
ties across America, an innovative new idea has emerged.
Called “cycle tracks” or “green lanes,” these new bike facili-
ties differ from bike lanes in one key respect: while part
of the roadway, like trails, they physically separate cyclists from automobile traffic.
The concept was brand new just a few years ago, but now there are more than 100
examples across the country.
Why would Rails-to-Trails Conservancy care about cycle tracks? Let me suggest
two related reasons. First, these facilities offer the possibility that some people will
be able to safely travel from their house to a rail-trail without having to drive to a
trailhead. Second, as rail-trails continue to spread across the landscape, it becomes
possible to link these trails together into a network. Cycle tracks have the potential
to close gaps between trails that don’t otherwise connect.
Thought of this way, cycle tracks are simply another form of “trail” in our trail-
building toolbox. But rather than starting with a rail corridor, they could be catego-
rized as “road-to-trail” projects.
At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we pride ourselves on our dedication to our core
mission of catalyzing the development of rail-trails while staying on the cutting edge
of trail development. All of these approaches are necessary to achieve our mission of
connecting America with a nationwide network of trails and greenways.
Keith Laughlin, President
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy