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Monday, December 22 2014 @ 08:34 PM UTC
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Hiking, biking and tubing in your backyard

Bike PathsBy Jaclyn Jones - Examiner

My much anticipated graduation from high school and a deservedly exciting June, July and August made the adjustment to college seem ever so slightly tedious. In just the first week of the semester, it became difficult to apply myself to my studies. So over the extended Labor Day weekend I made an escape…I dusted off my old bicycle and rode it on one of Maryland’s outdoor gems—the Torrey C. Brown Trail, formerly known as the Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCRT).

If you don’t already know about this trail, it’s nearly 20 miles of flat, stone and dirt-covered pathway, highly navigable by bicycle or by foot. The trail is within an easy driving distance from Goucher, Johns Hopkins University, College of Notre Dame, Loyola University, Stevenson University, Towson State University, UMBC and many other local college campuses. It extends from Ashland, which is just off York Rd. in Cockeysville, Md. to the Md.–Pa. line. The trail is part of the rails to trails conversion and follows the path of the now defunct North Central Railway.

Besides biking or hiking, you can tube down the Gunpowder River which runs parallel to the trail. Monkton Bike, Inc. rents tubes and operates the Tube Shuttle between Monkton and Bluemount Rd.

If you work up an appetite, ‘Natural Brothers’ run a deli and café at about the 7-mile marker in Monkton. They offer largely vegan fare and some of the most delicious ice cream—organic, of course!—that I have ever tasted. (Try the Coconut Almond Chip!)

If the great outdoors doesn’t provide enough escapist enjoyment (or food), nearby at York and Shawan Roads is the Hunt Valley Towne Centre with California Pizza Kitchen, Chipotle, Noodles & Company, and Panera Bread.

As a recommendation…If you venture to the trail, pick it up at Monkton or slightly north of there as the more southern points can get crowded.

For more information on the Torrey C. Brown Trail, contact the Department of Natural Resources about Gunpowder State Park.

Before returning to my studies, let me mention that in the coming weeks, I’ll be catching up with several local bands that have performances coming up at the Recher Theater in Towson and I’ll be highlighting some rising stars of the local theater scene as well as other interesting collegians in the Baltimore area!

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Cycling Baltimore, Gwynns Falls Trail

Bike PathsBy Donald Crowson, Jacksonville Bicycle Travel Examiner A ride on the Gwynns Falls Trail is a must for bicycle travelers exploring Baltimore. This wonderful trail provides cyclists a great way to enjoy and learn about the Chesapeake Bay watershed, its history and the interesting parks and neighborhoods it travels through.

Refer to the separate article, Cycling Baltimore, cycle rental shops near downtown and Inner Harbor for maps, information and featured cycle rental shops near Inner Harbor and downtown.

The ride starts at the Visitor Center, at Inner Harbor (see Google Map for route) continues along Light St, through the Federal Hill district, under I395 on Hamburg St and past the Camden MARC railway station M&T Stadium and until crossing the railroad tracks on Ridgely St. On Bavard St. the ride passes the first of a series of creative Gwynns Falls Trail murals (see slide show below).

After a left on Washington and past Carroll Park, a former plantation, the ride embarks on its first off road section and portion of the trail along Gwynns Falls. Past Carroll Park Golf Course and a neat ‘Love’ mural, the ride crosses, via several trail bridges, the former site of the Carrollton Viaduct. Disembarking your cycle at Wilkens Ave, cross the street and the bridge and continue off road again through a small high hilled park where basketball courts and a public pool once stood (the pool was built in 1910 after Gwynns Falls became too polluted for swimming - see informative signboard, one of many along route). Off and back on the off-road trail at Frederick Ave, the ride travels along the Ellicott Driveway. It once carried water for the Ellicott flower-milling complex, thus lending to the districts name, Mill Hill. After another on-off road segment, the ride passes under the Baltimore Street Bridge and past several dramatic waterfalls before arriving at Leon Day Park, where a water fountain and restrooms are.

After traveling on Franklin Rd, the ride starts its Gwynns Falls / Leakin Park portion where the path becomes a dirt road where samples of wildlife and fauna can be experienced. This ride’s turn around point, a high hilltop and former retreat of some sort offers a quiet resting place before your return. There are many other paths to enjoy in the park and if you have the time, explore.

For a yummy meal after your ride check out Kiku Sushi on light street for some expertly prepared miso and sashimi.

