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  Monon Trail patrol © Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Indianapolis police officers patrol the Monon Trail by bicycle.
 

Definitions

Access Points - Designated areas and passageways that allow the public to reach a trail from adjacent streets or community facilities.

At-Grade Crossing - A trail crossing a roadway on the same elevation. Ideally, a safe at-grade crossing has either light automobile traffic or a traffic signal that can be activated by trail users.

Trail Register - Along long-distance trails you may find "trail registers" at overnight stops that allow users the chance to make comments to those behind them, and read comments from those ahead. Registers can be an important safety measure to pinpoint the location of trail users.

Trails glossary and acronyms.

 

RTC Resources

Report
Rail-Trails and Safe Communities: The Experience on 372 Trails

Urban Pathways Initiative
Participate in this free knowledge exchange and get updates about the most innovative policy and practices to encourage use and community ownership of trails and greenways in urban neighborhoods.

Ask Our Listserv
Learn about trail development from the experts! Join our listserv to be connected to more than 900 trail managers, advocates and builders across the country.

Visit RTC's Trails and Greenways Publication Library

For more information, please contact the appropriate regional or national office.

 

Additional Resources

International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA)

IPMBA: The Complete Guide to Public Safety Cycling (Book)

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Toolkit

City of Dallas Hike and Bike Trails Emergency Locator System

Midtown Greenway Coalition: TrailWatch

 

Management and Maintenance

Police and Safety

Explore the latest resources on this topic:

Police and Safety in RTC TrailBlog
Police and Safety in the Library

Working with police is an important part of ensuring that a trail is safe to use. Regular police involvement — especially patrols by bike — can deter crime and improve traffic safety both on and near a trail. Engaging the police and demonstrating why trail safety is important can be a difficult task. Fortunately, there are many materials available to help you learn how to engage your police department around issues that, if left unaddressed, can deter trail use.

Trail Crossings

Crossings are often dangerous locations along trails, and police can target traffic enforcement operations at these high-profile locations subject to heavy use. A common and effective enforcement action is the crosswalk sting, in which a plainclothes (or costumed!) officer attempts to cross the street while a uniformed officer issues warnings and tickets to drivers who fail to stop.

At many locations, speeding drivers can make for a dangerous crossing. In addition to old-fashioned enforcement by radar gun, "Your Speed" radar signs that display a driver's actual speed can be deployed at trail crossings. Pelham, N.H., has installed radar-equipped signs that record when drivers are most likely to speed so the department can effectively time and target its enforcement. Another option in some jurisdictions is speed or red light cameras. At a troublesome crossing of the College Park Trolley Line Trail in Maryland, a city council member supports installing a speed camera to slow traffic.

Getting Police on Bikes

Many police departments are adept at enforcing laws against drivers who speed or fail to stop for pedestrians. There is also a significant amount of material to educate officers on how the laws pertain to cyclists riding in the street, such as the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Toolkit and videos from police departments in Chicago and Portland.

However, it can be a challenge to convince some departments to get officers out of the cruiser and onto the trail. Driving a cruiser along a trail is both disruptive to trail users and less effective at engaging the community. Bike patrols offer many tactical advantages to police when compared with a cruiser, including lower cost, more maneuverability and a higher rate of officer activity. The International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA) is dedicated to training public safety officers (police, EMS and security) on the benefits of and skills necessary for bike patrols.

In addition to the comprehensive book, The Complete Guide to Public Safety Cycling, IPMBA provides information on training tools developed for law enforcement by bicycle, as well as information packets and videos produced by IPMBA. A more general source for bicycle safety information is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Establishing an Emergency Locator System

Trails, like neighborhood streets, are linear public space used for travel or to congregate. As such, they must be policed just like any other part of the neighborhood. These safety measures include having an emergency locator system that allows trail users to identify their location on the trail to 911 dispatchers and police officers.

In Dallas, Texas, the city is expanding an emergency locator system initially used on the Katy Trail to pathways throughout the city. Markers are placed so that at least one is visible at any point along the trail — approximately every one-eigth of a mile. The locator signs are joined to nearby addresses with caution notes so emergency personnel know where and how to access the trail. Since being installed, emergency services have been able to respond to incidents on the trails without delay.

Volunteer Patrols

In some cases, residents may begin their own volunteer patrols, augmenting the police presence with extra sets of eyes on the trail. After a series of incidents on the Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, Minn., concerned citizens partnered with the Midtown Greenway Coalition to start Trail Watch. Trail Watch volunteers ride together, maintaining a presence on the trail after dark and reporting suspicious activity to police. Trail Watch volunteers have also begun the Women on Wednesdays (WOW) program, a Trail Watch shift designed to encourage women of all cycling skill levels to get on the trail.

The Midtown Greenway Coalition also runs Heads Up, Buddy Up!, a program in which regular trail users register with the Coalition and display a spoke card on their bike indicating to other trail users that they are available to pair up for a safer ride at night. The Coalition offers guidelines and a volunteer application for both of its safety programs.

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