Monday, November 01, 2004
Key West, Florida - Nov. 3, 2004 - On Sept. 12 a group of cyclists departed
Calais, Maine aiming to be the first people ever to traverse the full
length of the East Coast Greenway, the nation's first long-distance urban,
shared-use trail for non-motorized users. Some 2,800 miles and 53 days
later they have finally achieved their common goal, concluding the historic
ride in Key West, Fla. on Nov. 3.
Often referred to as the "Urban Appalachian Trail," the East
Coast Greenway crosses 15 states plus Washington, D.C. and links the major
cities of the East Coast using scores of urban greenways, park paths,
abandoned railroad corridors, and waterfront esplanades. Now 20 percent
off road with another 30 percent in development, trail organizers expect
the Greenway to be 80 percent off road by 2010.
"One thing that really stands out from this tour is the need for
completing the Greenway as a safe walking and cycling route along our
eastern seaboard," said Karen Votava, executive director of the East Coast
Greenway Alliance, the group spearheading the project. "With only 20
percent of the trail to ride on, the cyclists encountered many challenging
stretches of roadway with heavy traffic and inadequate shoulders. The need
for better bicycle and pedestrian facilities as part of our long-range
transportation plans became unquestionably clear."
Riding along US 17 in South Carolina and Georgia, for example,
the riders were forced to compete daily with high-speed traffic and large
trucks. Several portions of the tour necessitated riding in a support
vehicle across bridges that were otherwise impassable. Other sections
required police escorts, particularly areas like the highly developed
northern region of New Jersey.
"The need for the East Coast Greenway was made very evident by
this tour," said cyclist Dave Wood of Maine. "In contrast, riding the
completed segments of the Greenway were only that much more appreciated
and enjoyable. Overall it was a magnificent experience."
Highlights of the tour included cycling some of the more well-known segments of the Greenway, including Boston's Charles River Bikepath, New Jersey's D&R Canal towpath, Durham's American Tobacco Trail, and the completed sections of the Overseas Heritage Trail, a 106-mile route from Key Largo to Key West. The cyclists enjoyed the diverse rural and urban landscapes of the East Coast and the hospitality of the numerous individuals who welcomed the tour riders into their homes and communities.
Of the 11 cyclists who participated in the tour, seven of them, all over age 50, rode the full distance from Calais to Key West. Among them were several remarkable individuals who overcame great obstacles to complete the journey.
Anne and Mike Kruimer, an inspiring couple from New Jersey
defied paraplegia, riding a special tandem bicycle fitted with a hand crank
so the wife, who was struck by a car in 1992, could pedal with her hands
while her husband peddled with feet behind her. Another cyclist,
74-year-old Jack Kurrle of Arizona, made the trip after surviving a nearly
fatal bicycling accident just two years ago that left him with a broken
neck, hip, and back.
"Completing this tour was a major challenge," said Kurrle. "Without question it's one of the greatest things I've ever done. I only hope it showcases the need for the Greenway and gets people on board to speed up its completion."
The East Coast Greenway is a trail system that promotes more livable communities. Benefiting both the individuals who use it and the communities it passes through, the Greenway promotes health through physical exercise and cleaner air while increasing tourism dollars to towns and cities along its route.
For more information on the East Coast Greenway, the inaugural end-to-end tour, or how you can get involved with the project, please visit the trail's web site at The East Coast Greenway.
You can see more photos of the tour here