As always, read the safety article [or better yet, look over our links for safety] and be prepared to lose yourself in the splendor of Gwynns Falls Trail.

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Encouraging community involvement and best practices with the Maryland Trails Summit

Bike Paths[B' Spokes: Everyone loves off-road trails right? Well let's look at the best and worst of off-road facilities:


Maryland's over stress on off-road encourages the worst of off-road facilities (bottom half) over and above more appropriate on-road facilities. And even with the best of paths (top half) most MD paths do not allow for comfortable biking from home to the trail (Per NHTSA survey 89% of bike trips begin at a residence and only 7% at a recreational site), nor do paths generally allow comfortable biking from the trail to work or grocery stories, such an idea is not even in the works. We need a more workable solution then what's being offered and more verity in the offering of bike facilities at not only the state level but the local level as well.

Public participation is the key to remedying this and the following letter was put forth on one of the advocacy lists, I encourage everyone to write their own letter in support of greater public participation. ]

IC wrote this letter to


I was just informed of the Maryland Trails Summit. Since moving to Maryland last December, and as I'm a keen cyclist who enjoys riding on multi-use trails, I've been eager to get involved in related issues, so something like this, which relates directly to cycling, seems like it would be something I'd like to get involved with. Unfortunately the Maryland Trails Summit seems to have been specifically designed to exclude people like me (i.e. a keen cyclist who has a limited budget, a job and a family) from the event.

Even if concerned people can afford the $50 admission fee (which seems especially steep in these harsh economic times), the event is scheduled for a Tuesday during school and working hours. I wonder, could it have been scheduled for a LESS convenient time? Maybe holding it on Thanksgiving Day would have kept more people away, but that's debatable. How is Maryland's Department of Natural Resources hoping to get useful feedback on its programs from concerned citizens when virtually the only people able to attend are likely to be well-off seniors or wealthy business tycoons with time on their hands?

Then there's the venue. Does it really need to take place next to one of the busiest airports in the country? If anyone wanted to cycle to the event, they would have to negotiate the numerous freeways that surround the venue. I mean, this is a summit devoted to trails. Sure, many people besides cyclists are interested in Maryland Trails, but surely most of these people live in Maryland and don't need to fly into BWI! As a cyclist, I would find it a scary prospect indeed to negotiate such a labyrinth of freeways and highways to get to the event on my bike, even if I lived within twenty miles of it.

Then there's the environmental cost of this event. It seems to me that the Department of Natural Resources should be discouraging the use of fossil fuels and encouraging more sustainable modes of transportation, yet the Department of Natural Resources seems to be going out of its way to get people to fly or drive to the Maryland Trails Summit. Honestly, with this lack of concern for the environment, what hope do Maryland residents have that the Department of Natural Resources is truly focused on safeguarding the state's natural resources.

It seems to me that this event is structured to appeal more to the travel industry than to the people the Department of Natural Resources are supposed to serve - i.e. the residents of Maryland. I'm eager to get involved when issues related to our natural resources come up, but with a limited budget and a kid in school, there's no way I can do this.

Please, when planning events like this in the future, have some thought for the people Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is supposed to serve! As for this event, I sincerely doubt anything useful can come from it, as it effectively prevents constructive input from the people who are most likely to use Maryland's network of trails.
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MD Trails Summit

Bike Paths


Greetings Trail Enthusiast! 



The Maryland Trails Summit :

Sharing the Vision-Making the Connections

October 19, 2010


The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proud to announce that the Maryland Trail Summit will be held on Tuesday, October 19th at the Holiday Inn BWI Airport in Linthicum Heights , Maryland . The Summit will bring together trail users from all over the State to discuss the future of trails in Maryland, preview an interactive map and website, work on regional projects, network with other trail users and planners, learn about trails in neighboring states and much more!


This opportunity is not to be missed. This 1-day event is the culmination of ideas and input from the four Regional Roundtables that DNR hosted this past summer. If you are a commuter, boater, bicyclist, rollerblader, hiker, walker, skier, jogger, pet lover, paddler, camper, birder, off-road vehicle rider, equestrian, or anyone else that has an interest in trails in Maryland this is the event for you!


Maryland’s very first trail summit is just around the bend, so complete your online registration and come prepared to learn and discuss the future of trails in Maryland. We hope to see you there!

Limited Space – Register online today to assure your seat!




