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RTP and TE Update - November 2005

November 1

Information Item: Equestrian and Other Nonmotorized Use on Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities

We posted an FHWA position paper called "Equestrian and Other Nonmotorized Use on Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities" at We have links to it from:

This same information was just sent to the FHWA Division staff with Bicycle and Pedestrian responsibilities and with Recreational Trails Program responsibilities and to the Transportation Enhancements listserv. John Fegan will send it directly to the listserv of the State DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators and here it is for State Trail Administrators, Federal agency trail contacts, and trail advocacy organizations.

Please note that this is a clarification of our existing policy and is not a change in policy. Here is the text:


Several people have inquired recently about Federal requirements regarding equestrian and other nonmotorized use of projects funded under Section 217 of title 23 of the United States Code ( The reauthorization proposals from the Administration and the Senate had proposed adding some language clarifying this issue: "Shared use paths may be used by pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, equestrians, and other nonmotorized users." This language was not included in the final version of the SAFETEA-LU legislation. The fact that this new language was not adopted does not change current Federal policy.

FHWA Position

Equestrian and other nonmotorized recreational use may be allowed on shared use paths and trails that use Federal-aid transportation funds. Federal transportation laws and regulations do not prohibit the use of shared use paths or trails by equestrians, in-line skaters, cross country skiers, snowshoe users, or other nonmotorized users. States may choose to prohibit such use; it is a State determination. Various design options may allow equestrian use, such as providing both a paved path and an unpaved path within the same right-of-way. See Resources below.

Related Provisions and Implications

Section 217(i) states: Transportation Purpose.--No bicycle project may be carried out under this section unless the Secretary has determined that such bicycle project will be principally for transportation, rather than recreation purposes. This requirement only affects bicycle projects. It does not create a prohibition of equestrian or other nonmotorized recreational use.

Transportation enhancement projects must relate to surface transportation (see This is a flexible provision that accommodates recreational use as long as the project relates to surface transportation.

When a State uses Federal-aid transportation funds for a project affecting a recreational trail, the use of Federal-aid transportation funds should accommodate existing legal recreational uses that are consistent with the land management agency's plans. A land manager may choose to change land use consistent with management goals and plans, but State or local officials should not require a change in existing legal recreational uses solely because Federal-aid transportation funds are being used for a project.

Trail Sharing

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) encourages trail management practices to serve a wide variety of trail users, including equestrians. This philosophy of trail sharing and cooperation should extend to other trail projects using Federal-aid highway program funds. An amendment in the RTP now allows RTP funds to match other Federal programs: for example, a State may now match Transportation Enhancement or other Federal-aid funds with RTP funds. The RTP continues to allow matching funds from other Federal programs. The RTP guidance states: "Many trails provide both a recreational and transportation purpose. RTP funds may be used on any trail which provides recreation. Using RTP funds on a trail project does not make the trail ineligible for other Federal highway funds if the trail also provides a transportation purpose."

If you need additional informational, please contact us.

John C. Fegan
Federal Highway Administration

Christopher Douwes
Federal Highway Administration


National Trails Training Partnership website resources:

National Trails Training Partnership website on Trail Design and Construction:

Presentation from Anne O'Dell, Designing Shared Use Trails to Include Equestrians. Go to: and select the publication.

Trails for the Twenty-First Century, from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. See RTC's bookstore at

FHWA's Recreational Trails Program publications (includes trail-related publications from the USDA Forest Service):

Recreational Trails Program:

Transportation Enhancement Activities:

Updated: 1/18/2017
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