Bike paths and shared-use paths are typically paved bi-directional pathways that are separate from the road right-of-way. Ideally, shared-use paths will follow a distinct course in a separate right-of-way, often along former railroad beds, along water courses or other rights-of-way that usually have few crossing roadways.1 Trails immediately adjacent to roadways may cross numerous intersecting roads that create hazards and other problems for trail users (see http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/de/shared.htm for more information). There should, however, be sufficient access points from the road network.2
Bicycle paths or shared-use trails offer opportunities for recreational cycling and commuting that differ qualitatively from on-street riding. Paths may be designed to flow through natural or scenic areas, connect town to town or even region to region, or allow bicyclists to travel through urban areas away from motorized traffic. Bicycle and shared-use paths also may tend to attract bicyclists with a wide range of skill levels, including young children. A path, even if designed primarily as a bike facility, also likely will attract a mix of other users including pedestrians, in-line skaters and others, depending on location and access. Special care must therefore be taken in the planning and design of such trails to provide a satisfactory experience for bicyclists, and safe sharing of the facility with a variety of users of differing speeds and abilities.
Good planning and design of bicycle and shared-use paths are crucial to provide for safe use, to maximize long-term benefits, and reduce future maintenance problems (such as erosion, water or edge deterioration). Pathways will never replace the road network for connecting to destinations and some cyclists will prefer the road network for most riding. Separate trails may be a destination for riding in themselves. Separate paths may also offer alternative routes for some bicyclists, provided they link origins and destinations or fill a gap that connects other bicycle facilities or routes on the street network. Creating safe and accessible intersections between paths and the road network is one of the most challenging aspects of design (see Path Intersection Treatments).
A good process that incorporates input from future users and property owners may be the most important element to realizing a path that will maximize recreational and travel benefits and minimize potential problems. Good initial design is also crucial for minimizing future maintenance costs and problems. The process should engage the community so that the facility that is ultimately designed fits with local needs and with the local cultural, natural, and built environments.
- Provide off-roadway recreational or commuting bicycling opportunities.
- Connect destinations that may be inaccessible for bicyclists via the road network.
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- Paths sited along roadways present numerous design safety challenges due to intersecting roadways.
- Good initial design will minimize future maintenance needs as well as access and safety problems.
- A good public process can help in designing a path that best meets local needs and suits local conditions.
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Many factors, including regional materials and construction costs, topography, complexity of the environment and need for structures, and others affect trail costs. For a 3-km-wide (10-foot-wide) asphalt paved path with signs, minor drainage, and limited urban road crossings, the cost per kilometer could be around $155,300 ($250,000 per mile). Costs as high as $1,000,000 per mile have been reported.
Design typically runs about 18 percent of the total construction value.
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