The page you requested has moved and you've automatically been taken to its new location.

Please update your link or bookmark after closing this notice.

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Designing for Nonmotorists

Off-Road Facilities

Return to Page 2  ·  Return to Presentation Index

Shared Use Paths: Protruding Objects

  • Avoid protruding objects in the treadway:
    • Poles, wires, signs, other objects.
    • Tree branches, hanging vines.
    • Mark unavoidable objects with retroreflective markings.
    • Covered in Accessible Design Course.
Graphic of man using a walking cane walking dangerously close to protruding object. Graphic of man using a walking cane walking dangerously close to protruding object. Photo of man using a walking cane walking dangerously close to object protruding from light pole. Graphic of man using a walking cane running into a campaign sign sitting in middle of sidewalk.

Bottom left and middle drawings: From FHWA's Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Best Practices Design Guide.
Photo: US Access Board archives (reversed).
: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section: ADA Checklist for Polling Places, page 17.

Shared Use Path Crossings

  • Use Public Rights-of-Way Guidelines.
  • Treat as an intersection.
  • Who gets the right of way? Where is the volume?
  • Include detectable warnings.

Graphic of man using a walking cane  approaching an intersection marked with detectable warnings. Photo of a man with 2 young kids and a dog standing on a trail crossing at roads edge.
Drawing: From FHWA's Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Best Practices Design Guide.
Photo: High Line Canal Trail, Cherry Hills Village, CO. Photo by Stuart Macdonald, American Trails.

Trails in Freeway Rights-of-Way

QUESTION: Can trails be built along an Interstate or other freeway right-of-way?


Photo of a paved trail adjacent to eleveted section of highway. Photo of snowmobilers on a bridge crossing a highway.
Left photo: Joseph J Kracum, Kracum Resources LLC. Published in FHWA's Public Roads Magazine, March/April 2004.
Right photo: Red Creek Bridge over I-75, near MI-134 (Upper Peninsula). From Coalition for Recreational Trails, Recreational Trails Program Annual Achievement Awards.

Shared Use Paths Near Railroads

QUESTION: Can Shared Use Paths (or other trails) coexist with railroads?


  • It depends.
    • Right-of-way.
    • Safety
    • Security
    • No trespassing!

Shared Use Paths Near Railroads


  • Good examples of shared use paths.
  • Low grade, good sight lines, wide, stable base.
  • It could handle trains, it can handle bicyclists and pedestrians!
  • Access points must be accessible.
  • Pay attention to property rights issues.

Photo of a trail bridge crossing small stream.
Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE).
Silver Comet Trail, Georgia.

Bollards: A Bad Idea. Why?

What are some possible problems?

Photo of bollard at entrance of pedestrian bridge. Photo of bollards at entrance of pedestrian bridge.

Photos: Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE).
Left: Union Street Railroad Bridge, Salem OR.
Right: Big Dam Bridge, Little Rock AR.

Bollards: A Bad Idea.

Photo of bollards at trail entrance and unintended trail tread going around bollards.
Photo: Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail, Pawlet, VT.
Jon Kaplan, Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager,
Vermont Agency of Transportation.
  • Bollards should never be a default treatment.
  • Don't use unless intrusions are documented.
  • Bollards are a potentially fatal safety hazard.
  • Unjustified bollards may create liability.
  • Bollards, gates, fences, or other barriers can slow emergency response access.
  • Bollards are often ineffective: people go around, or damage the bollards or area.
  • A landscaped median is better.

Bollards: A Bad Idea.

If installed, bollard, gates, fences, or other barriers:

  • Must not restrict access for people with disabilities.
  • Must be easily visible in low light conditions.
  • Have enough sight distance so users can adjust speed.
  • Should permit passage, without dismounting, for adult tricycles, bicycles towing trailers, and tandem bicycles.
  • Accommodate all users legally permitted to use the trail.
  • Must be easily removable for emergency vehicle access.
  • Never use even numbers of bollards, possibly creating head-on collisions... (see previous examples).

