Shared-Use Trail Hub

Everything you need to know about planning, building, and managing shared-use trails.

Why Shared-Use Trails Matter

Part of encouraging a robust cohesive trails community is built on the tenet that we all want to be outside, and the more people have access to the outdoors the better. Encouraging positive interactions between user groups, rather than having user groups stay in their own silo, is imperative to lowering and managing user conflict. Accessibility is a spectrum, and to really have diversity and accessibility on trails, users need trail options that can work for everyone. Someone who is a mountain bike user today could become an e-bike user as they age, for example.

Although shared-use trails can breed conflict between trail users, single use trails are not the solution. Managing conflict between different trail user groups can be a challenge on any shared-use trail, but with the right expertise and approach it is possible for these conflicts to be minimized, or even eliminated. Trails are more popular than ever, and there is only a finite amount of land dedicated to trail building, so in many places segregated trails simply don’t make sense with space limitations. Realistically, even on single-use trails not all conflict will be eliminated. For example, some mountain bikers want to go fast, and some mountain bikers want to take a slow ride with their family. Additionally, segregated trails can create conflict between trail user types and trail managers, especially if someone feels as if one user type is being favored over others. Ultimately, although segregated trails may work for some, they are not a silver bullet when it comes to eliminating trail conflict due to issues such as these.

Shared-use trails are, and will continue to be, a very important tool in making sure all trail users have access to the outdoor activities they love.


photo credit: Chuck Wocken, Stearns County Parks

Free Webinars on Shared-Use Trails

Solutions for Managing Conflict on Shared-Use Trails
Continuing the conversation from the 2019 International Trails Symposium (ITS) and Training Institute and our TRAILSLead™ Multi-use Trails and Conflict Forum, this webinar will build upon the concepts brought up during the panel discussion.

Equestrian Trail Design for Urban Shared-Use Trails
In partnership with Equine Land Conservation Resource, this webinar addresses methods used in constructing equestrian trails for shared use while also including ADA interface in an urban environment.

Feasibility Study of the 90-Mile Multi-Use Ohlone-Portolá Heritage Trail
This webinar will discuss the ins and outs of a feasibility study done on the 90-mile multi-use trail to interpret early California history in San Mateo County.

Building Communities in Support of Sustainable, Natural Surface, Multi-Use Public Trails
Common grassroots methodologies for building community support for trails.


Resources and Guides on Shared-Use Trails

Across the Arterial
Successful shared-use paths offer a continuous and extended recreation and transportation experience. Avoiding vehicular interaction is a major challenge in urban environments where shared use paths intersect the roadway network on a regular basis. In the best cases, the paths are grade separated from roadway traffic with pedestrian bridges or under-crossings. However, geometric constraints, financial resources and incompatible adjacent land uses can require trail planners to contemplate and implement at-grade crossings.

An Empire State of Trails: Creating New Trails and Connecting Existing Networks
The session describes New York’s emergence as a trail state, highlights advocacy and planning that paved the way, and offers takeaways for trail systems elsewhere.

Building Partnerships for Single and Multi-Use Trails
Learn about collaborative travel management planning efforts that work.

Conflicts on Multiple-Use Trails
This synthesis is intended to establish a baseline of the current state of knowledge and practice and to serve as a guide for trail managers and researchers.

Designing Shared-Use Trails to Include Equestrians
A presentation on consideration for shared-use trails involving equestrians.

Equestrian and Other Nonmotorized Use on Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities
Equestrian and other nonmotorized recreational use may be allowed on shared use paths and trails that use Federal-aid transportation funds.

Evaluation of Safety, Design, and Operation of Shared-Use Paths (Final Report)
Shared paths are paved, off-road facilities designed for travel by a variety of nonmotorized users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters, joggers, and others. Shared-path planners and designers face a serious challenge in determining how wide paths should be and whether the various modes of travel should be separated from each other.

How Agencies Manage Multi-use Trails
Multi-Use Trail Management Policy: User-Group Conflict and Resource Impact Issues.

Multi-Use Trail Surface Study
The Equine Advisory Council conducted research and interviews throughout Connecticut to determine project cost and general installation, maintenance, environmental impacts, and suitability for multiple user groups for various surface materials.

