Bike Lanes and Train Tracks?

Walking and bicycling are good – for the body, for the soul, for the community, and the environment and real estate property values. Yes, my lens is somewhat self-selecting, but the trends amongst home buyers and renters is to be closer to walking and biking trails.

I’m curious to learn what the opportunities are for adding bike lanes and walking paths near train tracks around Charlottesville and Albemarle … and whether/how the City and County could/would work together.

From a friend

I was looking at some maps of C-ville/Crozet yesterday. It’s pretty interesting that train tracks run through or close by nearly all major developments and neighborhoods in Charlottesville and to some extent Crozet. Belmont, Fry Spring, Up 29 to Rio Road, Out towards Ivy, The University area, Downtown Crozet, Grayrock, Crozet Crossing etc.
The rights of way are quite large with these. I do love dedicated bike lanes but wouldn’t a good use of money also be spent creating a paved or hard pack dirt bike lane alongside these rail right of ways? This way people could commute, by bike, safely and easily to downtown crozet or charlottesville.  Also families with children could safely ride their bike to the city market or downtown crozet from their subdivision without fear that they’ll be run over.  Any crossings of tracks could be done with existing right of ways to satisfy train safety people who hate adding more crossings.  The amount of crossings is actually minimal as development tends to occur naturally more to one side.
I love bike lanes but I constantly feel like I’m going to be squished by someone on their cell phone or someone who cares less about people around them and more about getting somewhere 10 seconds faster.

You’ve heard of rail-trails — abandoned rail lines that have been turned into multi-use paths for biking and walking. There are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails across the country, in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

But these trails don’t need to be built on the graves of defunct rail lines. A growing number of them, in fact, are constructed next to active rail lines. In 1996, there were slightly less than 300 miles of these trails. Today there are about 1,400 miles.

Railroads tend to be skittish about approving walking and biking routes because they fear liability if someone gets injured. Even so, 43 percent of rails-with-trails, as they’re known, are located wholly within railroad rights-of-way, while another 12 percent have some segments inside the right-of-way. So negotiating with railroads — from Class I freight railroads to urban light rail operators — is possible, if you know how to approach them.

now … about getting the needed rights of way ….
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2 Comments

  1. Chris Bruce October 24, 2016 at 14:50

    I hadn’t heard of rails-with-trails but what a fabulous idea! I’m sure it’s not easy getting the railroads on board but there are ample opportunities here. At a minimum, a connection from Charlottesville to Crozet along the RR tracks would be amazing and well used. I was just talking to someone recently who used to bike to work in Northern Virginia but now lives in Crozet and works in C-ville. She said she’d be willing to bike to work on occasion if not for the crazy traffic on 250. And we’ve been taking our kids to ride on the Virginia Capital Trail out of Richmond, in part because it’s much longer than anything we have around here. It’s amazing to see how many people are using this great resource. It you build it they will come!

    The City is making some progress on better biking infrastructure but that progress is painfully slow. And connectivity is always an issue.

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