Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Bike trails are a key ingredient in the recipe for cooking up a livable city.
The Longleaf Trace, name inspired by the indigenous longleaf pine, runs along an abandoned freight rail track from the university out 39 miles through a handful of small towns. Right now, it is utilized primarily as a recreational bike and walk path, although some outlying apartment complexes are catching on. Shy little concrete paths are popping up to connect the (mostly student) apartments to the trail. No celebrations of neighborhood-meets-bike-trail yet - every new development so far along the trace has been planned solely around the car as the only means of transportation with the trace as a distant afterthought - but the few miles just beyond the university is prime for bike-centered student and young professional housing.
Plans for extending the trail from the university into downtown (about 3 miles) will transform the trace into an integral part of the city's transportation infrastructure. Situated alongside a major east/west corridor, this bike and walk path will offer a quick commute for students living downtown, cultivate downtown street activity (the lifeblood of public space), and create a stronger connection between the city's two main urban centers.
I live near the current mouth of the trail so it's very easy for me to pop on for a nice bike ride; most mornings I do go out for some peaceful yet-your-blood-flowing exercise. I took these pics this morning.
The Longleaf trace is a Rails to Trails project. There are several of them around the country. Local civic leaders and bike enthusiasts joined forces, and worked diligently over a number of years to bring this about, and the fruits of their efforts are bountiful.
Here's a link to the national Rails to Trails program. Find one near you...or build one.