Trail Construction — We Need Your Help!!!

We were recently contacted by Michele Schasberger, a project manager for the Wyoming Valley (PA) Wellness Trails Partnership. She needs our help with a document she is working on entitled “State of Luzerne County Trails”.

Michele realized during the planning for this project that recreational cyclists are routinely surveyed as to their preferences for trail location and layout, but that bicycle commuters who use trails for transportation purposes are under-represented.

The partnership is looking for input from bicycle commuters about their commuting routes and preferences, and we’d like to get our faithful readers in on this. In the comments section below, please indicate your answers to the following:

–Do bicycle commuters use off-street trails?

–Would you consider using a dedicated multi-modal (bicycles, pedestrians, etc.) transportation/recreational trail to commute if such a trail existed in your area?

–Would you go out of your way to use such a trail if it meant less traffic, more scenery, etc.?

–How DO we choose our routes?

We’ve talked about using bike lanes and designated trails before, and it would be great if we could keep this thread rolling (as it were) to really gauge how commuters make their route choices and what preferences they have for location and design of such trails.

Please be as specific as you can, and feel free to include any other tidbits that come to mind. Thanks for reading, and we all look forward to your comments!


19 Comments

  1. Moe January 8, 2008 4:24 pm 

    I use the San Gabriel River Trail to get to work. It is great to ride DURING the day, too many bums/cholos/dickheads lurking at night. I only ride it for a mile but it is a peaceful mile. Whittier is constructing a new ‘green way multiuse trail’ that will connect to the river trail. It is scheduled to open this year. Even though this would mean that I may have to ride an extra mile, I will definitely do it.

  2. MilesZS January 8, 2008 4:35 pm 

    Near my employer’s offices, there is a trail (called ‘The Monon Trail”, Indy, Indiana) that is multi-use. I know there are a great deal of bikers who use it, both for commuting and recreation. I am actually looking for apartments near the trail so that I can use it to commute, as well.

    Hope that helps, a bit.

  3. Evan January 8, 2008 4:58 pm 

    I choose my bike route primarily on how fast it gets me from point A to point B. That said, I do go out of my way for increased safety and better scenery.

    The most direct route to my work requires a sketchy merge on to a road with high-speed traffic and then an additional mile or so in the bike lane on this road. I choose to avoid it and go on a less traveled and much more scenic route at the cost of an extra 1/2 mile or so.

    I also utilize a paved trail along the San Diego River for about a 2 mile stretch. This is my favorite part of the ride during the day, but like Moe’s river trail this one is extremely dark and somewhat bum infested at night. I haven’t found an alternative route so for the time being I jam my way through there as fast as I can when it’s dark out and pray that I don’t get a flat.

    I like trails because I don’t have to worry about traffic and stoplights. With the exception of some crazy bums, I feel a lot safer on a trail. I would use more of them if I could.

    My only complaint is that a lot of the paved trails around the beaches and bays where I live get so much use from joggers, walkers, rollerbladers, beach cruisers, etc… that I can’t ride at a good clip. I guess it’s just nice that they’re being used though.

  4. Ghost Rider January 8, 2008 5:20 pm 

    Great comments…keep ’em coming!

    For me, I would definitely use a separate trail if such a thing existed in my area…even if I had to go out of my way a bit to use it. Over on the other side of Tampa Bay, the good folks in Pinellas County created a long multi-modal corridor called The Pinellas Trail that can TOTALLY be used to get from city to city, with plenty of shopping and eating stops along the way. It’s something that the Hillsborough County government really hasn’t tried to figure out, best I can tell, although there are a couple smallish recreational trails on old railroad lines, but they don’t connect anyone with any real destination.

    Currently, I choose my route depending on my mood, the weather and how much time/energy I have. I have several routes to choose from that take me to and from the same general area — some on highly-traffficked roads, others in quiet residential neighborhoods where I rarely see a moving car.

    Evan brings up a good point about some of these multi-modal trails, though — sometimes they quickly become so popular that using them for transportation purposes turns into a nightmare. My experience with the Washington and Old Dominion trail outside D.C. had me dodging joggers, rollerbladers, recreational cyclists, triathletes and even equestrians (19mm race tires do not handle well over horse crap!!!).

  5. Laura January 8, 2008 6:29 pm 

    I use a MUP near me in Toronto called the Beltline. It used to be a commuter train railway path, but the railway went bankrupt about 2 years after it started. In the sixites the city bought it and turned it into a trail for the community. It’s approximately 5km in length and travels over Yonge Street and above ground subway tracks and then is set in a trail bordered by people’s backyards. You have to get off several times and cross busy streets to reach the extreme west end of the Beltline. There you are faced with a wall. The other side of the wall is a highway. Hmmm, the end isn’t picturesque. The interruptions in traffic are irritating since the trail ends south of any intersection (sometimes I feel like “future roadkill”).

    It’s not out of my way at all, but it is a pain having to risk life and limb to cross the street to continue on the trail.

    Plenty of people use it for riding, commuting, walking, jogging, teaching kids how to ride a bike, dog walking, and stroller pushing. I’ve never had a dangerous encounter on the trail itself. It’s in a well off area of Toronto and people are always nearby whether they are on the trail or in their backyards.

