Ramps for Accessible Trails and Shared-Use Pathways

Ramps, typically used for building access, are often provided on trails.

by Stuart Macdonald, Trail Consultant, American Trails

Ramps have a specific definition for building access in the ADAAG, "Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities". 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.

About the Author

Stuart Macdonald spent 19 years as Colorado's State Trails Coordinator. He is the editor of American Trails Magazine. During 1998-99, he represented State Trail Administrators on the national committee that proposed regulations for accessible trails. He chaired the National Recreational Trails Committee, which advised the Federal Highway Administration in the first years of the Recreational Trails Program. Stuart grew up in San Diego and his main outdoor interest besides trails is surfing. He has a BA in English from San Francisco State and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Utah State.

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