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Bike Trails: Work Of The Devil

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Bike Trails: Work Of The Devil

Old 05-19-03, 11:58 AM
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gattm99
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Bike Trails: Work Of The Devil

Hello again my faithful readers. I have another topic which we can discuss, or at least some of us can discuss it and others can use this oppurtunity to attack my sanity,

Before I begin let me ask you this, which is the more offensive waist of time. To start a thread with an unpopular stand on a contraversial issue, that contains some very interesting arguments I might add though I admit most of them aren't mine, or to read 5 pages of arguments and then make a post like Justen's.

Sorry for that little lack of focus now on to BIKE TRAILS, I'm talking specifically about Rail Trails like the one we have here in Harrisburg IL.

Background: The rail trail is the conversion of an old railway into a railway sized general use recreation trail. Parts that run through towns are paved but 99% of it's 50 mile length is gravel. When this trail was constructed it was expected to be a boon to the town and cyclists in general.

THE ARGUMENT: I think trails like these do more to hurt the road cyclist then help. In fact I believe that these trails propogate the culture of fear that closetbiker has talked so much about.

The bicycle is a street legal machine and unlike the idiotic Segway transportation device, costs little and requires little. It has the true ability to revolutionize transportation. Unfourtanitly bicycles are seen by mainstream America has either toys for little boys or big boys, hint hint, FREERIDERS, and dangerous machines that have no place being on the road with automobiles. THis is simply not true. Building a bicycle trail reinforces that notion since it has the effect of removing cyclists from the roads.

On several occasions I have been riding down the highway next to the trail and had cars slow down beside me and the driver yell out the window. "Hey dummy their is a bicycle trail over there, thats where you belong" Of course before i can deliever a witty comeback the driver zipps off in a cloud of smoke.

If the foolish motorists only knew that the gravel on the trail wastes my time and energy and I have equal right to use the highways.

Also on the trails you are much more likely to have a wreck since their primary use is walking a dog, and they are only a few feet wide.

I doubt this post will stir up as much contraversy as my last and I am sure that many of you agree with me on this, or maybe not....

Matt Gholson
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Old 05-19-03, 12:13 PM
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Originally posted by gattm99
The bicycle is a street legal machine [that] costs little and requires little. It has the true ability to revolutionize transportation. Unfortuately bicycles are seen by mainstream America has either toys [or] dangerous machines that have no place being on the road with automobiles. THis is simply not true. Building a bicycle trail reinforces that notion since it has the effect of removing cyclists from the roads.
The road is such an ideal place for cycling, especially when using the bike for transportation, that it really takes a lot of pushing and shoving to get me to use anything else.

Nothing matches the road for bicycling, in my estimation. You can travel faster; you can go almost anywhere a car can take you; you don't have to constantly stop-and-go; the pavement is often smoother, with greater visibility.

Actually, I think roads tend to be designed more safely than "bike facilities," since the designers actually consider things like safety for the users. Paths tend to be patterned in design after sidewalks, not roads. Bicycling on a path can be extremely hazardous when poorly designed.

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Old 05-19-03, 12:20 PM
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Whatever you think of bike paths, I am sure you would agree that a rail-trail is better use of public land than a defunct rail bed.

I don't care for bike paths because I usually use my bike to go places (instead of just riding in circles), but rail-trails are often useful thoroughfares.


