Bringing Communities Together

With summer fast approaching, people of all ages start thinking about getting outside and enjoying the warm, sunny days ahead. Many of whom will be contemplating where they are going to take their first hike or bike ride—their community trail.

Trails bring people together. They provide experiences that allow people to connect, often leading to closer families and communities, and can result in improved quality of life.

Many communities have done an excellent job of providing this opportunity to residents, and visitors alike. As a trail designer, and a trail user myself, it is very important for me to assist in the continued development of trails in my backyard and beyond.

On an unseasonably warm Sunday in February, my family used one of the trails I designed many years ago. It was wonderful to see the number of users taking advantage of a beautiful resource along the Mississippi River. It also made me happy the community decided to invest in the trail—I saw first-hand the benefit it was providing to its users.

Design Considerations

When I design a trail, there are many factors to consider. Some of these include:

  • Creating an experience in which the trail becomes a destination for users from outside the area.
  • Employing best management practices during trail design utilizing:
    • Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). This manual includes national recommendations for signage and markings for both on-road and off-road bicycles.
    • AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. The guide includes information on alignment and profile layout and design.
    • State specific design guidance [e.g., the Iowa Statewide Urban Design and Specifications (SUDAS) and Chapter 12 of the Iowa DOT Design Manual; Wisconsin Bicycle Facility Design Handbook]. These manuals provide guidance on national standards and state-specific requirements for trails and shared-use paths.
  • Understanding the impacts to cultural and/or natural resources.
  • Long-term maintenance concerns, such as potential for flooding or erosion on steep segments of the trail.
  • Avoidance and enhancement of natural resources, such as wetland areas.
  • Emergency vehicle access which can dictate bridge type.
  • Meeting grant funding requirements to allow funding reimbursement to the community.

Meeting Community Needs, Increasing Tourism

Expanding Iowa’s biking transportation system stems in part with the aging population. I attended the Iowa Bicycle Summit a few years ago. Based on presentations given at the summit, I learned that bicycling is gaining popularity as people approach middle age and their bodies do not allow participation in more rigorous athletic activities. Locations with viable bicycle trails and routes are a resource for community members. They also attract tourism, serving as vacation destinations for people of all ages and athletic abilities.

Are you considering a trail for your community? Contact me at 563-556-2464 or j.neebel@iiwengr.com for more information.