Trails/Shared-Use Paths

Bike or shared-use paths are complementary to the road network and serve recreational, child, and perhaps commuter bicyclists if well-planned and connected to the street network and destinations. As with on-road facilities, junctions are a particular challenge to design and build so bicyclists and other users have safe access and crossings of roadways and other intersecting corridors. Additionally, providing for safe sharing of trails among diverse user groups requires good design and educational measures to promote good behavior.

Shared-use paths can enhance the quality of life in a community or region by providing additional opportunities for activity, recreational riding, or commuting choices. Trails should not be thought of as an alternative to providing safe on-street facilities for bicyclists since they can never connect to all the destinations reached by the street network. Some bicyclists will cycle preferentially on the street network since it suits their speed, skill, and trip needs better. Paths should nevertheless be designed to user-appropriate engineering standards, similarly to roadways, or safety will be compromised. Since it is rare to create a path that will be used by bikes only (perhaps some long-distance rural paths are an exception), guides, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, now recommend that paths be designed for bi-directional mixed use, and recommend a minimum trail width of 3 m (10 ft) (up from 2.4 m (8 ft)) and encourages the use of 3.7 m (12 ft) or more where heavy or mixed uses are expected.1

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