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Old 05-19-03, 12:25 PM
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i understand what your saying, and it would be very nice if drivers felt bicyclists got an equal share of the road. and more cyclists on the road would certainly help that.
that being said, i wish there were more trails, i find driving on busy roads to be very stressful. it can be frightning at times and the fact is some drivers are just plain nasty, and it only takes one of those to ruin your ride. trails may slow me down, but in general no matter how fast i'm goin on my bike i'm not in a hurry to get anywhere. it's also very difficult to get anywhere around here without taking a fairly major road where all the drivers go 50+ even though the posted limits are 35. so i find myself going out of my way to take residential routes where i have to stop every block for a stop sign.
i'd love more trails, actually any trail close to my house would be nice.
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Old 05-19-03, 12:35 PM
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Some of the rail-trails around here require nothing short of a full-blown ATB to traverse. One trail is something like 90 miles long, but so much of it is so poorly maintained, I'd doubt that you could average more than 6-7 mph on it. Lotta good that trail is going to be...........
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Old 05-19-03, 01:05 PM
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Whatever you think of bike paths, I am sure you would agree that a rail-trail is better use of public land than a defunct rail bed.
Yeah I have to admit that an empty railroad bed is pretty useless. An even better use would be a functional railroad. The rails on this railbed were pulled up when I was very young, but I can still remember trains all over town. I guess a functioning railroad is no longer an economic viability for this region but it seems to me that we trade flexibility for efficiency way to often.

I'm really not convinced the cost of constructing and maintaining the trail was worth it though. But unfortanitly I don't have any figures on the cost of this particular trail.
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Old 05-19-03, 01:13 PM
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i think that type of thing is always worth it. they usually add beauty to an area, and encourage people to get outside. they also may lead to more cyclists in general. i'm sure theres a lot of people out there who dont ride because they are frightened of going out on the roads. trails give them a place where they can get started where they feel more comforatable.
my tax dollars can and are spent on a lot of worse ideas than bike trails.
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Old 05-19-03, 01:28 PM
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I like options. I will usually ride on the roads when I want to get somewhere in particular. However, one cannot deny that the railroad lines sometime lead through the most beautiful of scenery. A lot of these right-of-ways were acquired early on and thus roads actually had to be built elsewhere. Good for us. If I want a nice scenic ride along the shores of a serene lake, oftentimes I won't be able to find a road the goes close enough. Many old railroad lines pass close to what is now private property of people who don't want automobile traffic just outside their back window but have no qualms about a bunch of cyclists quietly pedalling along at 7AM. There's a lovely 140 mile long rail-to-trail here by me that takes you through the Cascades. I haven't found a road with the same scenery.
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Old 05-19-03, 07:03 PM
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In the "Rails to Trails" category, there are good ones and bad ones.

Good ones include "Le petit train du Nord", a 200 km trail between Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier, north of Montréal. With a 30 km extension South, it's 230 km of hard packed stone dust along nice scenery: sometimes much better than the road. As a bonus, hills are 2-3% grades, whereas the adjoining highway has a lot of 8% grades.

Bad ones include La Montérégiade I and II near Magog, South-East of Montréal. The old railroad was just beside the highway, so it has all the pitfalls of wrongly desgned sidepaths, including posts at intersections in the hopeful (!) objective of killing cyclists.

Pricewise, do we get our money's worth? To a point. Vélo Québec or the Government of Québec had commissioned a study (see somewhere on http://www.velo.qc.ca ) on the very positive benefits of cycle touring on the local communities.

A dangerous slide would be to consider these as exclusively "leasure" and "not essential". We have National Parks and Provincial Parks (in Québec and elsewhere in Canada / U.S.) which have been built to preserve and protect nature and help future generations see it unspoiled. Then we have increased access fees and useage fees to the point they are a luxury item. I hope they don't do the same on the good rails to trails.

