Our pedal into the city of Évora, Portugal was made easy by following a bike trail (ecopista) that runs north of the city about 25kms to the town of Arraiolos. The trail was flat, mostly through farm land. Away from traffic. The sun was out. Hoopoes (a delightful bird with a comical crest) flitted from tree to tree. The smell of fall was in the air.
Yet I was just a tad depressed. This trail served as a rail line in its former life. But like so many other rail lines, it had been abandoned.
Rails-to-Trails conversions has provided cyclists and walkers and runners with some of the best trails you’ll find on the planet. But each one also marks the death of a rail line. I want to celebrate each trail, but I’m also saddened with the loss … because I love trains. Do we have to give up one to get the other?
The only way to have both is to find other huge projects that use public land and are graded for easy use.
I would like to propose a new non-profit group … the Interstate-to-Trails Conservancy.
OK. I might be a couple of decades early, but I’d love to live long enough to see walking, cycling and public transportation become such the social norm in the United States, that our government wonders what to do with these outdated, enormous rivers of asphalt and concrete. Imagine the grand trails and greenbelts stretching for hundreds of miles. There would even be room to run rail lines. And instead of old rail cars as cute trail-side snack bars and restaurants … maybe we’ll see old converted semi’s and RV’s instead.