Separate multi-use paths often provide a safe and more convenient alternative to riding or walking along a street and can be an integral part of the school walking and bicycling route plan.

Separated multi-use paths (sometime known as shared-use paths) are passageways that are used to increase the connectivity of the pedestrian and bicycle network. Paths can connect neighborhoods directly with schools and shorten the distance children must walk or bicycle. However, paths must be designed properly, especially where they intersect roadways, to minimize the risk of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes. Guidelines for designing paths are available from FHWA: Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access. Part 2 Best Practices and Design Guide and from American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO): Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities.

Guidelines for the width of a multi-use path can range from eight to fourteen feet or more.[AASHTO, 1999]. Under most conditions, the recommended minimum width for a two-direction path designed for bicyclists and pedestrians is ten feet. However, when heavy traffic is expected, a path width of 12 to 14 feet is preferred. In some instances, a width of eight feet can be adequate, especially if the proportion of bicyclist or pedestrian travel is small and the overall number of users is not large [Turner et al., 2004].

Abandoned rail lines and utility corridors often make excellent corridors for multi-use paths. Pavement for multi-use paths can be asphalt or concrete. Measures should be taken to keep motor vehicles off of the path, yet allow maintenance vehicles to have access. This can be accomplished with removable posts (bollards) that lock into place. The space between posts should typically be about five feet wide to prevent motor vehicle access, but comfortably allow bicycle access. Agencies need to monitor conditions along the path for maintenance and repair. School officials, students, and other path users can be a good source of information to alert the agency when bushes need trimming along the path or the surface is in need of debris removal or repair.

Treatment: Paths


Paths are passageways that are used to increase the connectivity of the pedestrian and bicycle network.

Expected Effectiveness

The presence of paths can increase the number of walking and bicycling trips made and decrease the time and distance it takes to travel from one point to another.


Costs vary by project conditions and scope. Availability of right-of-way can significantly change total cost of project.

Keys to Success

  • Provide signs to show pedestrians and bicyclists how to access the path network and where it leads.
  • Path design should incorporate appropriate width and/or number of lanes for anticipated pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
  • Path should connect frequently visited origins and destinations.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Considerations for lighting, maintenance, and safety should be made.
  • Acquiring easements can be a challenge.

Evaluation Measures

  • Pedestrian and bicycle volume.