Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) new report on walking and biking in small town and rural America, Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers, has really struck a chord with members across the country, and transformed the political debate about where the demand really is for walking and biking infrastructure.
After learning of the report from our eNewsletter, which went out yesterday, Rosina Perthel sent RTC an email to tell us of her recent experience of active transportation in America's smaller communities. As much as surveys and figures can paint a picture for us of what is happening out there, stories like this give the picture an extra dimension, of the people are impacted by access to, or a lack of access to, these transportation and recreation options.
"I live in Montgomery County, Md., but have vacationed in Vermont my entire life," Rosina writes. "A couple of years ago my family visited the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail in West Pawlet, Vt. We walked, biked and had a picnic. West Pawlet is a very small community with few services. I am not sure they even have a general store, the ubiquitous gathering spot in almost every Vermont community. Most families are poor. If the parents work, they drive long distances and are away from home for many hours each day. There are two roads going into and out of town, neither of which is a safe bicycling road for adolescents. So, kids are stuck at home with not much to do.
"During our picnic in West Pawlet, I noticed three local adolescent boys riding their bikes north on the rail-trail. After our picnic, we drove in to Granville, N.Y., which is the regional shopping location, to do our grocery shopping. At the strip mall, which is adjacent to the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail, I noticed these same three boys. They had beaten us to town!
"The rail-trail has truly opened up a new world of opportunity for these boys. Their parents would not dream of allowing them to ride their bikes on the country roads, but did allow them to ride the five miles into town to visit friends, go to the library or just hang out. They will attend high school in Granville, so in the future they could even ride their bikes to school."
Many thanks, Rosina, for relating to us your experience of the transformative impact of trails in American life.
It is great hearing stories like this--keep them coming! You can email them to me anytime. at firstname.lastname@example.org