The Md Trails Summit Team 


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Cycling: Help needed to spur bicycle service on trains

Bike PathsBy Larry Walsh - Pittsburgh Gazette

My first experience with roll-on/roll-off train service occurred in the late 1990s on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad which runs from Cumberland to Frostburg, a 16-mile trip.

I had pedaled a steel Bianchi mountain bike on alternate sides of the railroad tracks from Frostburg to Cumberland. It was a bumpy ride, thanks to all the ballast. What is now a smooth ride on a crushed limestone surface trail was years away.

When I arrived in Cumberland, I had breakfast at the All Aboard Café in the renovated red brick railway station, rode around Cumberland for a few hours and caught the 11:30 train back to Frostburg.

After buying my ticket, I rolled the bike over to the baggage car and lifted it up from the platform to John Jeppi, the conductor. I used bungee cords to secure it to the interior of the car. When we got to Frostburg, Jeppi rolled it over to the door and handed it down. No muss, no fuss.

The Allegheny Trail Alliance and the Trail Town Program have asked Amtrak officials to approve roll-on/roll-off service along the railroad's Capitol route from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. And they would like all members of the bicycling community to help make that request a reality.

Roll-on/roll-off service allows cyclists to transport their bikes on and off the train without turning the handlebars sideways, taking the pedals off and putting them in boxes.

The alliance also has asked Amtrak to include roll-on/roll-off service to trail towns it does not currently service.

To accomplish those goals, they are asking cyclists to write letters to Joseph H. Boardman, president and chief executive officer of Amtrak, National Railroad Passenger Corp., 60 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, D.C., 20002. The railroad prefers hard copies rather than e-mails.

They also ask that copies of those letters be sent to Ray LaHood, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave., SE, Washington, D.C., 20590; and to the alliance at PO Box 501, Latrobe, Pa., 15650 or

Time is of the essence.

If enough cyclists write enough letters as soon as possible -- and now would be a good time to do so -- roll-on/roll-off service along the Capitol Limited could be in place by next spring.

It might be possible, for example, to ride the train from Pittsburgh to Connellsville, bike 90 miles to Cumberland, Md., along the Great Allegheny Passage and catch the train back to Pittsburgh. The Capitol Limited stops in those towns.

Rockwood, about halfway between Connellsville and Cumberland, has asked Amtrak to approve a stop in their bike-friendly southern Somerset County town. If approved, the stop would serve bicyclists in the spring, summer and fall and snow sports enthusiasts during the winter.

Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, which maintain miles of mountain-bike trails, are only 15 miles away. And each resort has expressed interest in providing roundtrip shuttle-bus service to Rockwood if it becomes an Amtrak stop.

Depending on snow conditions, cross-country skiers and snowshoers arriving by Amtrak could stay overnight in Rockwood and ski or shoe on the passage. If there is not enough snow, they could go to the resorts and/or nearby state parks such as Laurel Ridge and Kooser.

If you would like some suggestions about what to include in your letter, go to

For more information about the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, go to or call 1-800-872-4650.

Although there was no bike fee on my first roll-on/roll-off trip, the railroad now charges $5. Advance reservations are encouraged. The railroad now transports up to 60 bikes a day.

You might want to include that information in your letters.

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Naturally Maryland, Naturally MTA

Bike PathsExploring Baltimore's Byways, Trails and Parks Through Public Transit

About Naturally Maryland, Naturally MTA
This blog tracks the progress of a long term project designed by Christopher Johnson, an environmental manager and consultant.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2010, Mr. Johnson will be exploring the benefits of Baltimore's many recreational opportunities. He will do this, however, by throwing his hiking boots and/or fold-up bicycle on board his city's public transit system.

This blog will report on Mr. Johnson's public transit adventures. It will designed to be eventually published into a handy local outdoor recreation guide that will attain three major goals:

1) Help low income, especially inner city, citizens, with no access to a car, reach inspiring natural areas that will benefit their physical and mental health.

2) Help environmentally conscious hikers and bikers reach their favorite local destinations without the guilt of polluting their beloved natural areas via the consumption of polluting, unsustainable fossil fuels.

3) Advocate the benefits the Maryland Transit Administration's (MTA's) system contributes to our community.
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Amtrak Call to Action

Bike PathsDear Trail Supporter:

The Allegheny Trail Alliance and the Trail Town Program have been advocating for the roll-on/roll off service along Amtrak’s Capitol Limited Route and need your continued help! Thanks to your support we are that much closer to seeing this happen, and you can still contribute! The attached letter thanks Amtrak for their interest and encourages them to provide this service as soon as they can. Please adapt the letter below and make the necessary changes (highlighted as red text) to personalize it for your own situation and interest.

