Counting bicyclists in Chicago. — Photo CC Steven Vance via Flickr

There are a variety of tools trail managers can use to enhance the experience along a trail. Counting trail users, either manually or with electronic trail counters, provides basic information on seasonal and time-specific use. While requiring more effort, trail user surveys offer a more nuanced look at trail users, including where they come from, their demographics, usage patterns and their perceptions in terms of safety, cleanliness and maintenance.

Both of these tools can be used to identify the need for amenities that enhance the trail as well as basic maintenance improvements. Creating economic impact reports from the information gleaned by a comprehensive trail user survey is a smart next step, as the finished product can serve as a powerful tool to support the development of additional trails, or the maintenance and upgrading of existing trails, when submitting funding requests.

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