Biking on the railroad

. May 8, 2013.

Since the conversion of disused railroad tracks into bike trails, Shawn E. Richardson has pedaled (on his 1979 Schwinn Voyageur) many miles across the country and especially on Ohio’s rail-trails. The outdoor adventurer has biked, mapped and chronicled these roads for his Biking Ohio’s Rail-Trails 4th Edition (available at, creating a comprehensive guide for bicyclists. We interviewed Richardson, a Worthington, Ohio native and expert on rail-trails, in anticipation of National Bike Month in May.
Why write the book and keep updating it?
I really enjoy riding and the rail-trails are a dream come true. I wanted to pass my love for the trails along in an in-depth format, from an experienced biker’s point of view. It is a great atlas of the trails in Ohio, the cities you travel through and their history and the rural and natural areas as well as all the people you meet along the way, all without encountering traffic.

You have a degree in environmental geography and cartography, and the maps for each trail are truly impressive. How did you get them so detailed?
I took maps from all over the state, focusing on county and city maps, and created my own, putting the bike route in to show how the bike trail traverses the area. Then I tried to show the major points of interest and where you can find parking. All the maps and descriptions of each trail are based on my actual biking experience.

May is National Bike Month, so visit the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments website ( for area biking trails, bike clubs and events throughout the month. Combine Bike Week with Blue Week (May 11 thru May 18)  by joining the Toledo Area Cyclists as they ride through Oak Openings Metropark ( to see the lovely, blue blooming wild flowers. For more info go to

 What are some other useful features?
The book is a wonderful guide and easy tool to use; it allows you to look up trails by alphabetical order and by region. From there you can see how many miles each trail is, the surface treatment, hills, difficulty and points of interest along the way. There is  a mile marker system so you can gage your overall time and how far away each point of interest is. A state locator guide at the bottom of each map page shows where the trail runs through the state.

Name one of your favorites in Ohio?
The Little Miami Scenic Trail. It is the longest in the state and goes through some gorgeous areas including the Scenic River. With its deep ravines and small mountain inclines, you almost feel like you are on a train as you pedal through. It’s like what passengers may have seen looking out the windows on a train. It’s a cool experience.
What’s your take on the Wabash Cannonball Trail near Toledo?
I am really looking forward to its ongoing development. I enjoy the rural areas and really enjoy the Oak Openings metropark section. Lucas County has done an excellent job.

 How do we get the most out of a rail-trail experience?
Use the book as your guide to get the most out of your trip, so you’ll know what to expect and you will be prepared; then you can relax and enjoy yourself along the route. The rail-trails offer a wonderful experience, a mix of urban, rural and natural areas like no other—cycling on the trails is that perfect feeling of freedom.

For more info about rail-trails, visit