Safe Encounters with Horses on Shared-Use Trails
American Trails contributor Dianne Martin shares some tips on how to safely share trails with horses.

"Share the Trail"
Understanding Shared-Use Trail Etiquette can make Hiking, Biking, and Riding Trails More Enjoyable for Everyone

Shared-Use Path Design
A shared-use path serves as part of a transportation circulation system and supports multiple recreation opportunities, such as walking, bicycling, and inline skating. A shared-use path typically has a surface that is asphalt, concrete, or firmly packed crushed aggregate.

Shared-Use Path Level of Service Calculator and Users Guide
The purpose of this guide is to introduce practitioners and others to: 1) the findings of our study on the quality of service on trails; 2) a new analytical tool called the Shared-Use Path Level of Service (LOS) Calculator, and 3) potential implications for trail design.

Shared-Use Trail Maintenance
Learn how to use this trail maintenance template to derive accurate costs.

Sharing Our Trails: A Guide to Trail Safety and Enjoyment
National and state trail advocacy organizations representing equestrian, OHV, and bicycle interests collaborated in developing this new guide to trail use and safety.

Signs and Etiquette for Shared-Use Urban Trails
Encouraging different types of users to share the trail is just as important on urban trails as it is on backcountry trails.

Universal Access Trails and Shared-Use Paths
This manual reviews Best Management Practices (“BMPs”) to utilize when planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining pedestrian trails for universal accessibility.

What is the Typical Width of a Shared-Use Trail?
The best answer that you will get for how wide a trail should be is “It depends.”

WSDOT Shared-Use Path Design Manual
A Washington State DOT guide to designing shared-use paths.

What’s Under Foot? Multi-Use Trail Surfacing Options
Key criteria in arriving at a recommended trail surface.

When Snowmobilers Meet Others on the Trail
Practical problem solving for shared use winter trails.


Success Stories of Shared-Use Trails

Assessing the Economic and Livability Value of Multi-Use Trails
Multi-use trails are becoming an economic catalyst and vital contributor to the quality of life for communities all across the nation. This document looks at key factors as to why this is, and takes these factors as a basis for a case study on the Tammany Trace (the ‘Trace’), a 31- mile rail-to-trail conversion in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.

Bird to Gird National Recreation Trail, Alaska
The Girdwood to Indian Pathway is a 13.3-mile paved trail that provides spectacular views as it parallels the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm below the mountains.

Carlyle Lake National Recreation Trail, Kaskaskia River, Illinois
The 10.3-mile multi-use trail system extends through diverse and scenic wildlife habitat and connects the City of Carlyle to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Carlyle Lake Project.

Heritage Rail Trail County Park, Pennsylvania
Traversing York County to the Maryland border, this 19-mile multi-use trail provides an integral link in a statewide trails system and epitomizes the concept of a close-to-home trail experience, but has regional, State, and national significance as well.

New York to Build the Empire State Trail, the Largest State Multi-Use Trail in the Nation
The 750-mile trail will provide new opportunities for hiking and biking along scenic vistas and through charming, historic communities, driving tourism and economic activity across New York.

Ramps on Accessible Trails and Shared-Use Pathways
Ramps, typically used for building access, are often provided on trails.

Six Solutions for Managing Multi-Use Trails and Conflict
Let’s face it. Motorized, equestrian, biking, and hiking users do not always get along. When conflicts inevitably arise, what do we do, and how can we avoid it in the first place?

Steel Trail Bridges on Shared-Use Urban Pathways
A variety of steel-frame commercial bridges along typical multiple-use trails.

The Sioux Falls MPO Multi-Use Trail Study
The Big Sioux trail loop was developed several decades ago to control flooding, but Sioux Falls continues to invest in the trail to connect inter-urban areas. This study includes planning and design processes, appropriate infrastructure, costs, timing, potential obstacles, design standards, implementation policies and funding. It is an aesthetically pleasing plan that presents several options for the trail with maps and graphics to complement it.


Shared-Use Focused Organizations and Initiatives

Trails Are Common Ground Initiative

Trail Partners of Marin County - Slow and Say Hello Program

Tread Lightly!

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Be Nice Say Hi

Ride with Gratitude

Published January 2022