Amtrak prefers hard copies rather than e-mails, so we ask that you send a copy directly to the address listed in the supplemental letter below.  Also, please mail a copy of your letter to the ATA at P.O. Box 501, Latrobe, PA 15650, or e-mail it to  Your immediate help is necessary and greatly appreciated!  

Thank you for your time!






Mr. Joseph H. Boardman

President and CEO of Amtrak

National Railroad Passenger Corporation

60 Massachusetts Avenue, NE

Washington, DC  20002


Dear Mr. Boardman,


Thank you for your interest in providing enhanced bicycle service on the Capitol Limited.  I am excited by the prospect of being able to roll-on and roll-off on the Capitol Limited route between Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC.  I am encouraged with the news that it might be available in Spring 2011.  I want to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal towpath and appreciate the opportunity to ride the rails before I ride the trails.  I look forward to using the service every year/month/week, especially between x and y. 


We appreciate Amtrak’s commitment to enhancing tourism opportunities and multi-modal transportation networks. 



(Your signature)


Copy:  Ray LaHood, Secretary, U. S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590

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KDOT Transportation Enhancement Program

Bike Paths[B' Spokes: to contrast Maryland; 16 projects for the next *six* years at a cost of $20 million (at an average of 5 projects and $3 million a year.) Also note that Maryland requires a 50% local match "to make the money go farther" like that's working real well. And as noted previously we have enough Transportation Enhancement money in the bank to do all 16 projects *this year* with NO local match.]

The Kansas Department of Transportation has chosen 18 projects for its transportation enhancement program through fiscal year 2012, at a cost of $14.8 million.

KDOT received 55 applications from local governments. For the 18 selected projects, a minimum of 20% of their cost must come from the applicant.

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Still Fighting the "Trails Bring Crime" Myth

Bike Pathsby

Richard Layman writes on his blog about an item that didn't make it into Western Baltimore County pedestrian and bicycle access plan - contradicting the claim that bike trails bring crime.

Basically I wrote that while it is true that some crime incidents do happen on shared use paths, statistically the number of incidents is less than in either commercial areas or residential areas abutting shared use paths.

I said the reality is that more crimes are committed in association with the use of automobiles than with bicycles, but that people do not respond by recommending that the entire street network be shut down, automobiles be banned, or that no new streets should be constructed, because the street network abets crime.

Typically, after trails are constructed and begin to be used, opposition dwindles. So why do we have to go through the contentious processes each time we try to create new trails?

He even quoted the local police chief

The theory behind the program is that by mapping crashes, police can learn which areas are most likely to have such problems and station their officers in a “highly visible” way to deter speeding and distracted driving.

The same is also done in high-crime areas, police said. One helps the other, Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said, because vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes.

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Fast, Free Trails

Bike Pathsby washcycle

A Nevada non-profit can quickly remove railroad ties and tracks, dispose of them and replace it with a crushed stone surface. For free.

While most rail-to-trail projects can linger in the costly planning and design process for a decade, Godsey has placed Methuen’s on the fast track by accepting an offer she could not refuse — having the railroad tracks and ties removed, disposed of, and replaced with a crushed-stone surface for free by Iron Horse Preservation Society, a Reno, Nev., nonprofit.

“They basically come in, take out the rail stock and in essence, they give you a rail trail,’’ Godsey said.

The 18-employee organization makes its money from the sale of the railroad material, and makes sure that none of it ends up in a landfill

Because the organization does the work at no cost, Hattrup argues, a bidding process is not necessary. It also eliminates the cost for the community of removing creosote-treated railroad ties, which are considered a hazardous material, he said.

Joe Hattrup, Iron Horse Preservation director, says the process most groups use is costly and cumbersome.

“Some of the cities were paying huge amounts of money, six digits, a quarter-million dollars, for these designs . . . and then you don’t have anything yet but a road map to look for more money. They do all these feasibility studies that by the time it’s done, by the time you finish your studies, it’s 10 years later and it’s not even relevant anymore.’’

“It’s not easy to build a rail trail in Massachusetts. It doesn’t have to be this hard, but changing the process is hard.’’

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