Enhancing Quality of Life in the Bay Area by Providing Equitable, Healthy Trail Access for People of All Ages and Abilities
Golden Gate Bridge | Photo by Cindy Barks
The vision of the Bay Area Trails Collaborative is to develop a 2,700-mile regional trail network that will connect the San Francisco Bay Area—its trails, people and places—in innovative new ways.
Through the development of the trail network, the Collaborative—chaired by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and currently comprising more than three dozen organizations, agencies and businesses—seeks to improve the overall quality of life in the region by: creating more opportunities for recreation and active transportation, addressing health disparities in underserved communities, improving health and wellness, reducing pollution and greenhouse gases and promoting environmental sustainability.
What’s more, the Collaborative’s work will provide safe biking and walking routes for millions of people in the San Francisco Bay Area to get to jobs, parks, shopping areas, schools, and cultural and civic sites.
Nearly 60 percent on the ground to date, the Bay Area Trails Collaborative travels through nine counties and dozens of communities—urban and rural, small and large—in the San Francisco Bay Area. The trail network's overall footprint travels through nine counties and dozens of communities—urban and rural, small and large—in the San Francisco Bay Area. This includes trail systems that are either complete or in development, such as the 500-mile San Francisco Bay Trail project (which links the diverse communities around the entire Bay), the 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail project (along the ridgelines), the massive 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail, and the 47-mile Napa Valley Vine Trail—through one of the most popular tourist areas in the country.
What This Means for the Bay Area
Once complete, this interconnected regional and local trail system will serve as an active transportation and recreation corridor for the 7 million people living and working in the Bay Area—and will address serious challenges the area is facing: alleviating traffic congestion; increasing economic opportunity; improving public health and safety, especially in disadvantaged areas; and reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution from vehicle traffic.
Protecting Our Environment
California has passed sweeping climate-change legislation with ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and petroleum use targets for the state, and it’s fundamentally changing the way California must plan and invest in transportation infrastructure. By completing the region’s walking and biking networks, the Collaborative can help reduce vehicle miles traveled and significantly reduce the Bay Area’s carbon footprint in the long term. Emissions from cycling are more than 10 times lower than those of a passenger car, and according to the California Air Resources Board, the Bay Area could reduce more than 557,000 vehicles miles per day if just an additional 3 percent of car and light truck trips were shifted to bike trips.
Creating Smart Transportation Options
The demand for safe walking and biking infrastructure is evident in the Bay Area, where nearly one-quarter of residents already choose a multimodal approach for commuting, and in cities like Emeryville and Berkeley, which have transit mode shares higher than much larger urban centers like San Jose and Oakland. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) expects that by 2020, 10 percent of its riders will access stations by bike (an increase of more than 60 percent in seven years). Bay Area trail projects like the East Bay Greenway—which has plans to link to seven BART stations between Oakland and Hayward—will support this rapidly growing demand.
Improving Health and Wellness
By providing safe, close-to-home opportunities to walk, run and bike, the Bay Area regional trail network will be a cornerstone of a statewide strategy to encourage physical activity and combat high obesity rates among adults and youth. A California study found that obesity levels were lower among adults who felt safe to walk for leisure in their own neighborhoods—and it’s proven that when people have safe places to walk within 10 minutes of their home, they are one and a half times more likely to meet recommended activity levels than those who don’t.
Promoting Social Equity
The Collaborative serves communities with health disparities that have urgent need for more safe places to walk and bike. More than two-thirds of African Americans and Latinos living within the project footprint are overweight or obese, with few places for safe outdoor recreation; the cities in the region with the highest poverty rates—Berkeley and Oakland—are also at the bottom of statewide rankings when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian safety. The region’s communities of color are also the least likely to own cars, further demonstrating the importance of safe, convenient options for active transportation and transit.
Generating Strong Economies
Completing the remaining gaps in the trail networks (approximately 42 percent) could spark new waves of outdoor tourism, small business investment and job creation. A 2011 statewide study found that Californians engaged in an estimated 1.5 billion days of outdoor recreation—specifically for activities such as walking, biking or running on paved surfaces for fitness and pleasure—with trip expenditures topping $4 billion. The trail network includes signature projects that attract million of tourists, such as the Bay Trail and the Ridge Trail, and connect to renowned tourist destinations like San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and Bridge. The Napa Valley Vine Trail will run the length of Napa Valley, one of the premier winemaking regions in the world, which attracts 4.7 million visitors annually. The trail network also travels through extremely underserved communities like Richmond, California, which are experiencing revitalization due to trail-oriented development.
By working together as a powerful multisector coalition, RTC and the Collaborative are leveraging the group’s collective influence and expertise to: advance policy and environmental change; share best practices; grow public and private support; accelerate trail development; and build a more diverse, robust trail movement in the Bay Area. Learn more about how it’s getting done!
Sign on here to learn more about the Bay Area Trails Collaborative and how you can get involved!