The Alternative Commute

Featured Article, On the Road
on May 22, 2013

Not only do greenways offer trails for walkers, runners and cyclists, they also serve as vital commuter routes. In Portland, Ore., about 10 percent of downtown workers commute on Willamette Greenway trails.

Kelli Taylor, 28, hops on her bicycle and rides seven miles to her job downtown. “I pass through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge where more than 200 species of birds live and by an historic amusement park,” Taylor says. “The sights are endless.”

An enthusiastic user of the 120-mile greenway system, Taylor loves the rugged beauty of the trails, especially during spring when the white trillium are in bloom.

“Nature is a big part of the culture of Portland,” says Jim Desmond, 56, sustainability program director for the Portland metropolitan area. “Nature isn’t something way out in the wilderness, but is right in our neighborhoods.”

Safe and accessible

The most ambitious greenways project in the nation is the East Coast Greenway, a nearly 3,000-mile network of trails linking cities along the Eastern seaboard from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Fla.

“We call ourselves the urban sister of the Appalachian Trail, but we’re different in terms of accessibility,” says director Dennis Markatos-Soriano, 33, of Durham, N.C. “We’re making the trail safe and accessible for everybody.”

Begun in 1991, East Coast Greenway is 28 percent complete with more than 800 miles of nonmotorized pathways. More than 150 local trails are linked to the East Coast Greenway.

“This is a great emerging American treasure,” Markatos-Soriano says. “It’s a way to really get to know what we have on the Eastern seaboard. You can see moose and manatee and eat the most delicious blueberry pie to Key lime pie.”

Some of the nation’s historical touchstones can be visited along the route, including the National Mall and U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pa.

In 2004, Mike and Anne Kruimer, both 58, of Edison, N.J., were among the first cyclists to ride the entire East Coast Greenway. They traveled on a tandem bicycle equipped with hand pedals for Anne, who is paralyzed after being struck by a car while riding her bike.

The Kruimers ride on the East Coast Greenway nearly every day for grocery shopping, errands and outings with their granddaughters, Mackenzie, 9, and Kelly, 5.

“On the greenways, you can safely go from point A to B, do a little sightseeing, see some nature and get some good exercise,” Mike says.