Trails and Active Transportation

Strengthen local economies, promote public health, and increase clean transportation options


The Vision

PTNY’s vision is that all New Yorkers will be located only minutes from a trail and ideally will be able to access that trail easily and safely by walking or bicycling. Throughout the state, trails, bicycle boulevards, and Complete Streets will be acknowledged as essential and mainstream elements of community infrastructure, much as utility lines and sidewalks are thought of today.

New York State will be recognized as one of the most trail-rich and trail-friendly states and will attract visitors from across the nation and abroad to experience the historic communities and varied and beautiful landscapes accessible through the state’s trail network. Close the Gaps—Complete the Erie Canalway Trail

The 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) is now more than 79% complete as an off-road, multi-use path. When complete it will be the longest multi-use trail of its kind in the nation. While the ECT already attracts visitors from across the world, it cannot realize its full economic potential and become a premier tourist destination until it is complete. New York’s state leaders must commit to securing the approximately $35 million needed to complete the Erie Canalway Trail.

Parks & Trails New York has been the leading voice for completing the Canalway Trail for many years, officially launching the Close the Gaps campaign in 2010 with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

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Trails and Active Transportation Priorities

Make Trails and Active Transportation a Priority in New York State

Communities across the state are eager to provide citizens of all ages and abilities with safe, healthy, and low-cost active transportation. Communities that invest in bicycle and pedestrian projects benefit from improved quality of life, a healthier population, greater local real estate values, more active transportation options, reduced air pollution and, as was demonstrated in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the ability for people to safely get to work, school and shops when storms and other disasters interrupt motorized transportation.

Bicycle and pedestrian projects also generate jobs: According to a study conducted by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, every $1 million of spending on bicycle and pedestrian project construction creates at least 9.6 jobs while road-only projects create just 7.8 jobs.

For more than two decades federal transportation legislation has provided funds to help communities build bicycle and pedestrian paths, bike lanes, sidewalks, and other infrastructure that promotes complete streets and bicycling and walking. Unfortunately, recent reductions in funding, on a state and federal level, greatly reduce the ability of communities to realize their goals.

​Establish dedicated funding in the FY2017-18 state budget to create infrastructure that supports bicycling and walking

Despite passage of the Complete Streets law in 2011, funding for pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure has not increased to meet the demand that exists in communities across the state. In fact, by most measures funding for these facilities has actually decreased. One indicator is spending in the Statewide Transportation Improvements Program (STIP), with a recent analysis showing that NYSDOT plans to spend less than 2% of its total outlays on pedestrian and bicycling projects between 2014-2017.2 This is simply not enough, especially when one considers that New York State has the nation’s highest percentage of roadway fatalities that involve bicyclists and pedestrians, at 29% of all fatal crashes.3

In addition, the recently-adopted federal transportation law, the FAST ACT, maintains reduced funding levels for for trails and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure compared with previous decades. Moreover, this most recent federal transportation bill allows state transportation agencies to shift up to 50% of funding in the Transportation Alternative Program to other uses that have nothing to do with biking or walking. Having a dedicated state funding source will help assure that the level of funding for bike-ped infrastructure is, at the least maintained, or, optimally, increased and will provide assistance to communities to support the implementation of Complete Streets.



Create a plan for a statewide, interconnected network of multi-use trails.

Numerous volunteer trail organizations and local, regional and state government agencies are working to develop and maintain more than 1,200 miles of multi-use trails across the state. In order to advance trail development to the level being demanded by our citizens and maximize the multiple economic, environmental, health, and quality-of-life benefits that trails generate, New York State needs to develop a vision and a plan for a statewide multi-use trail network that will inform acquisition and development decisions and funding allocations for trail promotion, development, interpretation, and maintenance.

Creation of that plan needs to be a broad-based effort involving a task force consisting of representatives of the many state agencies and other groups whose missions support trail promotion and development. Because trails are vitally important not only for recreation but also for tourism, health, alternative transportation, and community revitalization, agencies representing these other interests must be partners at the table in order realize the fullest potential of any planning effort. Input also must be sought from local governments; regional planning authorities; regional tourism agencies; regional advisory groups representing the interests of local conservationists, outdoor and sports enthusiast groups, and federal agencies involved with greenways and heritage corridors.

