Author Topic: Great American rail trail  (Read 1112 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Great American rail trail
« on: July 03, 2020, 05:40:24 am »
Great American rail trail. In all these years I do not remember seeing anything on this forum about the great American rail trail. It is about 3700 miles from Washington DC to the coast of Washington state. About 2000 miles are already completely paved or exist as hard packed earth good for cycling and completely 100% off the road. That makes it the safest possible route for cycling across the United States. There is an online interactive map for it that costs no money at all. It means no pollution in your face most of the time, no noise from vehicles, and a greatly reduced chance of collision. It seems to me there should be more interest.


Offline jamawani

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2020, 07:42:40 am »
It's largely in the imagination of Rails to Trails.
And in their marketing office, too.
Anyone can take a marker to a map.

Offline BikePacker

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2020, 08:12:07 am »
A 'sort of' alternative that has been repeatedly many times traversed + is documented...
https://discoverytrail.org/
Qualifier (my best current understanding - subject to others' corrections, as I have not ridden it in years)...
there, at present, is 10-15% that requires a detour(s) for the bikepacker/tourist,
while keeping in mind that we are good a detour adjustments, no? : ).

Offline John Nettles

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2020, 09:47:53 am »
While I think it is a wonderful idea and should definitely be done (along with hundreds of others trails), I honestly do not think it will be completed, at least using rail trails.  Maybe in combination with roads but not entirely trails.

Additionally, I would be much more inclined to believe it could come into existence if they showed they had secured the rights to the abandoned rails and showed where they went.

Another "cross country" route that is actually in existence but is more suited for the bikepacker is the TransAmerica Trail (NOT ACA's TransAmerica Route) which seems to be the project of just one person. https://www.transamtrail.com/ It was designed for motorcycle riders but of course bicyclists can use it too, perhaps with a few detours if it goes on interstates.  But if you thought ACA's maps were expensive, these are at least double and not nearly as well done.

Anyway, we can always dream. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2020, 08:35:41 am »
Having done some of the Olympian Trail and the NorPac Trail up to Lookout Pass (twice), I can tell you the surfaces are not what I call consistently smooth. Last year, the latter had some washout areas closer to the pass. The lower slope, after you cross under I-90, also needs work. And, the NorPac is open to motorized vehicles because, if I am not mistaken, it is technically a U.S.F.S. road. Encountered one car and a couple of kids on ATVs in 2017. Not sure about the Olympian, but I did encounter one car a bit west of St. Regis in 2017.

Offline Johnny10000

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2020, 04:36:41 pm »
I welcome the idea because anything that gets bicycle riding in the public eye and might get more people out and about is a good thing.  And while I’m hopeful they can build some new trail connections here and there due to the publicity of this newly named route, I don’t see them ever filling in all of the gaps.  Theres’s a lot of gaps to fill!  But I really like the big idea thinking behind this.

My only complaint is there seems to be a few head scratchers with regards to the actual route they picked.

For example, if you are heading west and go past Des Moines,IA instead of continuing west, the route heads in a southwesterly direction all the way to Lincoln, NE simply to access a what amounts to a handful of miles of established trail.  Then once in Lincoln, it’s all the way back north again, on roads, so you can connect to the Cowboy Trail.  That’s a lot of extra miles.

In my opinion, from just NW of Des Moines, they should try to find a way directly west to connect to the eastern end of the Cowboy Trail instead of trying to incorporate as many little local segments that classify as “Trail” or MUP’s.  You’re already going to on low traffic roads out west for a lot of this anyways.

Perhaps their reasoning is they are trying to stick to old abandoned rail lines or MUP’s which would make logical sense.   But staying true to that route also seems to add a ton of miles to your journey.  That said, a ton of people will take this route just to avoid roads.

John

Offline TCS

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2020, 11:02:12 am »
A trail across western Iowa straight to the start of the Cowboy will not be as interesting to the roughly 1,3000,000 people in the Lincoln-Omaha-Council bluff metropolitan region as one that connects to their area.  Interest = users = $$$

"No bucks, no Buck Rogers." - The Right Stuff

The high level of completion yielded by the interconnected existing trails in the eastern section from Washington, D.C. to Lincoln, Nebraska surprises and pleases me.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2020, 11:27:27 am »
I welcome the idea because anything that gets bicycle riding in the public eye and might get more people out and about is a good thing.  And while I’m hopeful they can build some new trail connections here and there due to the publicity of this newly named route, I don’t see them ever filling in all of the gaps.  Theres’s a lot of gaps to fill!  But I really like the big idea thinking behind this.

My only complaint is there seems to be a few head scratchers with regards to the actual route they picked.

For example, if you are heading west and go past Des Moines,IA instead of continuing west, the route heads in a southwesterly direction all the way to Lincoln, NE simply to access a what amounts to a handful of miles of established trail.  Then once in Lincoln, it’s all the way back north again, on roads, so you can connect to the Cowboy Trail.  That’s a lot of extra miles.

In my opinion, from just NW of Des Moines, they should try to find a way directly west to connect to the eastern end of the Cowboy Trail instead of trying to incorporate as many little local segments that classify as “Trail” or MUP’s.  You’re already going to on low traffic roads out west for a lot of this anyways.

