A new movement is underway and it’s plan is simple. How can we recycle a retired-industry’s footprint? Meet the Rails-To-Trails conservancy, a project that aims to help people bike through America. Whether you’re a local community member biking to work or you’re an out of town visitor looking to explore the area, a rail-trail is the perfect alternative to help bikers and pedestrians transport safely.

What are Rail-Trails?

Rail-trails are built on top of old rail lines and are used exclusively for cyclists, runners, and walkers. Because they utilize the path of old rail-lines, they have the potential to be hundreds of miles along. Often times, the trails sprawl through small towns and communities. In the last decade more than 1,988 rail lines have been converted to trails in the United States. That number may seem impressive, but keep in mind that there’s nearly 8,000 miles of potential rail line to convert.

Tips For the Road

Like any outdoor activity, make sure you’re fully prepared for the adventure. Do a quick audit on your equipment. Make sure there’s proper air in your tires and that your brakes are fully operational. It’s not a bad idea to install a small mirror on your handlebars. This will keep you informed of bikers that are traveling behind you that may wish to pass.

Biker Etiquette

Keep in mind that just like driving, there are rules for bike-only trails. When biking, do your best to follow similar tactics. Keep the right side of the path. When passing, do so on the slower biker’s left side. It’s not a bad idea to call you: Passing on your left to give the fellow biker a heads up of your activity.

Finally, if you’re riding with kids, make sure they’re aware of these ‘road rules’. This is a great way to keep the trail safe for all riders.

Your Next Trip

The next time you travel to a new city or beach, do your research to see if the area hosts its own rail trail. Getting to know a new landscape by bike is one of the most rewarding ways you can continue your own explorations. Check out this map, to find the local trails near you!

Keep in mind that rail-trails are an excellent way to stimulate the local economy. For instance, Napa Valley has worked to advertise local vineyards along their trail. A path in upstate Michigan encourages bikers to stop at the local’s favorite brewery by making an easy off-trail stop accessible. Planning a day, or multi-day trip, on a rail-trail is so easy thanks to this collaboration. You pack your bag and ride all day. When you reach your set mileage, stop at one of the trail’s featured towns along the way to enjoy a nice dinner at a local restaurant, and spend the night at B&B or hotel.

Rail-trails are a great way to actively see the country in a new way. Grab your bike, your pack, and go and explore a trail near you!