Benefits of Trails – Why Trails Matter
Active, Equitable Mobility
Not everyone can afford to drive a car everywhere they go. Some people can’t or don’t want to drive a car for medical reasons. Trails allow people to rethink their mobility and add cycling, walking and transit to the mix. Trails enable social equity by allow everyone to move around regardless of age, ability or financial status. “growing up in a walkable community leads to greater upward economic mobility.” (Citylab). With transportation being the second biggest drain on household budgets, affordable mobility options are critical for lower income families to make ends meet. With transportation being the second biggest drain on household budgets, affordable mobility options are critical for lower income families to make ends meet. Trails are part of the solution for those who cannot drive due to the high costs of car ownership, age or disability. With nearly half of all trips in the United States within a 20-minute bike ride, and more than 1 in 5 trips within a 20-minute walk, active transportation is a practical choice. For longer trips, urban trails often connect to transit facilities, enabling residents to safely access public transportation. Further, rail-trails are relatively flat and highly accessible for persons with disabilities. Lower-income neighborhoods and persons of color have even more to gain from access to trails, given higher average incidences of chronic diseases associated with inactivity and less access to green outdoor spaces.” (Greenbiz)
Building Community and Social Connections
Trails provide places for people to meet and mingle. Trails and walkable/ridable connections allow people to flow freely around communities, parks and historic places. Trail-oriented events build community spirit. Trails allow people to get out of their cars and meet their neighbors. People who experience first-hand the simple joys of riding, walking, running and skating are often transformed from adversaries to advocates. “Trails are transportation corridors, connecting people to the places that they need to go. Urban trails are heavily used for commuting and other utilitarian trip. As for roads and rails, our trail builders focus on seamless trail networks that connect to key destinations such as schools, transit facilities, shops and entertainment. Trails also connect people to each other, serving as social infrastructure to build strong neighborhood and personal bonds. In addition, they serve as linear parks, providing urban residents with easy access to the outdoors and nature. (Greenbiz)
Low-impact, High-value Tourism
Cyclists and other trail users travel slowly, tread lightly on the environment, and spend their money in rural towns and local businesses. Cyclists are typically affluent, well-educated, interested in history and culture, and environmentally sensitive. Trails bring the kind of tourism we want in our communities.
Trails are a magnet for new residents and travelers. “Trails are the most desired amenity that homeowners seek when building a home” (National Association of Home Builders). Many people seek travel destinations that offer outdoor recreation and fitness activities. “Trails are in high demand, and proximity to them can make a place more attractive. In fact, small towns which have been hit hard by job losses have redeveloped around trails. Cumberland, Maryland, for example, a once booming coal mining town that experienced decades of decline, has found new vitality by catering to trail users.
In an urban context, the economic boost can manifest as increased foot traffic for stores and restaurants, as well as new trailside businesses and residences. In neighborhoods where residents may experience pressures to leave because of rising costs, deploying policies and tools to prevent physical or cultural displacement can help mitigate unintended negative consequences.” (Greenbiz) Multiple studies demonstrate that property values of homes within ½ mile of a connecting trail are increased by between 4 and 14%. According to County Parks Director Tim Baylie, using 4% the tax benefit to Volusia county of existing trails provides an annual incremental tax benefit to Volusia County of over $1million.
Health, Wellness, Fitness, Quality of Life
People will be active if it’s safe, accessible and pleasant. Cycling, walking and jogging have been proven to treat, prevent or mitigate obesity, diabetes, heart problems, mental problems and even to slow the effects of aging. “Walking to the bus stop or biking home from work can positively impact health and wellness, and reduce stress and anxiety.” (Mobility Lab).
Community and Personal Safety
Trails provide safe routes to schools, parks, transit, and healthy food supplies. Getting people out of their cars and walking or riding bikes makes neighborhoods friendlier and safer. Trails allow pedestrians and cyclists safe separation from high-speed traffic. “Safe places to walk or ride are a critical option given rising pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries. Pedestrian traffic deaths alone stand about 6,000 per year, representing 15 percent of total fatalities and a 35 percent increase over a decade.” (greenbiz)
Every mile walked or biked instead of driving reduces pollution, congestion, noise and other environmental impacts. Trails attract environmentally conscious travelers and residents. “air pollution from fossil fuel-burning vehicles and car crashes are major threats to public health. Air pollution is the introduction of toxic substances into the air that are damaging to human and ecological health, and according to the World Health Organization, it’s responsible for an estimated 7 million deaths per year.” (Mobility Lab).