Perhaps their reasoning is they are trying to stick to old abandoned rail lines or MUP’s which would make logical sense.   But staying true to that route also seems to add a ton of miles to your journey.  That said, a ton of people will take this route just to avoid roads.

John

At the risk of sounding critical, there is a mini version of that on the Atlantic Coast route, namely the Walkill Trail south of New Paltz, NY. It seems like trail miles for the sake of trail miles. It rode it in 2018, having done the previous routing two years earlier. The trail mileage is not anything to write home about scenery-wise, and the surface was rough and even muddy in places. That aside, the trail simply ends nowhere. One has to take some fairly unfriendly roads to hook back up with the old routing, and it adds several non-flat miles to what is already a pretty tough section to reach the nearest campground. In contrast, the old routing is much more scenic and not a problem traffic-wise.

And all that aside, I think what TCS wrote above has merit.

Offline TCS

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2020, 03:34:41 pm »
Complaints of meandering routing and highly variable surfacing have also been leveled at the UK's Sustrans network.

At present individual sections of the 'Great American Rail Trail' range from smooth, wide concrete and asphalt to 'rough grass and dirt surface' (well, dirt when dry!) and even the residual original railroad ballasting (the course rock that was packed between the ties to stabilise them). 

When Rails-to-Trails was founded over 30 years ago, the idea was to let local folks determine their trail surfacing and allowable uses which fit the local budget and clientele.  Now that they are moving into a concept of 'national trail system', trail standards need to be harmonized.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2020, 03:30:36 pm »
The criticism about the GART going out of the way to connect existing paths is well taken and very legitimate. I noticed that myself. Google down closer and you will find local roads for short cuts. Where the path goes too far from the intended direction, it looks like you can cut off maybe 200 miles or more off the total route. I know I would not want to go way far north and way far south just to connect with some piddly paths-in-the-making. In those areas I would keep going west on available roadways, of which there are many. Still though, using shortcuts, you will get some 1500 miles completely off road. That is safer, cleaner and quieter than any existing transcontinental bicycle route.

Offline TCS

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2020, 05:15:43 pm »
No one route can be all things to all cycletourists.

I know from having offered routes to cycletourists that some are predominately destination-oriented.  Any deviation from the bee-line is accepted only begrudgingly.  Others are experience-oriented, and will gladly meander for scenery, history, attractions, events, pleasantness & peacefulness and the like.

There's no right answer: "Whichever you please, my little dears, you pays your money and takes your choice."


(IMO Adventure Cycling's routes lean towards the personal experience of the tour.)
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2020, 09:00:25 pm »
I read about cycling on the so-called east coast greenway. If ever a cycling route existed mostly in the imagination, the ECG is it, so far, anyway. I read comments on CGOAB. One cyclist said he could not believe the ECG people had done research research on the prescribed route which he described as narrow, with no side lane, dangerous, with loads of traffic, noisy and polluted.

ACA have mapped their own Atlantic coast route. I looked closely at the map. It too goes far out of the bee-line in most all areas It is necessary to do that in some areas to avoid  thick frantic traffic. I have done the Atlantic coast four times, but the full length once.

One piece of advice for anyone cycling the ACBR in Florida.The barrier islands may be your best route as mapped, but not always. Let's say you are getting strong winds from the east or the west, side winds that is. Out there on the islands you are wide open to getting blasted. That is because there are not forests and structures to block the wind. Sure there are some, but now much. If you go west and use Federal Highway US 1, you will be much better protected from the wind. If it is from the east, ride the east side of 1. If the wind is from the west, sidewalks on the west side of 1 will keep you near buildings and trees that can significantly reduce the volume of wind hindering your forward progress. If the wind gets to 25 mph, I just say to hell with it, find a Starbucks, and chill with an ice coffee and internet.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2020, 07:01:11 am »
I read about cycling on the so-called east coast greenway. If ever a cycling route existed mostly in the imagination, the ECG is it, so far, anyway. I read comments on CGOAB. One cyclist said he could not believe the ECG people had done research research on the prescribed route which he described as narrow, with no side lane, dangerous, with loads of traffic, noisy and polluted.
I think that one thing that makes matters even worse is that the notion of these routes is especially appealing to folks who are not at all suited to dealing with them.  They read or hear about these routes and think it will be like their local MUP which I guess is sort of the goal at least in a way.

Personally I am not a big fan of the concept.  For the East coast it would make a little more sense if it could be managed logistically, but for coast to coast just riding roads seems like a better way to go.  I don't begrudge others doing as they please, but I never get why folks go way out of their way on a coast to coast trip to ride some section of bike trail or rail trail.

Offline canalligators

Re: Great American rail trail
« Reply #14 on: August 02, 2020, 05:53:04 pm »
Some trails are worth going out of your way to ride, but most are unexceptional.  For many, the only advantages are getting away from motor vehicles, and it being easier to find a place to relieve yourself.  For example, I'd go out of my way to ride the Elroy-Sparta because it's a nice trail and the tunnels are cool.  Or most of the GAP/C&O for the views and historic sites.

I see remarkably few journals on the ECG.  I suspect that people discount it once they look into it.  Personally, I'd like a route that stayed closer to the ocean and bays, and have charted out one that made extensive use of ferries.