Rail-Trails and Safe Communities

The experience on 372 trails

by Rails to Trails Conservancy

While rail-trails are hugely popular and successful once they are open, during the development phase trail promoters often have to answer a wide range of concerns that local residents may have about the impact of the pro-posed trail on their community. Stories of trails attracting drug dealers, murderers and rapists are perpetuated by trail opponents with only a handful of newspaper head-lines to back up their assertions rather than empirical research. Despite numerous studies that have concluded rail-trails do not generate crime, concerns persist and fear of the unknown continues to provide fertile ground for trail opponents. The research that has been conducted, along with anecdotal evidence, suggests that converting an abandoned rail corridor to a trail actually tends to reduce crime by cleaning up the landscape and attracting people who use the trail for recreation and transportation.

Recognizing the need to address these concerns, Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) conducted a survey of all rail-trail managers in an effort to document the level of crime on trails and identify the mitigation measures used by trail designers and managers. The objectives of this study were threefold:1) to document the levels of crime on urban, suburban and rural rail-trails with current statistics and comprehensive data, 2) to examine trail management strategies that can mitigate crime and improve trail safety, and 3) to put crime on trails in perspective. A summary of past studies, our methodology, results, recommendations and several case studies follow.

Attached document published January 1998

About the Author

Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. RTC’s mission, and its value, is magnified in urban areas, where one mile of trail can completely redefine the livability of a community. Where trails are more than just recreational amenities, creating opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and wellbeing—as they safely connect us to jobs, schools, businesses, parks, and cultural institutions in our own neighborhoods and beyond.

More articles by this author

More articles in this category

Minimizing Risk and Liability

posted Aug 3, 2020

This document is a best practices manual intended to give guidance and direction on minimizing risk and liability for persons with an interest in operating and maintaining trails. Specifically, it seeks to help trail operators, managers and owners, mitigate risk and reduce liability, that can arise from trail design, trail use and maintenance operations. The techniques discussed here are intended to be applied with prudence and due consideration of the particular circumstances of each trail.

Greenways and Crime on Nearby Properties

posted Jan 30, 2020

This study investigates the question of whether the presence of a greenway increases the risk of crime occurring on the properties adjacent to the greenway.

Examining the Impacts of an Urban Greenway on Crime in Chicago

posted Jan 29, 2020

Using multiple analytical approaches, our study showed that creation of Chicago’s 606 was associated with decreases in violent, property, and disorderly crimes between 2011 and 2015

Protection From Liability: Promoting The Use And Development Of Recreational Trails

posted May 30, 2018

The Courts and the Legislature have expressed a clear policy to permit the use of available recreational property, both public and private, in its natural condition, without placing the burden and expense of altering the property and defending claims for injuries on the landowner.

621 views • posted 01/28/2020