Environmental Impacts

Shared use paths may qualify for Categorical Exclusions, but they can impact:

  • Drainage patterns and wetlands.
  • Wildlife: threatened and endangered species.
  • Historic, cultural, archaeological resources.
  • Privacy perceptions for adjacent properties.
  • Light pollution.

Bridges: Essential Links

Bridges are needed in any transportation network.

  • Union Street Railroad Bridge, Salem OR.
  • A half-mile span over the Willamette River.
  • The project improved bicycle and pedestrian safety and access, and provided a critical link in local, regional, and State transportation and trail networks.
Photo of pedestrian bridge. Photo of pedestrian bridge.
Photo of pedestrian bridge. Photo of pedestrian bridge.
Photos: TrADE Image Library.
Union Street Railroad Bridge, Salem OR
Photo credit: City of Salem OR.

Bridges: Essential Links

  • Be creative.
  • Reuse historic bridges.
  • Reuse railroad flatcars.
Photo of bridge work.

Rail Bridge to Trail Bridge

Walkway Over the Hudson Poughkeepsie - Highland NY

Photo Collage of bridges and walkway over river.
You might want to make sure this can hold tractor trailers!
Photo source: Stuart Macdonald, See more photos at: American Trails

Big Dam Bridge
Near Little Rock AR

Photo of Bridge Photo of Bridge Photo of Bridge
Over Lock & Dam. - Built and managed by by Pulaski County.
Photos: TrADE Image Library.
Big Dam Bridge.

Tunnels and Underpasses

Photo of an Underpass Photo of an Underpass
Photos: TrADE Image Library
Left: Dalecarlia Tunnel, Capital Crescent Trail, Montgomery County MD.
Right: Silver Comet Trail, Georgia.

Design for the tallest likely user:

  • Maintenance vehicles
  • Equestrians
  • Snow level

Think about maintenance.


Tunnels and Underpasses

Design for Perception of Security

Photo of a man riding a bike under a tunnel
  • Good visibility through the underpass:
    • No hiding places.
    • Lighting if needed.
  • Highway underpasses:
    • Underpass approach grade may be easier than a bridge over.
    • Drainage issues.

Clear Creek Trail crossing under Burlington Northern Railroad embankment, Jefferson County, CO; photo by Stuart Macdonald, August 1, 2009.


See MUTCD Chapter 9:

Figure 9B-1. Sign Placement on Shared-Use Paths - Click on Image for text description.

Support Facilities

Trailside and Trailhead Facilities

  • Rest rooms, water.
  • Benches along trails, hitching posts, bike racks.
  • Buildings and built site facilities must meet accessibility guidelines for built facilities.
  • Not our job: Park amenities: picnic pavilions, campgrounds, ball fields, boat launches, etc.
  • Not our job: school running tracks, field lighting, etc.

Motorized Use on Shared Use Paths

  • Generally prohibited. Exceptions:
    • Motorized wheelchairs
    • Snowmobiles or electric bicycles at State or local option
  • Framework for Considering Motorized Use on Nonmotorized Trails and Pedestrian Walkways -
  • Electric vehicles: currently not allowed (except electric bicycles at State or local option).

Motorized Use or Larger Vehicles on Shared Use Paths

Coming soon to a trail near you?

Photo of a golf cart on a golf path. Photo of a pedal car. Photo of a group of people in a pedal car.

Left: Golf cart on a golf cart trail system, Peachtree City, Georgia.
Middle: Surrey Company:
Right: North Dakota Department of Transportation


  • What do you see that you like?
  • What do you see that you don't like?
Photo of multiple users on a trail.

TrADE Image Library
Capital Crescent Trail, Bethesda, Maryland

Questions, Comments, etc.???

Photo of a trail bridge under a road. Christopher B Douwes
Community Planner
Recreational Trails Program
Transportation Alternatives Program
Federal Highway Administration
FHWA HEPH-10 Rm E74-474
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington DC 20590-0001
Phone: 202-366-5013; Fax: 202-366-3409

Return to Presentation Index

Updated: 12/9/2016
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000