Many novice cyclists believe bicycle trails are safer than riding on the road. The core reason for this? Cars. Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons this is potentially misguided – from the unpredictable behavior of trail users to the sorts of at-grade crossings used on many trails. Local trails, such as the Gateway Trail and the Cedar Lake Trail, have been struggling with crossing issues for many years.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy deals with many of these issues regularly as they work to transform old rail corridors into safe cycling corridors. They just released a report of methods that can be used to improve trail crossings, including at-grade mid-block crossings of multilane roadways. The report includes examples of the treatments used together and examples of improved and planned crossings in California.
The report is extremely realistic about the challenges in creating good trail user experiences – geometric constraints, financial resources and incompatible adjacent land uses are all issues for trail planners. Many ideas are offered that are financially more attainable than the creation of expensive bridges or tunnels. It would be good to see more of these methods used on local trails in order to make them more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.
Image by Michael Hicks, via Flickr.