How many users can a paved trail support before it becomes too crowded or over used?
Trails almost never reach a level of maximum use. A trail of a given length can accommodate more people than will generally ever use it. The most accessible or attractive mile (like around a popular lake) can receive more use than the other 99 miles in the system.
The other issue is the perception of trail users. Running into just a couple of parties on a wilderness hike can seem crowded, but a popular waterfront trail like San Diego's Pacific Beach boardwalk swarms with bikes, skates, runners, and strollers all dodging each other. It's a poor "level of service" for commuting, but as an experience it's hugely popular.
People do build wider trails and multiple treads to accommodate the different speeds and types of users, and that's what most municipalities in the Denver metro area seem to be doing. The related issue is managing trails properly for the use they get-- speed limits, encouraging fast cyclists to use the road, center stripes, signing narrow sections and poor sightlines, and enforcing some basic courtesy.
It's a matter of opportunity: where are the best trail opportunities, and where are the gaps in places people would clearly like to walk or bike. Urban trail use and demand seems to be increasing nationwide, along with the opportunities as more trails and connections are made.
The City of San Jose system annual trail count shows that trail use continues to rise. San Jose has done a lot to develop a better system for commuting, but they would probably agree that the actual capacity is well below any peak usage.
Published September 17, 2018
The purpose of the Jackson Hole Pathways and Trails Survey is to gather public feedback on Jackson Hole’s pathways and trails systems. The results of this first-of-its‐kind survey effort are intended to provide a documentation of pathways and trails usage, satisfaction, strengths, weaknesses, and suggestions for improvement. The information in this report provides solid information to help community decision-makers, stakeholder groups, and interested citizens plan for the future of Jackson Hole’s pathways and trails systems.
This report, a publication of the Forests on the Edge project of the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry Deputy Area, examines the growth in population within 50 and 100 miles of national forests and grasslands. To understand how recreation pressure might increase in the future, the report also estimates future growth in recreation visits to NFS lands by local residents.
To better understand and promote physical activity on a newly constructed trail, the present study examined the demographic characteristics and physical activity behaviors of trail users
San Jose has released their 13th annual Trail Count, a report which helps them study trail use in the area and determine how they are meeting the needs of their trail users.