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commuting by rail-trail at night

Old 11-14-05, 12:13 PM
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commuting by rail-trail at night

Here in Durham, NC bicycle commuting is on the rise. One of the most popular transportation corridors for cycle-commuters is the American Tobacco Trail, a Rails-to-Trails project.

Recently, however, the police have started to enforce a dusk-to-dawn trail closure, citing the fact that the American Tobacco Trail is considered a park and all Durham parks close at dusk. With the recent time-change and winter settling in, closing the trail at dusk means that most commuters (those who leave work at or around 5pm) are not able to use the trail on their evening ride home.

A few concerned cyclists have arranged a November 28th meeting with Durham authorities. I realize that most of you cannot speak to the specifics of Durham's situation, but you may still be able to help us prepare for this conversation.

Can anyone point me to any communities that you know of where an arrangement to use a rail-trail after dark has been worked out between the cycling community and the local authorities (city councils or police)? I searched, but did not find any relevant information already on this site. I apologize in advance if I simply overlooked something.

Thanks for your time,

Nico
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Old 11-14-05, 12:30 PM
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I spoke with a bike policeman on Illinois Prairie Path about that once. The posted signs say that the park closes after dark but the police are quite lenient about cyclists. He says the law is in place so they can arrest troublemakers who might hangout there after dark.

They have their own police department.

http://www.mccdistrict.org/police/
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Old 11-14-05, 12:41 PM
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The Capital Crescent Trail in the DC area is closed at dusk to all but commuters. there are even a few signs that include the exception for commuters. The signs at major trail entrances usually include a statement of the rules for trail use. I am sure the dusk closure is used the same way here -- to arrest any troublemakers who might hang out on the trail for less than altruistic purposes. You can check out the Capital Crescent Trail website at www.cctrail.org for details.

I can't remember where I saw it (maybe on the website for the American Discovery Trail or on the Annapolis -- Baltimore trail) but someone had some stats to show that bike trails reduce crime by putting more responsible, law abiding folks out there to make criminal activity more difficult. That might be a secondary argument to make to support keeping the trail open at night to commuters.

Good luck.
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Old 11-14-05, 12:52 PM
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You might get a break with the verbiage used in writing up the regulations.
For example, see if you can have them say the trail is closed from dawn to dusk to "recreational use". Be sure that they speel out that commuting is not recreational.
They get their enforceable code and you get to use the trail. If the local governements have any "most liveable city" or "clean air" initiatives, going on, you might find some backup from the folks in charge of those, as a rail to trail project is a pretty cheap way to make some headway on either of those.

Good luck, I hope you get your way. I'd love to see some tracks here converted for bikeage.
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Old 11-14-05, 02:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Marylandnewbie

I can't remember where I saw it (maybe on the website for the American Discovery Trail or on the Annapolis -- Baltimore trail) but someone had some stats to show that bike trails reduce crime by putting more responsible, law abiding folks out there to make criminal activity more difficult. That might be a secondary argument to make to support keeping the trail open at night to commuters.

Good luck.
Certainly not the B&A trail. I've used it pretty much my whole life and it's always been a problem for crime. One night I collided with a guy riding the wrong way, we both got up and made sure everything was ok and took off- when I got to the next intersection, there was a cop waiting for me. Turns out the guy was a peeping tom and got called out, so they thought I was him. I was heading home from work, so I got out of it pretty easily. I've also been questioned about seeing a possible ****** making his escape on the trail, and just a few weeks ago I was stopped again for trespassing- and the officer had mentioned an earlier crime taking place and the trail being used to escape. Suprising how many crimes surround the trail, but it really is a good escape route. I always wish we could get it opened just for commuting because I always see people out riding it after dark, but these crimes lead me to beleive it'll never happen.
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Old 11-14-05, 02:46 PM
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Ooooh, I wish you good luck.
I'm applying to Duke for graduate school, and if I get in, I shall be joining your league of bicycle commuters.
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Old 11-14-05, 04:43 PM
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The signs on my nearby trail say something like "Bike path closed at sunset, commuters allowed" This helps get rid of the kids hanging around and causing trouble. And the commuters do not get bothered by the police. It is patrolled pretty well. I ride on it even after midnight all the time. The police watch me go by alone with good lights they know I'm prepared for the dark and not going to cause any problems.