    I love the scenery! Lots of different trees, wild flowers and bushes. The local schools do their nature sections in the Beltline, so you often see grade school kids making tree bark rubbings!

    Other than the interruptions because of main intersections, the Beltline is a definite favourite. I visit it often throughout the spring summer and fall. If I liked snowshoeing I’d probably do that in the winter (especially this one. We’ve been “enjoying” several feet of snow).

  6. Michael January 9, 2008 7:09 am 

    I live in a community SE of Houston and my commute is a total of 9 miles round trip, mostly neighborhood streets and crossing the busy streets at lights. Our area also has quite a few bayous and drainage ditches that if they had a paved trail on them would make a great alternative to riding the streets. Our weather here affords us year round cycling but sadly few people actually commute most of them stating the their commute would be too dangerous. There is no question that these trails would be used by a wide range outdoor enthusiasts and I would be happy to share them with joggers, walkers, etc if they were available to us.

  7. Robin January 9, 2008 9:04 am 

    As much as street riding can be more direct,it’s more comfortable to go my own pace on bike paths, and which route I take depends a lot on how I’m feeling that day and what time I managed to wake up.

    I used to ride the Clear Creek trail (Arvada, CO,) it picked up three blocks from my house and there was an exit a block from work. Extremely convenient, mostly used by other cyclists, and others on the trail were aware of it’s reputation as a bike path and were friendly. It closed at sunset, so I could usually only take it one way. I rarely saw anyone else with blinky lights and a backpack.

    Now I live by Cherry Creek (Denver.) I don’t take that trail as often because it adds a little over a mile to my commute, but it’s nice when I don’t want to fight downtown traffic. It’s separated, one side of the creek is a bike path and one side is pedestrians/rollerblades/skateboards. No horses. I see a lot of commuters using it. The natural scenery isn’t great but the odd views of downtown from below street level are spiffy. I think I’ll take that way in today, I’m getting over a cold and feel like going s-l-o-w.

  8. Timbeaux January 9, 2008 9:14 am 

    Yes, I use an off-street trail for part of my commute. The Shoal Creek Bike Trail in Austin Texas goes off street for part of its distance.
    I usually choose a route by weighing traffic, elevation change, and boredom and mix it up between three or four different routes. I usually like to do any elevation changes early in my ride, so I often choose different routes for coming/going.
    I would (and do) go out of my way to ride a shaded route in the summer.

  9. Quinn January 9, 2008 9:46 am 

    I think using a trail vs the road is a no-brainer as long as the trail goes where we need to go.

    Going out of my way- if I need to go 5 mile west and the trail is 1 mile south, yeah I would.

    choosing a route- I see where I am, where I need to go, possible routes all the normal stuff, but also I consider time, my ablility, if IM with anyone, their ability and also my/our bikes. (IM not taking my 29er on the same roads IM going to take my road bike on)

  10. Joel January 9, 2008 10:54 am 

    When I commuted in CA I regularly used the Contra Costa Canal trail as part of my commute. I extended my ride home significantly in order to ride the trail, which was multi-use. It was nice being able to get away from traffic and have a more scenic ride, and if such an alternative existed in Baltimore I would ride it without question, even if it extended the ride.

    I chose my route (in Baltimore) based on expediency because this is a non-cyclist-friendly area with poor road conditions. In CA I chose my route based on how many extra miles I wanted to ride that day since my commute was bi-modal (BART and bike) I could get off at earlier stations on the way home and hop on the trail for a ride between 5 and 35 miles.

  11. r. January 9, 2008 11:49 am 

    I am originally from Oak Ridge, TN. Oak Ridge has several nice recreational trails that connect through the city and to Knoxville, TN. I do use part of the trail to get through the city while I’m visiting, but since there is heavy pedestrian usage I try to stay away from the trail as much as possible. I’m a fast rider (I average a 16 mph on my road bike) so I try to stick to streets as much as possible. Yet, I’m so glad that the trail is there as an option if I need it.

    Memphis, TN does have one greenway in the Evergreen Historic District. I have used it occasionally, but it’s designed for off road or foot traffic, not road bikes.

    I usually choose my routes to work based on directness not on scenery. I do meander on my way home (my route to work is 7 miles and on the way home it’s 11). Now, if I have a day off or something I do plan my route through lower traffic areas to add on a couple of miles.

    I probably would shy away from using a trail in Memphis b/c of the gang problem. If I was riding with someone I might use a trail, but I don’t think Memphis is the best place for a multi-modal trail. I say this b/c no part of this city is safe. I have an added problem b/c I’m a woman and have been followed home before.

    I wish I could be more positive about greenways here, but the city/county administration says it’ll be 2030 before we get any cycling infrastructure. Basically, it’s a losing battle to try and get anything done whether it be crime or improving education. I’ve been trying to move for awhile now.

