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  Monterey Bay Recreation Trail, Calif. © Bryce Hall/Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Monterey Bay Recreation Trail, California.

Take the Pledge!

I couldn't have been more proud. On the afternoon of August 8, 2007, the final curtain came down on TrailLink; the show was over. For three days in Portland, Ore., Rails-to-Trails Conservancy hosted our conference featuring a cast of 300 trail and bicycle advocates from 40 states and three countries, officially launching the 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation.

The reviews from participants were glowing. Broad excitement for our campaign goal to double federal investment in trails, walking and biking by 2010 was palpable. Our rallying cry for increased "active transportation" struck a chord as we discussed strategies to "Burn Calories, Not Carbon"—making walking and biking for everyday travel part of the solution to climate change and the obesity epidemic. Participants and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy staff alike left with a compelling sense of purpose; inspired, connected and armed with a strong case for creating more safe places to walk and bike in their communities.

The thrill of TrailLink had barely subsided when we were reminded that our 2010 Campaign will not be an easy victory. In the wake of the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis, we began to hear a steady drumbeat from politicians making the outrageous claim that unsafe bridges are not being repaired because too much money is spent on bike paths; that trails are not transportation.

This is categorically untrue. Not only are trails transportation, they are small, cost-effective investments in clean, affordable and healthy transportation.

The absurdity of the blame game reached its zenith on September 11, 2007, when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment in the U.S. Senate to eliminate federal funding for bicycle paths and redirect it to bridge repair. Fortunately, sanity prevailed as Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led the successful fight to defeat the Coburn amendment on a vote of 80 to 18.

I draw two lessons from our lopsided victory. First, as trails have become more visible in communities across America, they sometimes become targets of a small minority who don't yet understand their value. Second, it is now clear that a vast majority of elected officials realize that millions of voters use our trails every year.

We take these lessons to heart as we move forward with our 2010 Campaign. As the demand for safe places to walk and bike steadily grows, so, too, may the voices of opposition to increased public investment in trails. But with your help, our message of active transportation will prevail.

Make your voices heard! Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has designed a pledge that will help turn your voices into a resounding chorus, letting our elected officials know we want more trails in our communities. Visit our Web site at to take our Burn Calories, Not Carbon™ pledge. Working together, we can reconnect America with trails and greenways.

Keith Laughlin

Winter 2008

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037