The only time I have been stopped is when the police were looking for someone who was trying to escape down the path. They just wanted to know If I saw anyone. I think this system works as well as anything could.
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Old 11-14-05, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes
The signs on my nearby trail say something like "Bike path closed at sunset, commuters allowed"
What's the path? I'm building a collection of towns/paths that make the distinction between recreational and commuting cyclists. I think this may be the way to go in Durham.

Thanks
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Old 11-14-05, 08:41 PM
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I wouldn't lead with this, because you don't want to start out adversarial, but it helps to know that the trail was paid for using federal transportation dollars (google for the press release). As such it is subject to federal rules. See: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/sec217.htm

Section 217(i) states: "Transportation Purpose.--No bicycle project may be carried out under this section unless the Secretary has determined that such bicycle project will be principally for transportation, rather than recreation purposes."

So these trails are supposed to be transportational -- the argument that the trail "is considered a park" is completely bogus. You should push for a rule banning recreational use after dark.
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Old 11-15-05, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by kuan
I spoke with a bike policeman on Illinois Prairie Path about that once. The posted signs say that the park closes after dark but the police are quite lenient about cyclists. He says the law is in place so they can arrest troublemakers who might hangout there after dark.

They have their own police department.

http://www.mccdistrict.org/police/
Interesting. I have just started commuting on the Praire Path this fall and did not notice the signs . . . .but than again my commute is in Dupage County.

I must say, 12.5 of my 15 mile commute is on this trail and these trails are awsome for commuting.
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Old 11-15-05, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by nicomachus
What's the path? I'm building a collection of towns/paths that make the distinction between recreational and commuting cyclists. I think this may be the way to go in Durham.

Thanks
The East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island. If you can't find a photo of one of the signs easily in these links let me know, I go by them all the time with a camera. I can find the law too if you need it.

The East Bay Bike Path in Rhode Island
http://www.eastbaybikepath.com/


All the bike paths of Rhode Island http://www.dot.state.ri.us/bikeri/areamaps.html


http://www.dot.state.ri.us/bikeri/bikefall/bikefall.htm
This has a photo slide show of the East Bay Bike Path from about two weeks ago.
MY PHOTOS !
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Old 12-01-05, 04:06 PM
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City of Durham
Public Service Announcement
PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT
For Immediate Release: November 30, 2005

American Tobacco Trail Hours Now Extended

Multiple Requests and Increased Use of ATT By Bicyclists and Pedestrians Prompts Change

Durham, N.C. – On Monday, December 5, 2005, the Durham Parks and Recreation Department (DPR) will extend the hours of the American Tobacco Trail from dawn to dusk to 5 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily.

As commuter usage of the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) grows, particularly now with the new connection along Cornwallis Rd. from the ATT into Research Triangle Park and from the ATT to the Downtown Trail into northern Durham, commuters are accessing the trail more during morning and evening hours.

“We want citizens to continue to view the American Tobacco Trail as a commuter alternative and to make maximum use of Durham’s resources,” said Darrell Crittendon, director of DPR. “The extended hours will give bikers and pedestrians the flexibility to use this City resource more during the fall and winter when dusk arrives earlier.” Crittendon, as DPR director, is authorized by City Code to set hours for the use of City facilities under its management, which includes the ATT.

The ATT hours have been extended due to multiple requests from citizens to extend the hours beyond the dawn to dusk timeframe due to daylight savings time and its effect during winter months. To ensure maximum safety for bicycle and pedestrian commuters on the trail during morning or evening darkness, bicyclists must adhere to the State’s General Statute 20-129 which requires that “every bicycle shall be equipped with a lighted lamp visible up to three hundred feet in front…and a tail light or rear reflector that is red and visible for up to two hundred feet from the rear.”

The Durham Police Department (DPD) will continue to monitor the ATT for safety throughout the extended usage hours. The DPD has the authority to ticket persons on the trail outside of the new usage hours or bicyclists not adhering to the lighting requirement. Citizens can learn more about trail safety by visiting the City’s website at http://www.durhamnc.gov/departments/parks/safety.cfm.

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Old 12-01-05, 06:03 PM
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Thanks Jack for posting the update.

And thanks to those of you who mentioned other rail-trail systems that accomodate commuters. Because a handful of concerned commuters were able to point to other municipal trail systems that have made decisions to help keep commuters safe after dark, we were able to get the city of Durham to act more quickly.

Your thoughts on this board paid off. Thanks again, and if you're ever in Durham, NC, I'm happy to give you a tour of the American Tobacco Trail (the trail in question).
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Old 12-01-05, 08:10 PM
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That's great news! I'm glad you guys found a way to work it out.
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