In the early 20th century, the patchwork of the United States was quilted together by almost 300,000 miles of railroad lines. When train transport fell into disuse in the 1950s and ’60s, a movement began to transform those abandoned industrial corridors into recreational space. Those miles of track had the potential to be ideal bike paths, thanks to limited incline and their proximity to towns which stood to benefit from a new kind of tourism.
There are many ways, and many steps needed, to turn a track with steel rails and spikes, wooden sleepers and stone ballast into a smooth, inviting bike route. But while the rails-to-trails movement started in the ‘60s, it got a major boost in 1986 with the development of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a national organization that has helped local communities plan, fund-raise and execute their own trail development. Now, Rails-to-Trails is largely focused on