CSET: Barriers and Opportunities for Using Rail-Trails for Safe Travel in Rural, Isolated, and Tribal Communities

AIDC project number: 1801


Michael Lowry

Kevin Chang


CSET and University of Idaho

  • Start Date: Sep 1, 2018
  • End Date: Sep 30, 2021

Project Documents

Project Final Report

Project Summary

In the United States more than twenty thousand miles of defunct railroads have been converted to trails for pedestrians and bicyclists. Many rail-trails are located near communities that are rural, isolated, and tribal, yet often users are not local residents, but rather affluent visitors from urban areas using the trails for recreation and tourism. For example, the Trail of the Coeur d' Alenes is a 72-mile, paved trail that starts on a tribal reservation and passes through various rural towns. Does this trail best serve the transportation needs of the local population? Are there potential safety concerns at certain intersections or highway crossings that prevent wider use? Is the trail alignment matched with the daily commute of residents and of those with more utilitarian travel patterns? Are there physical or policy barriers that restrict snowmobile and ATV travel? Are there new or potential technologies, such as e-bikes, that might make the trails more attractive for long distance travel between rural and isolated communities? This project will align with CSET’s focus area of coordination and context-sensitive solutions and contribute to a cultural safety assessment. In addition, this project will: 1) develop and plan for documents that identify “best practices” that are relevant to RITI communities, 2) collect and obtain data that has not previously been used of existed, and 3) establish and nourish relationships so that residents and local communities will be willing to share information and invite the research team to listen. This project aims to build capacity to support local engagement in planning, decision-making, and resource allocation.