Evaluation of Safety, Design, and Operation of Shared Use Paths

Final Report
Source: Federal Highway Administration

Shared-use paths are becoming increasingly busy in many places in the United States. Path designers and operators need guidance on how wide to make new or rebuilt paths, and on whether to separate the different types of users. The current guidance is not very specific; it has not been calibrated to conditions in the United States, and does not accommodate the range of modes found on a typical U.S. path. The purpose of this project was to develop a level of service (LOS) estimation method for shared-use paths
that overcomes these limitations. The research included the development of the theory of traffic flow on a path, an extensive effort to collect data on path operations, and a survey through which path users expressed their degree of satisfaction with the paths shown in a series of videos. Based on the theory developed and the data collected, the researchers developed an LOS estimation method for bicyclists that requires minimal input and produces a simple and useful result. Factors involved in the estimation of an LOS for a path include the number of times a typical bicyclist meets or
passes another path user, the number of those passings that are delayed, the path width, and whether the path has a centerline. The method considers four other types of path users besides the adult bicyclists for whom the LOS is calculated -- pedestrians, joggers, child bicyclists, and skaters.

This report documents the research conducted during the project. Other products of the effort include Report No. FHWA-HRT-05-138, Shared-Use Path Level of Service Calculator: A User's Guide (for the LOS procedure and the spreadsheet calculation tool); and a TechBrief, Publication No. FHWA-HRT-05-139, Evaluation of Safety, Design, and Operation of Shared-Use Paths.

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