Photo CC Ryan Blanding via Flickr

If your community is considering a trail project, funding initiative or ways to improve transportation and recreation opportunities, your local paper or news website is a great place to promote new ideas and share information.

Writing and Submitting Your Letter/Op-Ed

Writing a letter to the editor or opinion piece, or pitching a story to your local reporter on the benefits of trails and active transportation, are great ways that you can take action for trails.

Here are a few tips to help get your letter or opinion piece published:

  • Make sure your piece addresses a recent article. It could be a story about a particular trail project, or about traffic congestion, public health, places for recreation, gas prices, local real estate values or business development.
  • Be clear and concise. Make sure you stick to the stated word limit for letters or opinion pieces.
  • Get to the point. State your main point in the subject line and first sentence of the letter. “Rail-Trail Would Boost Local Property Values.” “Our Community Needs Safe Options for Biking and Walking.”
  • Get it to the right person. Do a little research online, and find out the name of the editor or opinion page editor, as well as their direct email address. Sometimes submissions to general contact forms get lost in the shuffle. It’s always better to make direct contact with the relevant staff person.
  • Include contact information. Some newspapers will call the author to verify his or her identity and address before printing a letter.

Talking Points to Make a Strong Case

Traffic Congestion

Biking and walking infrastructure is a solution to local traffic congestion. Pilot studies have proven that people will chose biking and walking over driving for daily trips if the infrastructure is in place. In Minneapolis, Minn., for example, 28 percent of all trips don't rely on a car. The proof: Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program: 2014 Report.

Building more highways and roads has failed to stem the rise in congestion. Between 1982 and 2011, the number of hours of vehicle delay in urban areas rose 360 percent, even as the number of highway and road miles increased by 61 percent. The proof: Texas A & M’s Annual Urban Mobility Report.

Economic Development

Trails boost the desirability and value of the homes and neighborhoods they connect to. Did you know…? Prospective homebuyers in Ohio were willing to pay an additional $9,000 to be located 1,000 feet closer to a trail. The proof: 2012 study by University of Cincinnati School of Planning.

Trails and pathways have been proven to increase activity in downtown business areas, by making it easier for people to get to stores without having to worry about parking and traffic. Did you know…? The business occupancy rate in downtown Dunedin, Fla., increased from 30 percent to 95 percent following the establishment of the nearby Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. The proof: RTC’s handy fact sheet on Investing in Trails.

Transportation Patterns

Americans are already beginning to shift away from cars for daily transportation in favor of biking, walking and transit systems. Our community needs to respond in order to attract new residents and businesses. Did you know…? The current generation of young Americans is the first in our history to be less likely to get a driver’s license than their parents. The proof: Transportation and the New Generation, 2012.

Biking and walking is not just “an urban trend.” Did you know…? The share of work trips made by bicycle in small towns is nearly double that of urban centers. The proof: RTC’s 2012 report, Beyond Urban Centers.

Crime and Safety

Although trail opponents often express fears that a trail will increase crime and cause safety issues, the actual documented impact of trails is that they reduce criminal activity, increase regular monitoring and improve the public safety of previously disused spaces. The proof: RTC’s study on Crime and Perceptions of Safety on Urban Trails.

“I want to walk or bike to get where I'm going, but I don't feel safe sharing the road.” Did you know…? Trails and separated pathways not only encourage more biking and walking, they reduce accident rates. The proof: Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program: 2014 Report.

Health

Obesity is the most pressing public health crisis of our age, particularly among children. Making walking and biking a regular part of daily activities by providing convenient pathways is one of the most cost-effective ways to combat physical inactivity. Did you know…? Obesity costs America more than $190 billion in reactive healthcare spending each year. Investing in trails helps communities cut their obesity rates.