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Health, Science & Environment

Study shows demand for more bike trails in Ohio as more funding opportunities become available

A jogger, cyclist and walker cross a bridge on the Olentangy Trail.
Micki Hernandez

New data released Tuesday shows a clearer picture on how many multi-use trail networks exist across the country. This comes as more federal, state and local money is being funneled into building more bike trails, including a coast-to-coast trail that will pass through central Ohio.

Nonprofit organization Rails to Trails Conservancy found there are 150 trail networks nationally spanning over 40,000 miles of trails. One project is to connect some of these networks coast-to-coast with the Great American Rail Trail that goes from Washington D.C. to Washington State and passes through Columbus.

RTC held a panel discussion Tuesday at WOSU's Ross Community Studio in Columbus. The panel talked about trail works and a national trail, which is just over halfway finished, but still has several unfinished segments in Ohio and other states.

RTC President Ryan Chao said the country is seeing momentum to build on these trail networks around the county, especially with more money available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that went into effect a few years ago.

"What is so exciting about what that is, if we make the right investments, if we truly connect the nation by trail, we can maximize the health, the economic, the equity, the transportation benefits, in ways that are just stunning and profound for this country," Chao said.

Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission Executive Director William Murdock was part of the panel and said it's clear central Ohioans want more trails.

"Our region is prioritizing adding another 500 miles to that network right here. And we are along the Great American Rail Trail and the Ohio to Erie Trail. And that gives us that backbone that we can do things to help economic development, help mobility decisions," Murdock said.

The study found broad support for building more trails, connecting trails to each other and maintaining and improving existing trails.

The study also found people want more public funding invested in walking and biking infrastructure other than multi-use trails.

Health, Science & Environment bikingInfrastructuretrailsOhio News
George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.