Since their inception and popularisation, beginning in the 1970’s, the vision, mission and function of greenways—especially urban greenways—has evolved offering: recreation; urban greenery; city shaping; flood plain management; non-motorized transportation; ecological conservation and health/fitness opportunities. There are also economic spin-offs including: tourism; real estate enhancement; and business promotion. Early on, most urban greenways emphasized shared-use bicycle and pedestrian corridors— often following rivers and streams. More recently, a number of trends, challenges and emerging directions suggest implications for greenways going forward:
⎯ A Growing Worldwide Greenways Movement—With acceptance and implementation worldwide, greenways are a widespread international movement with many of the world’s cities creating them. Greenways and kindred systems are broadly embraced, making communities more liveable.
⎯ Health and Fitness Concerns—With an expanded awareness of the need for physical activity, policy makers and community leaders acknowledge the health and fitness benefits of greenways and the need to reshape cites to better accommodate non-motorized (active) travel. For example, the U.S. Centers For Disease Control, Built Environment and Health Initiative allocated $3 Million annually to promote urban shaping more conducive to routine physical activity including better walking environments (U.S. CDC, 2015). While there is clear documentation of the adverse impacts of sedentary lifestyles and recognition of the ameliorating benefits of daily exercise, there is a substantial challenge of achieving daily participation across diverse populations (U.S. CDC, 2011).
⎯ Crowding and Conflicts—As more users are attracted to greenway, there are increased conflicts especially between bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition, there is more user pressure and crowding (U.S. FHWA 1994) of outdoor recreation areas both in-town and in the backcountry—many from the ranks of a burgeoning retirement age population as growing leisure time and interest in trails activities increases user counts.
⎯ New Technologies—Innovations, especially “singletrack” bikes, now enable more versatile trail usage. Unlike the “road bikes” of four decades
ago, these don’t require a 3m-wide paved surface. Newer outdoor gear and apparel such as better walking shoes and lightweight all-weather clothing and other equipment add flexibility. In addition, there are accessible, popular digital tools such as: personalized route mapping (i.e. Google Maps); Web-based walking groups and meet-ups; and personal fitness tracking software. Devices such as The Fitbit now alter behavior by promoting walking.
⎯ Generational and Demographic Changes—This includes the emergence of the Millennial Generation, many of whom are gravitating toward central cities attracted, in part, by green amenities (Tuffelmire 2013) and the Baby Boomer Generation who are leaving the work force but still want to remain active and need appropriate outdoor facilities to accommodate this (Brown 2016).
⎯ Solace and Spiritual Healing—There is a growing recognition of the psychological, spiritual, and energizing benefits of trails and greenways. This has led to more walking and other trail activity as a way to find solace. In addtion to local daily outings, tens of thousands are taking longer “pilgrimage” and contemplative journeys, in part, popularized by books and movies (Coelho, 1987, Macfarlane, 2013). They walk along routes including: the Camino De Santiago in Spain, the Jeju Olle in Korea, the Kumano Kodo in Japan and the Pacific Crest and Applacian Trails in the U.S.
⎯ Infrastructure Costs in Tightening Fiscal Times—Though the myriad benefits are recognized, the costs of building and maintaining these systems can be daunting.
"Greenways, The Next Step: Every Doorstep a Trailhead,"
Proceedings of the Fábos Conference on Landscape and Greenway Planning: Vol. 5
, Article 16.
Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/fabos/vol5/iss2/16
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