If you think highways and flight paths are the only ways to travel long distances in the United States, check out the East Coast Greenway. The network of bike trails and bikeable roads stretches nearly 3,000 miles down the eastern seaboard, from Maine's border with Canada to Key West, Florida.
In the works since 1991, the route is officially complete, but still very much a work in progress. The goal of the East Coast Greenway Alliance (ECGA) is to have it run entirely on dedicated traffic-free trails, but at this point, nearly three quarters is on regular, if calm, roads.
While circuitous routes off-road trails are preferred to direct on-road ones, the Greenway remains an urban trail system. It is more concerned with transportation than recreation, and connects 25 major cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Raleigh, Charleston and Miami.
I had no idea the Greenway existed until a few days ago, when I noticed a small sign on a telephone pole near my house and discovered that I live around the corner from one of the longest bike trails in the world. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
Some sections of the trail include alternate routes and are a bit complicated (especially New York), testifying to the work that lies ahead for the Alliance if it's going to successfully give cyclists, pedestrians and anyone else who uses their muscles to move a car-free road from Maine to Florida. But the organization has already done admirable work, and initiatives like this one are necessary if we have any intention of breaking our dependence on cars and fossil fuels.
Follow Alex on Twitter.