Reconvene the NYS Department of Transportation’s statewide bicycle-pedestrian task force.

In years past, NYSDOT has convened a statewide Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee to serve as a forum for a diverse body of stakeholders, including state agencies and nonprofits, to discuss common issues and offer feedback on a variety of NYSDOT policies and initiatives related to walking and bicycling. This committee has not met since 2010. Because of the growing popularity of walking and biking among New Yorkers for alternative transportation, recreation, and health we urge that this committee begin meeting regularly again. The committee could play an important role in guiding NYSDOT’s efforts to implement New York’s Complete Streets legislation.

Implement Complete Streets Principles

New York State took an important step in 2011 towards safer streets for everyone by passing Complete Streets legislation. Complete Streets design principles assure that when roads are built or redesigned, they take into account the needs of everyone who uses them. The law requires consideration of people of all ages walking, riding bicycles, driving cars, and taking public transportation in any transportation project that uses federal and state funds, including the construction, reconstruction, restriping, and rehabilitation of roadways. Yet, implementation of these principles is left to the discretion of state and local government. Infrastructure changes only need to be considered by local decision makers; implementation is not a requirement.

Some communities, large and small, urban and rural, have already adopted their own Complete Streets policies. PTNY urges NYSDOT and the MPOs to actively implement Complete Streets in the projects they oversee and support and foster understanding and implementation of Complete Streets among practitioners at other levels of government.

PTNY will continue to support the implementation of Complete Streets policies through legislation in the upcoming legislative session. Specific objectives include the following:

  • Expansion of the Complete Streets law to also include consideration of accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists when undertaking resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling projects. New York State's current Compete Street Law presently only applies to projects classified as construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation and specifically excludes projects classified as resurfacing, maintenance and pavement recycling.
  • Local control of road speed limits. In 2014, a local speed control law for New York City was passed [S. 7892 (Klein)/A. 10144 )(Rules/O’Donnell) (Local Control on NYC speed limits)], allowing the City to reduce the speed limit by 10 miles per hour, to 25 mph, on City-controlled roads. A local speed control bill, similar to NYC's bill but for non-suburban towns, S. 1356 (Little)/A. 6089 (Russell) (Local control of town road speed limits), passed the Senate, but failed to gain support in the Assembly.

This "upstate" local speed limit law was not without considerable support. PTNY and partners garnered the support of more than 50 mayors and supervisors and hundreds of organizations in a letter to the Governor and legislative leaders. Studies have shown that decreasing speed limits increases safety, especially for non-motorized roadway users. Moreover, collisions that do occur at lower speeds are far less likely to cause fatalities.

Legalize the use of E-bikes in New York State

Electric bicycles ("e-bikes") look and operate like standard bicycles, except that their light-weight, battery powered motors can be turned on to provide supplementary power going up hills, on long rides, or if the rider is tiring. E-bikes are designed with many of the same safety features as traditional bicycles and can be ridden in exactly the same way using only pedal power.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Act (CPSC) ruled that electric bicycles and tricycles meeting the definition of low-speed, electric bicycles are consumer products. The Act defines "low-speed electric bicycles" as a two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals, a top speed when powered solely by the motor of 20 mph and a motor that produces less than 1 horsepower when operated by a rider weighing 170 lb. Low-speed electric bicycles that meet these criteria are exempt from classification as motor vehicles.

New York has yet to adopt the CPSC standard, which means that e-bikes can legally be sold, but not operated on any public roadway in the State. Moreover, there is no process whereby e-bike operators can register and license their e-bikes for use as motor vehicles, as exists with motorcycles and mopeds. This creates uncertainty for e-bike users and enforcement agencies.

Legislation proposed in both the Senate and Assembly would remove uncertainty for e-bike users, and enforcement agencies, as well as retailers who are currently selling e-bikes in New York. More importantly, legalizing and regulating e-bike use will make another healthy, low-emission transportation mode available to New Yorkers. Legalization and reclassification has the potential to benefit the environment, limit road congestion, support healthy living, and promote tourism across the State.