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Old 05-19-03, 07:31 PM
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I have one (rail trail) nearby now and I'm looking forward to attaching the tandem (just got it) to it so we can take our 5 year old out through the woods on the rail trail. It is also not a paved trail but is more on the hard-pack side so I don't expect to be seeing any road bikes on it. I'd rather not have her out on the road with me just yet and I don't expect we or anyone else for that matter will be riding all that quickly on the rail-trail, but I will go as fast as I can with the extra weight trailing behind me.
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Old 05-19-03, 08:24 PM
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Originally posted by gattm99
I'm really not convinced the cost of constructing and maintaining the trail was worth it though. But unfortanitly I don't have any figures on the cost of this particular trail.
Rails-to-trails projects are beautiful examples of subversive creativity. As railroads have gone defunct and abandoned their railbeds, organizations (like Trailnet in the St. Louis, Missouri, area) have convinced lawmakers that the railroad rights of way were too valuable to be released. In simple form the argument goes something like, "buying these rights of way back will cost far more than maintaining them as recreational trails." It is a valid argument. Abandoning the rights of way without returning them to the original land owners would not work, however, because the railbeds must be maintained, otherwise they would disintegrate because of natural and human forces. Converting these rights of way to recreational multi-use trails allows them to be maintained and gives the public a good reason to spend tax dollars on maintaining them. Land owners who expected the rights of way to be returned have sued, and the courts ruled that the government should compensate them for the land. A key point of the ruling was that the government, not the organizations creating the trails, should provide the compensation. Even with payment to land owners, the cost of keeping the rights of way is less than the cost of repurchasing them.

While some multi-use trails are not good places for bicycles because of pedestrian traffic and congestion, the longer trails, such as Missouri's 200-plus-mile KATY, provide many miles of relatively empty trail that does, indeed go somewhere. The KATY runs from Sedalia, in western Missouri, all the way to eastern Missouri, just outside St. Louis, and if plans go as scheduled, sometime in the next year or so the KATY should connect with the Chain of Rocks Bridge, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Mississippi river. Since Illinois has an extensive network of trails, it may be possible for a cyclist to ride from Sedalia, Missouri, all the way to Chicago and beyond, mostly on rail conversions and dedicated bicycle paths/routes.

The benefits to cyclists in the form of routes that actually go somewhere and to the general public as protections of valuable rights of way are certainly worth the expense. That the rights of way will probably never be used by railroads again is simply gravy.
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Old 05-19-03, 08:41 PM
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Originally posted by Prosody
Since Illinois has an extensive network of trails, it may be possible for a cyclist to ride from Sedalia, Missouri, all the way to Chicago and beyond, mostly on rail conversions and dedicated bicycle paths/routes.
I spent most of my teenage years exploring all the Illinois rail-to-trails and touring from town to town on them. While my schoolmates were busy hanging out along the Naperville Riverwalk and cruising for teenage girls, I was out exploring the sparsely populated areas of America's heartland on my bike.
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Old 05-19-03, 08:54 PM
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I would have to say that most of the time I ride in the road. I tend to ride faster than a lot of them allow and faster than what I would consider safe if lots of people are on them. But I would rather see the rail right a ways be turned over to trail use it adds to the community. There are some trails that I do like Khuon mentioned the one that goes through the Cascades it has a three mile tunnel in it that passes under the Ski Resorts at Snoqualime Pass and it pretty much parallels I-90 though it is used quite a bit there is much of it that you can ride for miles without seeing anyone and you cannot beat the scenery. But then you Have the Burke Gilliam trail which is scary on any weekend just because of the volume of people that use it. and is poorly maintained. As far as property owners expecting the right of ways to return to them in many cases those right of ways were granted over a hundred years ago when no one owned a lot of the land that was given to the railroads. if they want the right away they should pay for it then they should definitely not get it for free.
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Old 05-19-03, 09:17 PM
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Queensland got it's first rail trail a couple of months ago. It's in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane. Despite all the fanfare, I really don't see the point of it all that much. The Lockyer Valley is not exactly the most heavily trafficked area in the state, and the thing is only a few kilometres long.

It basically has all the problems of every other bike path in the state:

1. It doesn't actually go anywhere

2. Because of point 1, sooner or later you're going to have to use the road it's trying to avoid anyway.

3. I don't buy the "protection from malicious drivers" argument for one second. If a driver really wants to take you out, (s)he won't wait for you to get on the road to do so. Heck, I see drivers using the "bikepaths" around here because they think they can get through traffic faster.

4. Has anybody bothered to check the exit/entry points on the path? In most cases these are more dangerous than the road they are so desparate to avoid.

