If you live along the East Coast of the United States, you may have noticed road signs that designate a particular stretch of road or path as part of the East Coast Greenway. This mega-project aims to create a cohesive and safe bike route that traverses nearly the entire East Coast. Since 1991, the East Coast Greenway has pieced together existing infrastructure and worked to develop new paths in pursuit of this goal. As of 2016, 850 miles of trail have been established, though the project is still only 31% complete.
The East Coast Greenway is designed to add an additional 200 miles to its system by 2020. The Greenway winds through 15 states in a path that is built around river trails and old railroads. “Even though a pretty small percentage of the trail’s miles actually pass through cities, it’s still very much an urban story,” says Eric Weis, Director of Greenway Development. Weis describes the early phase of ECG as primarily an effort to connect the various urban corridors that existed throughout the East Coast. “We can’t get this done with a top-down approach,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director of East Coast Greenway Alliance. The ECGA relies on regional coordinators and volunteers to facilitate the local organizing required of the project.
As it pedals forward, the East Coast Greenway has received little resistance from state and local communities. The annual budget for the ECGA has doubled since 2010, from $470,00 to nearly $1 million, while broader American culture and sensibilities have shifted towards a less car-centric transportation system. The Greenway is “one of those universally appealing projects, ” says Markatos-Soriano. “It’s not a question of when the Greenway will get done, it’s a matter of how fast.” In addition to the health and environmental benefits of expanded bike infrastructure, the Greenway is designed as a grand cultural corridor through an historic region. In Markatos-Soriano’s view, the East Coast Greenway is “about seeing America at the right speed, where you can take in all of the culture around you, and you don’t have a windshield between yourself and the community.”