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Colorful murals created by local artists, community groups and nearby schools brighten the Met Branch Trail in Washington, D.C.

What are Urban Pathways?

Urban pathways go by many names, including bikeways, trails and greenways. These pathways are used for healthy recreation andwhen seamlessly interconnected with pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure like sidewalks and bicycle lanescan be ideal routes for active transportation, including biking and walking.

Learn more about RTC's Urban Pathways Initiative, an effort to encourage the development, stewardship and use of urban pathways.


More on ART


RTC's TrailBlog


Urban Pathways Lessons


Urban Pathways to Healthy Neighborhoods

Focus On: ART

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Return to Urban Pathways to Healthy Neighborhoods

Public art gives a sense of destination, highlights community identity and adds interest to trails. Murals, sculptures and other installations can provide a welcoming environment and create opportunities for public engagement and youth programming. Public art can also serve a dual purpose, as murals in urban trail corridors aid in the abatement of illegal graffiti. Local arts and cultural affairs commissions often provide funding for murals and other public art projects. Public art is also eligible for federal funding through Transportation Enhancements program under the "Landscaping and scenic beautification" activity.

Many urban trails incorporate public art; following are examples from Chicago, Ill., Washington, D.C., Richmond, Calif., and Cleveland, Ohio.


Engage community
Engage local community residents, create partnerships to increase access to resources and support, and identify a group that can take ownership of the project so it has a support system after it's installed.

Chicago, Ill. — Bloomingdale Trail
Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail partnered with Chicago Public Art Group to offer a series of hands-on workshops to create a long sitting wall decorated with nature-inspired clay moldings. The installation was part of a larger public art project in Albany Whipple Park along the Bloomingdale Trail.

Learn how RTC supported public art on the Bloomingdale Trail and Albany-Whipple Park.

Consider graffiti-style artwork
Incorporating graffiti-style artwork can be a great way to engage youth, but be sure to educate local officials and the community about the purpose of the piece and its implementation.

Richmond, Calif. — Richmond Greenway
Gompers Garden in Richmond created a graffiti mural and had city permission but was still required to remove it by code enforcement. After going to city council and reaching out to city staff, they were able to reinstall the mural, but a great deal of extra effort was used to paint it twice! Learn more on RTC's TrailBlog.

Partner with the local arts community
Work with street artists and/or the arts community to bring talent, community outreach resources and funding to your project.

Washington, D.C. — Metropolitan Branch Trail
A year before a section of the Met Branch Trail was constructed, the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) recognized the importance of locating the city's largest mural near the trail. They commissioned local arts group Albus Cavus to work with other local and well-known street artists, muralists and a nearby youth program to complete the neighborhood and transit-inspired "Edgewood to the Edge of the World."

Since the mural's completion in 2009, the DCCAH has worked with other youth groups and street artists to complete two more large-scale murals. The trail is becoming known as a "walking gallery."

Case Study: Art and Urban Pathways

Learn how Cleveland, Ohio's Morgana Run Trail used murals and other public art installations to improve the trail corridor and encourage public engagement.

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