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Ramps for accessible trails and shared-use pathways

Photos and commentary by Stuart Macdonald

Ramps, typically used for building access, are often provided on trails. Ramps have a specific definition for building access in the "ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities" (ADAAG). The maximum slope of a ramp is 1:12, the maximum rise for any run is 30 inches, and the minimum clear width of a ramp is 36 inches. Level landings are also required at top and bottom of each ramp run. There can be good reasons to use these designs on urban trails, but ramps are not required in the proposed Accessibility Guidelines for trails. The Final Report on "Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas" noted that "Because the terrain in outdoor environments is often steep, the committee realized that applying current ADAAG slope and ramp requirements was not feasible." Likewise, handrails are not required on trails but are required on architectural ramps that rise more than 6 inches or are longer than 72 inches. See examples below used in specific trail situations.

arrow See the Cool Trail Solutions gallery of Boardwalks and accessible boardwalk trails at Happy Creek Nature Trail and Boardwalks for Woodinville, WA.

arrow See Docks and Boardwalks in the American Trails Business Directory

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