Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There

When it comes to rails to trails, Washington is the best

Dick Smart, shown here in the 1980s, spent years perfecting his Railcycle, a way to ride a bicycle on railroad tracks.
Dick Smart, shown here in the 1980s, spent years perfecting his Railcycle, a way to ride a bicycle on railroad tracks.

Last month, we wrote about Spokane maintaining its bronze-level bicycle-friendly status, as judged by the League of American Bicyclists.

At the same time, Washington state was named the most bicycle-friendly state in the country - for the seventh year in a row. A lot goes into that designation, but it comes down to support from lawmakers, sound statewide bike policies and good efforts to encourage Washingtonians to ride a bike.

The good folks at Washington Bikes put together a list highlighting another area where Washington leads the cycling pack: trails.

First, we have the longest rail-trail in the country, according to the Rails to Trails Conservancy. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is 253 miles and crosses almost the entire state, from the Idaho border just south of Spokane all the way to the westside. The trail is ahead of long ones in Missouri and Nebraska. Washington, and our side of the state, makes the list again with the Columbia River Plateau Trail connecting Cheney to Pasco. In fact, if you ride the Fish Lake Trail, you can almost ride a trail all the way from Spokane to the Tri-Cities. 

Second, Washington has more rail-trails than any other state in the West. With 1,057 miles and 81 trails, we lead California and Idaho, with 726 miles and 408 miles, respectively. Here in Spokane, the Fish Lake Trail, the Ben Burr Trail and parts of the Centennial Trail run along old rails, so thank the trains next time you ride the smooth curves and easy grades of those trails.

Lastly, as Washington Bikes told us about earlier this year, the Evergreen State has the first designated bike route in the country called Bike Route 10, or BR-10. The 407-mile route connects Spokane to Anacortes through the north part of the state:

Washington Bikes notes that while Washington has only 2.2 percent of the country's population, we have almost 5 percent of rail-trails. "In other words," they write, "we have more trails and fewer people." 

A postscript: The photo above does not show a rail-trail, which are paved trails where rails that have taken the place of former rails. The photo instead shows a railcycle, which looks like fun but is frowned upon, to say the least, by rail companies.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

Follow Nicholas online: