The Sweetest Homecoming: Almost 200 enjoy Cross Triangle Greenway ride!

When we began organizing the Cross Triangle Greenway bike ride a couple months ago, I hoped for at least 30 participants and no hurricane. What ended up happening last Friday was perfect weather and a crowd of almost 200 participants (on a workday!). I couldn’t imagine a better homecoming to my native state and region.

From the start at noon by the NC Museum of Art to the finale at 5:30 on the lawn between the Durham Bulls stadium, American Tobacco Campus, and the Durham Performing Arts Center — October 22nd exceeded our expectations. Our participant count of 190 was the biggest group ride the East Coast Greenway Alliance has ever organized. And we couldn’t

have done it without our ride sponsors and partners, from REI to to SAS to Mig Murphy Sistrom CPA to Greenway Transit to NC Rail-Trails and many more. Carrboro’s Music Loft provided speakers, the NC Museum of Art and American Tobacco Campus provided their space, and SAS, REI, and the NC Division of Health Eat Smart Move More program provided volunteers and nourishment to make our ride a snack-filled, well-hydrated experience! And of course the ride depended on East Coast Greenway all-star volunteers such as Cathy Markatos and Kristine Markatos-Soriano (yes, they are family too :)).

A huge thanks goes out to volunteer ride leader Dave Connelly of Durham who put together the cue sheets, ride map, and led the group on ride-day! Thanks to his leadership, the ride went very smoothly for a 39-mile, unsigned route taken on by 150+ riders of varying speeds. There were a couple of flat tires and the like that REI helped to address at their Durham store’s rest stop. And a small group got off-track for a few blocks before re-joining us after a traffic light separated them from the rest of the pack. All the while, the sunny, 70-degree weather helped keep spirits high.

The Bicycle Chain sponsored the ride by giving us a handful of their rental bikes for the day which were enjoyed by a few riders from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. They were in town because this ride was the finale of a week-long ride from the Outer Banks down to Wilmington and then up to the Triangle — our annual Close the Gaps Club tour for East Coast Greenway donors. And on Saturday and Sunday, the East Coast Greenway Alliance Trail Council and Board met to designate a record number of new greenway miles into our 3,000-mile network, bringing our off-road percentage of completed greenway up to 26%!

On top of great exercise, each leg of the ride included an educational talk by local green transportation leaders. Sig Hutchinson of Raleigh’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission helped to kick-off the ride at the Museum,

Joe Godfrey of the Town of Cary gave an update on trail progress in his region, and Durham leaders Dale McKeel (Bike/Ped Coordinator) and Councilmember Mike Woodard shared an update and vision for further improvements to achieve a safe and accessible biking network. East Coast Greenway Board Chair Chuck Flink of Durham and Greenways, Inc. emphasized how the current Cross Triangle Greenway was the fruit of decades of hard work and that more effort will be needed to ensure this route becomes one that is enjoyable by everyone from 8 years old to 80.

North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti gave our finale keynote – encouraging us all to stay involved so that Triangle and Carolina trails become a model network of green and healthy living for the rest of the country. It’s great to have a strong ally for greenways leading North Carolina and we appreciate his involvement in our ride.

Helping to get the good news out beyond the hundreds who participated and the thousands who visited our website, we were fortunate to get substantial media attention. The News & Observer ran a picture and caption in their Saturday paper, UNC TV’s Rick Sullivan got footage of the ride for a future show, the NC News Network ran a radio piece on the ride, and the Durham Herald-Sun and Cary Citizen ran ride previews.

Thank you to everyone who made this ride a huge success! The number of people that came out last Friday shows that the public wants a continuous East Coast Greenway segment through their communities. A key improvement needed to make our route safe for inexperienced bicyclists and pedestrians is a bridge over I-40 in South Durham. The October ride gives us energy to help complete this bridge and do other finishing touches for a completed Cross Triangle Greenway by the spring of 2012. I look forward to working with you on this fun and important task!

Onwards to a Healthy & Sustainable North Carolina and beyond-

Dennis Markatos-Soriano

See another nice recap and pictures at:

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