Guide to Best Practices

Dealing With Trail Conflicts


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Dealing With Trail Conflicts

Many public trails are quite popular, particularly during peak periods. Trail planning should include strategies to minimize conflicts between users. The following are principles for minimizing trail conflicts:30

  1. Recognize that trail conflicts may exist.

  2. Provide adequate trail opportunities.

  3. Minimize the number of contacts between users in problem areas.

  4. Involve users as early as possible in planning trails.

  5. Understand user needs.

  6. Identify the actual sources of conflict.

  7. Work with affected users.

  8. Promote trail etiquette.

  9. Encourage positive interactions among different users.

  10. Favor “light-handed management.”

  11. Plan and act locally.

  12. Monitor progress.


Trail Etiquette31

The key word is multi-use. Share the trail. Keep right except to pass. Motorized vehicles are prohibited (except for motorized wheelchairs). Respect private property adjacent to the trail.

  • If you’re on foot or on wheels, pass horseback riders with caution – horses can spook at startling noises or motions.

  • If you’re on horseback, let other trail user know when your horse is safe to pass.

  • If you’re cycling, yield to pedestrians, control your speed, and warn – call out or use a bell – other trail users before passing.

  • If you’re walking your dog, keep it under control or on a leash, please pick up its droppings.

  1. Facility Maintenance

It is not enough to simply build new facilities. A nonmotorized facility plan should include maintenance policies. It should identify the agencies responsible for maintaining facilities, the maintenance standards that are to be applied, how users should report maintenance needs, and special activities such as snow clearing and litter cleanup. Maintenance inspections should be performed routinely in conjunction with a Spot Improvement Program (discussed in more detail in the next section).

Trail and Path Maintenance Recommendations32

  • Establish a maintenance policy and plan – Establish written procedures that specify maintenance standards, schedule, quality control, and follow-up that will be used for pedestrian facilities, based on “current best practices.”

  • Repairs – Inspect trails and paths regularly for surface irregularities, such as potholes and cracks, and damage to signage and lighting. Repair potentially hazardous conditions quickly.

  • Establish a citizen reporting system – Encourage citizens to report pedestrian and bicycle facility maintenance needs or other problems. Publicize a particular telephone number and email address for submitting information.

  • Sweeping - Establish a seasonal sweeping schedule. In curbed areas sweepings should be picked up, on open shoulders, debris can be swept onto gravel shoulders. In the fall, provide extra sweepings to pick up fallen leaves.

  • Vegetation – Vegetation may impede sight lines, or roots may break up the travel surface. Vegetation should be cut back to ensure adequate sight lines, and intrusive tree roots may be cut back to keep the walkway surface smooth and level.

  • Drainage – Malfunctioning drainage systems may cause accumulations of water at pedestrian crossings.

  • Snow Removal – Snow and ice can make pedestrian travel slow and hazardous. Snow should be removed from sidewalks to ensure safe passage of pedestrian facilities.
  • Street Markings – bike lane and crosswalk markings may become difficult to see over time. These should be inspected regularly and retraced when necessary.

  • Utility Cuts – Poorly performed sidewalk cuts for utilities may leave an interrupted surface for pedestrians. Cuts in sidewalk should be back filled with concrete to the sidewalk grade – so the result is as smooth as a new sidewalk.

Roadway Maintenance Requirements

What may be an adequate pavement surface for automobiles (with four wide, low-pressure tires) can be hazardous for cyclists (two, high-pressure tires). Small rocks, branches, and other debris can deflect a wheel, minor ridges in the pavement can cause spills, and potholes can cause wheel rims to bend. Wet leaves are slippery and cause cyclists to fall. Gravel blown off the travel land by traffic accumulates in the area where bicyclists ride. Broken glass can easily puncture tires.

  1. Spot Improvement Programs

Some communities have “spot improvement programs,” which provide an ongoing process to identify and implement small projects that improve walking and cycling conditions, such as repairing potholes and rough road shoulders, installing curbcuts, and making signal loops sensitive to bicycles. Users are encouraged to help identify needed improvements through a telephone hotline or request form distributed through bicycle shops and organizations.
  1. Pedestrian and Bicycle Needs At Construction Projects

Roadway and sidewalk construction projects can disrupt mobility and create special hazards for pedestrians and cyclists.33 The following recommendations should be incorporated into project plans to minimize these problems.

  • On highways, enough space should be left at the edge of the construction site to allow a vehicle to pass a cyclist.

  • Barricades and pylons can be used to create a temporary passageway for pedestrians. This is particularly important in urban areas. Sidewalk closures should be avoided or minimized as much as possible. Passageway should be wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair, and should have ramps where there are height changes.

  • In urban areas, bicyclists may share the lane with lower speed traffic, or a temporary bike lane may be installed. Avoid routing bicycles onto sidewalks or onto unpaved shoulders.

  • Construction signs should not obstruct bicycle and pedestrian paths. Where this is unavoidable, do not block more than half the path or sidewalk.

  • Bus stops must remain accessible to pedestrians. Where necessary, bus stops may be relocated provided clear and noticeable signs are provided.

  • Additional lighting may be required at night to identify hazards.

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