On this morning’s ride at Umstead with Alan and Tim, the conversation ranged, as it will on a good ride, from “Avatar,” to dinosaur dung http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coprolite to, of course, biking. Alan and Tim are strong riders, and you might expect their end of the discussion to focus on training, technique, gear. And there was some of that. But what really got Tim going was a 25-mile Carolina Tarwheels group ride he’d done on Raleigh’s greenways.
“The greenway is such a remarkable thing to have,” he said. “People ride it for recreation, the can use it to commute to work. It’s really amazing.”
That’s it! I thought. If I had better balance on a bike I would have slapped my forehead.
Monday, I handed in a 49,868-word manuscript on backpacking in North Carolina. The book dominated the past 15 months of my life, between weeklong excursions to scout trips and long hours at the computer deciphering GPS data, researching and writing. With Monday’s handoff came a flush of relief — and a feeling of “What next?”
Map the state’s greenways, of course!
Ten years ago, the greenways in North Carolina were bits and pieces of neighborhood asphalt, a mile here, a mile there. Good for taking a short stroll, experimenting with rollerblading, teaching the kids to ride a bike. Today, those pieces of elbow macaroni are joining to form long strands of spaghetti that are making it possible to take the greenway more and more places. More people are taking the greenway to work, more people are using it for serious recreation and exercise (as evidenced by the Tarwheel’s greenway ride). Hit your local greenway just about any time, but especially on weekends, and you’ll see just how popular these longer versions have become.
Now, just about anyone can navigate a piece of itty macaroni. A long strand of spaghetti, though, especially a strand attached to other long strands, requires navigational assistance. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be heading out with my GPS mounted to the handlebars of my old Trek 820 to begin providing that navigational assistance. The plan is to have a dedicated greenways page on this site where you can find maps and pertinent information on any greenway in the state.
It’s a big job. I need your help.
- Tell me what you want to know about a greenway before you head out. Do you want to know what other greenways link to it? Are you interested in bike routes that may hook up with the greenway? What kind of amenities are you interested along the way? Is the surface — asphalt, crushed gravel, concrete — important?
- What do use the greenway for? Are you a runner or a walker? Is it important that every mile or half mile be marked? Are you a biker, and if so do you use the greenway to commute to work, to ride with the kids, to get a good workout? Rollerblader? Trikker? Unicyclist? Identify yourself.
- What’s your favorite greenway? I live in the Triangle and am familiar with the local paths. I have less exposure in Charlotte, the Triad, Wilmington, Asheville and elsewhere. Clue me in to the greenways I need to hit. (Eventually, I plan to get to all of them; this will help set priorities.)
- What concerns do you have about your local greenway system? I’ll get the ball rolling on this one: The over-riding complaint I hear is that the greenways are not well-marked. You come to a fork: Which is the main path and which is a connector to a local neighborhood? Sometimes a greenway reaches a road and it’s not clear where — or if — the greenway continues from there.
- Would you like to be alerted of changes to your greenway system? An email when construction begins on a new stretch of trail? An email when a new trail opens — and I mean when it’s actually ready to use, not three months later when the mayor can work a “grand opening” into his schedule.
- Anything else you can think of?
My plan is to start getting information up as soon as possible — early to mid-February at the latest. It may not be a graphic work of art at first; I’ll refine the appearance as we go along. (If you have thoughts on presentation — on maps, graphics, whatever — let me know those as well.) The goal is to provide a comprehensive atlas for North Carolina’s greenways posthaste.
Share your thoughts. I’ll need your help.
Photo: The pedestrian bridge over I-440 at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh.
One word: Greenways? Go here, youngsters.