Most Rail Trail Australia (RTA) members have cycled along our wonderful rail trails; enjoying the scenery, thriving with the lack of traffic and the clear signage at cross-roads, cruising on a typical fine gravel or granitic sand surface and stopping at facilities located at reasonable intervals along the way. But do walkers look for different attributes? How should trail managers and friends groups make sure that all users are catered for?
Walkers travel slower, so information about the distance travelled needs to be reasonably frequent. Some trails have kilometre markers for the whole trail; these markers would be particularly helpful for the popular sections of a trail. Some trails offer little privacy for a call of nature - accurate information on the location of toilet facilities and drinking water along the trail can make all the difference.
Compacted trail surfaces are a joy for cyclists, but might be difficult for walkers by the end of a long day. Walkers may at times prefer to use a grassed section alongside the trail – it can help if these sections are clear of rocks and the grass is slashed.
Pedestrians always have right-of-way. Cyclists should be encouraged to keep an eye out for pedestrians, to use a bell to warn pedestrians and slow down when passing. These courtesies will make the trail more enjoyable for walkers. Similarly, pedestrians need to be aware that cyclists cannot stop or change direction instantly and unexpected changes of direction by walkers and dogs (even on leads) can be real hazards to cyclists.
Find out more about the needs of walkers by asking local walking groups and trail users about your trail and how it could be more walker-friendly. Be part of the trial of trail user surveys to find out how many walkers are already using your trail.
Rail Trail Connections, Spring 2014 (newsletter of the Rail Trail Australia)