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Trail Intersection Design Guidelines

"While trails do provide for segregation from motor vehicle traffic along most of their length, they inevitably intersect with roadways and driveways, resulting in varying levels of conflict with motorized traffic. It is at junctions where the potential for serious crashes lies."

Download 58-page document (pdf 1.1 mb)

From Florida Dept. of Transportation

photo of bikes on trail crossing road
Street crossing on the Burke Gilman Rail Trail, Seattle (photo by Stuart Macdonald, 2006)

While trails do provide for segregation from motor vehicle traffic along most of their length, they inevitably intersect with roadways and driveways, resulting in varying levels of integration and thus conflict with motorized traffic. It is at junctions where the potential for serious crashes lies.

Crashes and the difficult task of crossing a junction

Numerous studies have well established that roadway junctions are over represented locations for bicyclist- and pedestrian- motor vehicle crashes. In a recent nationwide sample, it was found that 57 percent of pedestrian and 73 percent of bicyclist crashes occurred at junctions. Another study examining police-reported bicycle-motor vehicle collisions covering a four-year period in Palo Alto, California found that 74 percent occurred at a junction.

"Street crossing is a learned, socialized behavior which we now understand to be much more complex than many behavior modification advocates would have us believe."

- Michael R. Hill

Considering the complexity of crossing a junction, it is no wonder that the majority of crashes occur here. A person simply walking across the street faces many difficulties— gap selection, turning vehicles, uneven terrain, obstacles (e. g., bollards), and other trail users. Consider then the task of a novice in- line skater who also has to deal with the challenges of staying upright and stopping.

Inevitably there will be a substantial increase in the number (and miles) of trails, trail- roadway and driveway junctions, trail users, and in the potential number of trail user-motor vehicle conflicts and crashes. Therefore it is vital to have a manual that provides guidelines to assist in designing these trail junctions so that operations and safety are maximized, and the number of conflicts and crashes are minimized.

Principles of "friendly" design

< Design for the full spectrum of trail users: young and old, slow and fast, bicyclists, skaters, and walkers.

< When assigning right-of-way, give trail users at least the same rights as the motoring public, and provide clear right-of-way assignment.

< Provide positive guidance for trail users and motorists to ensure full awareness of the intersection.

< Minimize conflicts and channelize the intersection to separate conflicting movements.

< Unavoidable conflicts should occur at right angles.

< Optimize sight triangles, ensuring stopping, intersection crossing, and decision sight distances. Conflicts should be clearly visible.

< Reduce motor vehicle speed through "traffic calming" techniques as appropriate.

< Minimize trail user crossing distance with a median refuge area or by narrowing the roadway as appropriate.

< Provide adequate staging and refuge areas for trail users.

< Discourage unwanted motor vehicle intrusion onto the trail while enabling emergency and maintenance vehicle entry.

< Avoid obstacles and visibly highlight unavoidable obstacles.

< At signalized intersections, minimize trail user delay by minimizing traffic signal cycle time.

< Provide adequate signal crossing time for design pedestrians.

< Provide easily accessible tactile/ audible pushbuttons.

< Treat every road as a potential trail entrance and exit point, integrated with sidewalks and on- street bicycle facilities as appropriate.

< Design to assist the trail user in looking in the direction of the potential hazard.

< Consider the potential for sun blinding.

< Consider lighting.

< Consider the ease of both construction and maintenance and the initial and lifetime costs for construction and maintenance.

< Be consistent in design.

Download 58-page Trail Intersection Design Guidelines document (pdf 1.1 mb)

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