by Maureen Gaffney
Disciples of the bicycle—and of Bike Share programs in particular—those who have received “the calling” and promise a future filled with birdsong and a tamed global thermometer if we would simply convert from our Subaru’s, Ford’s, and Mercedes to Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale often miss a fundamentally important piece of this puzzle. Infrastructure. All the bicycles in the world in all of the neighborhoods won’t result in the holy grail of mode shift if there’s no safe place to ride.
At the People for Bikes Electric Bicycle Summit in Asheville, North Carolina this past summer, one of the biggest takeaways from the conversation was that “without safe and connected places to ride, the appeal of riding an electric bicycle is muted.” (Exploring Climate Action Solutions With Electric Bicycles Ash Lovell, Ph.D., People For Bikes website.)
The VINE TRAIL is concurrently working on two large pieces of this puzzle along its 47-mile length—the Bay/Vine Trail in Vallejo at the southern end and the St. Helena to Calistoga segment at the northern end. At the southern end in particular, the addition of three new miles of Class I, fully separated trail with direct connections to the transit center, ferry, downtown, schools and multiple neighborhoods, the potential for this segment of trail to truly deliver on these green ideals is promising.
It is also important to note that the Vallejo Bay/Vine Trail received a Green Infrastructure grant from the California Natural Resources Agency for the Enterprise Drive stretch that will provide funding not only for the trail itself, but much needed shade trees along its length. Trees are nice to look at and they can really spruce up an otherwise potentially drab urban environment. But they don’t stop there. They can mitigate the effects of urban heat islands, lowering the temperature by several degrees under their graceful canopy. And there’s that whole oxygen thing they do as well, which is a nifty three-for-one deal.
Folks seeing trail construction in the Highway 29 corridor between St. Helena and Calistoga may wonder about the environmental implications of the work itself. Sure, if you are reading this newsletter you are likely a VINE TRAIL true believer and know that in the long term, this trail will be an environmental benefit, but what of the short-term impacts? An upcoming newsletter will outline the steps the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) and Ghilotti Bros construction company have and are taking to ensure that our soil, water, air, animals and cultural resources are protected during the construction of the Napa Valley Vine Trail.