5. I don't like dealing with broken glass/overhanging branches/whatever other obstacle appears there. Yes, these appear on the road too, but at least the road gives me a little more scope to take some kind of evasive action.

6. I don't like having to "dismount to cross road/bridge/whatever" every 40 metres.

OK, the last three points probably aren't a factor on the rail trail I mentioned, but they exist on every other bikepath. The thing that really bugs me about bikepaths, however, is the fact that people actually expect us to put up with all of the above and use them. I'm really not all that bothered about them being there (there are many many things in the economy that my taxes fund that I simply never use, such as politicians various perks), however, I'm sick of people trying to tell me that I should use it.

This is particularly true of many cycling "advocates" who like to come out with the old "we better use it, otherwise they won't build any more of them" line. As far as I'm concerned, if the facility is one that is totally impractical to use, I couldn't care less whether they build any more bicycling facilities or not. It's not as if they know how to do it properly anyway.

Boy, I did go on a bit, didn't I?
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Old 05-19-03, 09:23 PM
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I can't think of anything sweeter than a ride through the deep part of a forest, with no irritable, hulking SUVs spitting exhaust fumes and noise as they squeeze past. Some of them lead somewhere useful, some don't. When you;re going over a river on a wooden bridge, surrounded by trees and wildlife, who cares if you're getting anywhere? Personally, I like the gravel fine, no worries about thin-tired road bikes zipping past pokey me at 35 mph.

Sorry, I love almost all the rail-trails I've been on. So far, none lead to practical locations for me, but they make it much more enjoyable to get to impractical locations.
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Old 05-19-03, 09:32 PM
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Originally posted by Inkwolf

Sorry, I love almost all the rail-trails I've been on. So far, none lead to practical locations for me, but they make it much more enjoyable to get to impractical locations.
Thank you for putting into more eloquent words exactly what I attempted to convey. And as someone else pointed out, a rail-to-trail populated with bikes (or even pedestrians) is much easier on the eyes than a weed covered rusted out and broken section of unused railroad tracks.

I can certainly understand the point from those of you who are forced to use a bikepath but for those of us who have the option of using either, I feel that bike trails is a definate plus.
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Old 05-19-03, 09:56 PM
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Originally posted by Inkwolf
Sorry, I love almost all the rail-trails I've been on. So far, none lead to practical locations for me, but they make it much more enjoyable to get to impractical locations.
So the predominant opinion seems to be that they're useful if the trail itself is your destination, but useless if you're cycling for transportational reasons. Again, this reflects the different types of cyclists that exist. Now if we could just convince council planners and so on that we have different needs.
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Old 05-20-03, 08:01 AM
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Rail beds are ideal places for bike trails.

However, for everyday commuting, unless they can take you downtown conveniently, they are primarily recreational.

All in all, nothing can match the road network for getting you any place you want to go, quickly. If there is a problem with dangerous traffic, I believe the issue should be addressed head-on by slowing traffic instead of building alternate routes.
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Old 05-20-03, 08:16 AM
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In the DC area we have several paved, surfaced, rail trails, and a few bike paths which are paved, and the C&O towpath, which is not paved. The B&A trail and the W & OD trail are both paved and excellent for transportation. Other trails, such as the quiet waters park trial, are a disaster for cyclists, and useless for transportation. Last, there is the Anacostia system of trails which provide excellent commuting routes, if you happen to live in the 12 o 'clock to 2 o'clock quadrants of the Beltway. On the other hand there are also several roads with bicycle diamond lanes, such as College Parkway in Anne Arundel County. These make even better routes. A lesser, but still viable approach is to post good cycling roads with yellow warning signs with a cycle picture. this is done on St. Margaret's Road in Anne Arundel. I think the last is an approach we should urge far more widely, as it costs very little and pays big dividends.
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Old 05-20-03, 08:27 AM
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Apart from not going anywhere interesting, the rail trail hereabouts has three big disadvantages compared to the road.

--- Every road has the right of way at intersections, so a rider must stop more than every mile in open country. The competing roads, by contrast, allow you to ride for miles with no stopping.

--- The trail is hemmed in by thick trees, brush, and ditches (to keep cyclists off of the adjacent farms, I presume). This growth goes all the way to the intersections. You cannot see what little traffic there is on the roads until your tire is past the limit line.

--- The thick brush makes things less pleasant, actually, despite the idyllic look of the trail. It's more rewarding to be able to survey miles of open country as you roll down the road.

Those things said, the trail is an ok alternative route sometimes. It's very wide for a bike path, and there isn't usually anyone else on it. Even in warm weather you'll see only a few other folks, and I've never had a problem passing or with danger created by crowding. That is a function of the sparse population hereabouts, along with the aversion to exercise of most people here.

The trail's got to be expensive to maintain, though, with winter breaking up the pavement every year, trees falling on the path, and brush growing over it. I'm not sure it's worth it.

I nearly always take the roads in any event.
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Old 05-20-03, 09:45 AM
  #21  
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I consider myself a roadie, however, we have a couple of rail trails not too far from my home. They are a nice alternative on occasion. I live in a highly populated area, however, when I'm riding on of the trails, I might have a deer or two cross my path, I've seen fox, redtail hawks, blue herons, ducks, and geese. After a long stressful day or week, this is a great place to ride.

I have found that because the trails pass through different cities and townships, there can be a big difference in how they are maintained. For the most part, the upkeep is done by volunteers.

Another selling point is having a rail trail near your home, can increase the value of your home. In suburban areas we need all of the "green" space we can keep and this is a wonderful way to do just that!
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Old 05-20-03, 03:19 PM
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Wow seeing all the wildlife while riding would be awsome. I mountain bike ride in the deep woods and rarely see anything but the occasional wild turkey or deer.

Recently a trail was being planned around the city of Carterville I believe and several citizens (old folks) banned together to resist the trail that would be close to their homes. Their number one reason for fighting against the trail, They thought it would lower property value and raise crime. One old man even did a short interview where he said, "BIKE TRAIL, you might as well call em CRIME TRAILS, that's all they are good for, bringing in criminals and giving them a place to walk around." I am not joking that is exactly what the guy said!

Alot of the posts here have been really good, and several of them have heightened my appreciation of the bike trails. Thanks
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Old 05-20-03, 03:45 PM
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I ride roads and trails and in Baltimore we have the NCR rail trail which runs from hunt valley to york Pennsylvania ( 80 mile round trip).

The NCR trails surface is crush and run and you can't beat it for a good workout being as long and flat as it is. There are very few through streets and most are country roads anyway. I ride it 2 or 3 times a week for the workout but the biggest draw is the scenery.
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Old 05-20-03, 09:35 PM
  #24  
John E
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Although many of the roads in San Diego County are very decent for bicycling, there are a few nasty intersections (e.g., two freely-flowing 45mph lanes merging in from the right near Mission Bay) I try to avoid at any cost, including the inconvenience of a short stretch of slow, multiuse trail.

Near the northernwestern corner of the county, the paved, lightly-used 7-mile San Luis Rey river trail runs essentially parallel to the new 65mph Highway 76 expressway. Although the latter has wide curb lanes, crossing its on- and off-ramps can be quite intimidating for even an experienced cyclist.

The higher the traffic speed, the more receptive I am to a separate facility. Below 40mph / 65kph, I prefer to take the road (the lane, if necessary). To avoid playing in higher-speed traffic, I'll agitate for useful bike paths paralleling major arterials.
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Old 05-20-03, 09:47 PM
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Originally posted by gattm99
Hello again my faithful readers. I have another topic which we can discuss, or at least some of us can discuss it and others can use this oppurtunity to attack my sanity, Matt Gholson
Excuse me for bringing this up so late in the thread but I just noticed this. My question is don't you have to have some kind of sanity before we can attack it?
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