Award recognition for US underground railroad route

Honours gained at the19th National Trails Symposium

Two organisations involved in creating the remarkable Undergroud Railroad 2,028-mile bicycle route have just been honoured at the19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The award honours the partnership between the US Adventure Cycling Association, North America’s premier cycle travel organisation, boasting 44,000 members, and the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health which aims to improve the health of ethnic and racial minorities through practical projects such as the Underground Railroad route.

The route itself follows what was once a network of secret routes and safe houses by which freedom seekers attempted to escape slavery before and during the Civil War. The

Underground Railroad Bicycle Route
passes points of interest and historic sites between Mobile, Alabama, once a port busy with slave traffic, and the town of Owen Sound, Ontario, a settlement founded by free blacks in 1857.

Adventure Cycling began its partnership with the Center for Minority Health in 2004.

The Underground Railroad certainly seems to have gained its own momentum, with developments including:

  • Exceptional route map sales – Adventure Cycling have sold around 4,150 maps sold to date. The Association has also seen a significant leap in the number of African Americans participating in its tours.
  • Themed events along the route aimed at cyclists, including historical reenactments and the Owen Sound Emancipation Celebration parade.
  • The 2008 BronxLabSchool's initiative, "Health and History: Biking the Underground Railroad," a weeklong educational tour through the route's historically rich Ohio section. Bronx Lab students prepared for their trip with several months of training, nutritional education and history classes before riding over 200 miles on the trail.
  • The creation of a spur route in honour of the vital role that Pittsburgh played in Underground Railroad history. Pittsburgh's Major Taylor Bike Club — a club inspired by an African-American named Marshall "Major" Taylor who dominated races in the early 20th Century — worked with Adventure Cycling to complete the route research for the Pittsburgh Spur.

The American Trails Board received over 200 nominations for the 2008 National Trails Awards Program.

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