User Safety: Multi-use, Non-Motorized Trail / Bikeway / Cycle Track
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Shared Trails – Everyone is a User
Users of multiuse, non-motorized trails can include slow walkers, fast runner, fast cyclists, slow bicyclist, tricycles, trailers, strollers, bladers, etc. There is some confusion on how everyone can have their use most amicably.
It is not uncommon for users to behave on trails like they have been taught to do on a road without sidewalks: Pedestrians on the shoulders facing traffic and vehicles in the center. In this model (on a road), there are four “lanes” of traffic, and each can be occupied and pass the same point, at the same time, without any conflict.
Unfortunately, this does NOT transfer to non-motorized trails for two reasons: 1) The facility generally don't have shoulders, and if they do, the only users who are likely to use them are runners. 2) The main surface of the trails often under-engineered (too narrow) to accommodate four distinct "lanes" of traffic (opposite directions of wheeled traffic in the center, with pedestrians facing them on the edges.) There is insufficient space for all four users to pass at the same point, at the same time, without any conflict.
It is not always clear which lane some one should be in. Should a child, going very slowly on a bicycle be in the center with other much faster cyclists, or should they travel in the opposite direction on the edges with walkers. And should runners be dancing around the walkers on the edges, or jump to one of the center lanes with possibly more compatible cyclists.
With so many different user groups, combinations of different closing speeds and passing maneuvers, all trying to fit into four half-size lanes, it can be chaos when you imposed the road paradigm.
The easiest and safest way to have a non-motorized trail function well is to think of it as a "sidewalk" – everyone keeps right, except to pass in the center (when it is safe to pass). If everyone follows this simple formula and practices prudence, these facilities will function as well as their users will allow.
For more safety tips for non-motorized trails, please see the links below:
Guidelines for Sharing Multi-use, Non-motorized Trails From IBF brochure.
IBF "Share the Trail" brochure (pdf format). Feel free to print and distribute this. This brochure covers multi-use hard surface trails. Not covers is the etiquette, generally on soft surface trails, when meeting horse riders on trails: Speak to the riders and communicate when it is safe to pass.
Model Non-Motorized Trail Ordinance Companion legislation to the Share the Trail Guide.
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