By Michele S. Byers
Since colonial times, the route from New York City to Philadelphia has been a well-traveled corridor, with most of its miles in New Jersey.
Philadelphia was the nation’s first capital, the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. New York served as capital city when George Washington was inaugurated as our first president and Congress met on Wall Street. In between are Princeton and Trenton, which also served brief stints as U.S. capitals.
These days, the New York-to-Philly route is dominated by busy highways like the New Jersey Turnpike. What was once a multi-day journey on foot or horseback now takes only a couple of hours.
But even in the era of high-speed auto travel, many people enjoy walking and biking long distances for the fun, exercise and challenge. Providing safe routes is the mission of the nonprofit East Coast Greenway Alliance, which is working to create a 3,000-mile walking and biking path from northern Maine to the Florida Keys.
Next spring, hundreds of bicyclists will have the opportunity to pedal from New York City to Philadelphia – about 125 miles – on a two-day trip organized by the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
“We’re really excited to focus on the most densely-populated region along the Greenway,” said Dennis Markatos-Soriano, executive director of the alliance. “We’ve been thinking about this ride for years – it really plays to our strengths.”
Ninety-eight miles of the “Cheesecake to Cheesesteak” ride crosses New Jersey, and 54 of those miles are on protected trails, most notably the Delaware & Raritan Canal towpath.
Riders will depart from Manhattan on the morning of Saturday, May 16, and take a ferry across the Hudson River to Jersey City. In North Jersey, half the route will be on traffic-free trails and half will be on road sections that include a mix of suburban, urban and commercial corridors. Escorts will help with traffic control and rider safety on the roadway sections.
Trail sections in North Jersey include the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway in Jersey City, the Riverfront Park Trail and Weequahic Park Path in Newark, the Lenape Park Path in Union County, the Nomahegan Park Path in Cranford, the Rahway River Park Path in Rahway and the Middlesex Greenway in Woodbridge and Metuchen.
When riders arrive in New Brunswick, they’ll hop on the 36-mile D&R Canal towpath, one of the longest off-road stretches on the Greenway. Riders will spend the night in Princeton, either at a hotel or camping at the Princeton Family YMCA.
On Sunday morning, May 17, riders will continue along the D&R Canal towpath to Trenton, where they will cross the Delaware River and finish the ride on the Pennsylvania side of the river. A celebration will await them in Philadelphia.
The bike ride will raise funds for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, who will work to close gaps between off-road pathway sections and make highway crossings safer. If successful, the New York-to-Philly ride could become an annual event.
“We’re excited to see how much of a difference we can make,” said John Martin, communications manager for the alliance. “If we can make this an annual event, we can really have an impact in the region.”
The idea for the East Coast Greenway came out of a bicycle conference in 1991, and the following year a group of cyclists took a tour of the proposed route from Boston to Washington. The greenway concept was later expanded to encompass the entire East Coast of the U.S., from the Canadian border to Key West.
Right now, a third of the East Coast Greenway – about 1,000 miles – consists of protected traffic-free trails, which annually host about 20 million walks, runs and bike rides.
The alliance now wants to move the other 2,000 miles of the East Coast Greenway off public streets and away from traffic. “Our goal is by 2030, to become the most popular park in America, with 100 million walks, runs and bike trips a year,” said Markatos-Soriano.
To learn more about the East Coast Greenway Alliance and the New York City to Philadelphia bike ride, go to https://www.greenway.org/. Anyone interested in the ride is urged to sign up soon, as the trip can accommodate a maximum of 500 riders.
And for information about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources – including trails – visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation in Morristown.