Green Transportation

Moving toward a transportation system that fuels healthy people and a healthy planet.

Add to My MSN

Rails-to-Trails Deter Crime in Communities

5/16/2013 1:30:00 PM

Tags: bike trail, bicycling, rails-to-trails, rail-trail, Jake Lynch

Reposted with permission from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Mom and daughter on rail-trailThat a new trail will bring crime to an area and increase public safety concerns is an often-used objection to trail projects, particularly in communities without relevant examples close by. However, a mountain of experiential and recorded evidence in fact demonstrates the opposite — that public pathways bring activity, ownership and care to areas once abandoned and neglected, and provide a deterrent to crime and anti-social behavior.

Nevertheless, opponents of trails, biking and walking continue to use this disproved red herring to block trails that have the potential to greatly improve their community.

So it was great to see the Kentucky New Era newspaper tackle the issue head on. As the community of Hopkinsville in southeast Kentucky pursues its rail-trail ambitions, the New Era editorial board decided to respond to concerns about crime and safety by going to straight to an expert. The paper conducted and published a discussion on trails, crime and safety with Hopkinsville Chief of Police Guy Howie, who had experience with trails relationship to crime during his time with the police department in Ocala, Fla.

His comments will not surprise those who have experienced the impact of public pathways in their communities, and echoes that of other law enforcement officers interviewed about the connection of crime to local trails. The full story online requires a subscription to view, so here's a sampling of Chief Howie's responses:

"What's there now, it's already being used by some for both legal and illegal purposes. Once we improve that and it's being utilized by law-abiding citizens, and it's maintained and kept up, the people who are using it for illegal purposes now aren't going to want to stay because they don't want to be discovered."

"Every place that we looked or I talked about, or had personal knowledge of, any time those facilities are used, there's generally not a problem. Nowhere could we find where crime went up along those areas to any significant extent. ... There are projects like this all across the country. Nobody has come up with any research that we're aware of to the contrary, or to the negative. It's just a perception, and where it comes from, I don't know."

KNE: "Do you think people who have property that abuts the trail should be concerned?" Howie: "No. I think they should be ecstatic. Right now, it's already being used by those people. ... It's deserted and that's why they're using it. If I owned a piece of property and it backed up to the rail-trail, I would be excited that it's going to be improved."

"There is evidence out there that shows things like this improve property values. I know the one in Springfield, Tenn., it improved the property values there."

"I did talk to Greenville's chief of police, and he said they've had little to no issues with the one that runs from Greenville to Central City."

"I'd actually like to see it in an ordinance, that the trial is closed from dusk till dawn, unless there's a special event and it's monitored."

"I think some of the bigger cities, and I like to compare Hopkinsville to a small city with some big-city problems at times, I think there's probably a concern about sexual assaults. Again, how do you defeat that? Well, you use it. You have hours of operation for the trail. You don't go out for a walk at midnight, or you don't go for a jog at 9 o'clock at night after dark. You make sure the trail is monitored and that it's accessible enough for police to get down it."

"I think the more recreational opportunities that a community can offer to the public, the healthier the community becomes. If you have activities for kids to do, they are able to do that instead of hanging out and getting in trouble. Where can a dad in some of these neighborhoods teach his kid to ride a bike? I certainly couldn't do it on Remington Road with the way some of those cars come through there. People could go for a walk and not have to worry about traffic. I just think it would help the overall health and welfare of the community and improve the quality of life."

Photo by Folotia/Brocreative

Related Content

Superstar Bike Rail-Trail Is a Vital Link Between Cities

The Shooting Star State Rail-Trail in southern Minnesota has had a strong impact on the surrounding ...

How to Build a Cargo Bike Trailer

Why spend hundreds of dollars on a readymade bicycle cargo trailer when you can build one yourself? ...

Rails-to-Trails Could Give Schools and Communities Safe Routes to School

Schools and cities all around the U.S. are using abandoned rail corridors to encourage foot and bike...

A Call to Action — and Moment of Zen — From the American Trails National Symposium

Emmy-award winner, Dayton Duncan, likened trail advocates to John Muir at the American Trails Nation...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


5/24/2013 9:45:11 PM

Great article! I had to travel a lot in my career. It was always my pleasure to get to an area where there were trails for walking, jogging and bike riding. I was once in a N. Carolina community which had no trails. I walked on the side of the throughfare for a short time. I stopped because it was so dangerous. To ride my bike meant to transport it to a park, unload it and then ride for a time before reloading it to go back to my residense. I was also harrassed by passers by. I always felt safe on designated trails throughout Fl., S. Carolina and Cal.. An extra bonus was to meet people with like interest. I hope that Kentucky and more states provides trails and pathways throughout in the future. By the way, Hopkinsville is a wonderful community in the South West area of Ky. Lets ride!

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.