TrailheadRenewed interest in rail travel on the state and federal level has led to an $8 billion investment of stimulus funds for improving existing passenger and freight rail corridors. The Virginia Bike Federation is leading the nationwide effort to ensure that bike and pedestrian paths are included in the refurbishment of these rail corridors.

“There will be almost 1,200 miles of rail corridors improved over the next several years, just in Virginia alone,” says Champe Burnley of the Virginia Bike Federation. “Why not go ahead and add 1,200 miles of bike paths while we’re at it?”

Putting a bike path next to a rail line may sound like a radical idea, but 2,000 miles of rails with trails already exist in the U.S., with only two accidents in the last ten years.

“Would you rather ride your bike next to a train going 50 miles per hour on a rail, or a truck going 70 down a two-lane highway?” Burnley asks.

Adding bike paths to existing rail lines would capitalize on the predominantly flat grades associated with rail corridors and connect rural towns as well as major cities.