  12. Jess January 9, 2008 5:55 pm 

    I live and work around downtown Milwaukee, which has a pretty nice bike/ped trail system. I bike to work along the Oak Leaf Trail and see many other bike commuters as well (fewer now in January, but several still). There’s also one Segway commuter, which is kinda cute. =P
    The trail is used for everything but car traffic (with the exception of the police). This makes rides home in summer a bit slower, but still quite pleasant.
    I do go slightly out of my way to use the bike path despite the availability of bike lanes which would be more direct. The trail is well-maintained and a smoother ride than the streets. It’s also quite scenic, being set apart from regular streets and lined with trees in the downtown area and farther north. This is a definite perk and makes my commute one of the better parts of my day.
    There is a notable lack of threatening people on the trail (I’m a woman and I bike alone).
    Regarding how I chose my route, I take the path of least resistance. I like the fact that I can hop on the bike trail and ride uninterrupted for miles. I spent some time in Seattle and used a bike trail that crossed busy roads, which was both annoying and dangerous. I’m sure it’s tough to make an uninterrupted path in an area that’s already built up, but if it’s possible, it’s worth it.

  13. Lance January 10, 2008 9:44 am 

    I ride to work close to the Santa Ana River Trail but it’s doesn’t really parallel my commute until i’m almost to work. If there was an off-street trail close by I would use it in a heart beat. Too many times riding home I’m scared for my life as I ride on a 4 lane street with no bike lane.

    If there was a trail off the street I think I might even be able to convince a couple of coworkers of mine to commute to work. Too many people at work look at me like I’m nuts because I choose to risk commuting despite the often dangerous drivers in our city. The safety of a trail like this would give me peace of mind and I’m sure would put my wife’s mind at ease.

    The first and most important factor in choosing my route is safety and amount of traffic. I basically have to choose between 3 major streets to commute down and I choose the one with the least amount of traffic…always. It may be a bit farther but anything I can do to feel more safe is a no brainer. If I had to ride 4 extra miles just to get to a quiet rout I’d do that. My life is what matters most! To me, at least.

  14. Lance January 10, 2008 9:48 am 

    Ooops, I’m In North Orange County in Southern California.

  15. PushingWind January 10, 2008 12:36 pm 

    I commute from Littleton to Denver in Colorado along the Platte River Trail. Once on the trail at the south end at C470 (Beltway highway), there isn’t a road to cross for 16 miles. This is nice, makes it a fast ride and is safe from cars. The one road crossing could use a painted crosswalk and some signs for cars. The only problems are mall construction and constant broken bottles near Alameda Avenue. Last summer, I rode my bike to the company picnic 5 miles west of downtown. Riding home from there was an absolute nightmare since the bike paths were 7 miles east or west. Dead end streets, highway blocks, no sidewalks, no bike lans, glass. Ugh. Bike paths are the best way to go and they should not require much land or funding if done earlier enough in the planning stages. Good luck.

  16. Amber January 10, 2008 12:40 pm 

    –Do bicycle commuters use off-street trails?
    I do! I only have access to a short multi-user path on part of my 18 mile RT commute but I would definitely use more if there were more!

    –Would you consider using a dedicated multi-modal (bicycles, pedestrians, etc.) transportation/recreational trail to commute if such a trail existed in your area?
    Most def.

    –Would you go out of your way to use such a trail if it meant less traffic, more scenery, etc.?
    Probably

    –How DO we choose our routes?
    We have no bike lanes in my city so I choose mine based on what streets I feel safe riding on (35mph or below, light-moderate traffic, as much residential as possible,etc).

  17. Meg January 13, 2008 3:13 pm 

    I ride from Aurora Colorado (near Cherry Creek Reservoir) to my job 2-3 days a week when there is minimal snow on the Cherry Creek Path.

    Having a path with minimal mingling between drivers and cyclists would be optimal and I prefer this route to/from work because there is little opportunity that I will have to encounter a vehicle.

    Getting from the trail to my office near the 16th street mall requires driving in downtown Denver. Having a bike lane throughout the downtown area would be fantastic.

  18. Jerome January 14, 2008 12:16 pm 

    grew up and live one mile south of the Illinois Prairie Path, an early (mid-60s) rail trail conversion of abandoned “inter-urban” lines that provides over 60 miles of mostly screened limestone trail in the western suburbs of Chicagoland

    just over two years ago changed jobs to work 3.25 miles southwest of my home

    started bike commuting then, taking the direct route at first, then soon after exploring other routes due to numerous encounters with bellowing “drivers” of vehicles convinced that their waste qualifies them for some special status lording over other citizens making what they consider inferior transportation choices

    for quite some time, rode a 4.75 mile route that crossed two major six-lanes at traffic lights, and found that still had some of this cretin behavior to deal with at these points, along with significant wait times, as the lights are timed for the six lanes, not the cross traffic

    so have found that traveling “out of the way” to the north to ride about 3 miles on the path gets me across one of the six-lanes on a bridge, and as now cross the other one a block west of the light, have a nice 6.25 mile route that encounters exactly zero traffic lights and a very small number of bellowing “drivers”

    sometimes snow/ice on the trail forces choosing a different route, but most days you’ll find me on that trail, and the number of transport oriented cyclists there is rising, where it was once almost exclusively recreational

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