Investigating environmental factors that contribute to disparities in utilization across different sections of a 10-mile urban trail

Date

2014-05

Authors

Mount, Sarah Elizabeth

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to identify barriers that contribute to a disparity in utilization across different segments of an urban trail. To achieve this aim, subjective ratings of trail characteristics for high-use areas (western sections of the trail) were compared to subjective ratings of lower-use areas (eastern sections of the trail). These ratings were compared between those who reported primarily traveling the western, high-use sections vs. those who primarily travel the eastern, low-use sections. Data were collected through self-report and a cross-sectional analysis based on sections of primary use. Ratings for each trail characteristic from an online survey were compared for different trail segments as a function of these groups. Comparisons were conducted through ANOVA and showed that perceptions of trail characteristics varied strongly as a function of which sections of the trail were used most by the respondents. Users of the high-traffic, western sections held significantly more negative views of the eastern sections. In contrast, users of the low-traffic, eastern sections held similar views of the eastern and western sections. Objective measurements of trail characteristics were conducted on all six segments of trail to compare to user perceptions. A trail count and researcher evaluation/audit of all trail characteristics provided data for comparison. A descriptive analysis of the differences between trail user perceptions and objective measures was reported. The trail count and survey results showed similar patterns of usage. The western sections exhibited the highest number of trail users representing 80% of the people on the trail. The central sections contained 14% and the eastern sections 6%. Mode of travel observed was 94% walking or running and 6% cycling. In addition, these numbers are similar to those of the earlier, pilot study (TEMBA, 2011). Given the similarities between the online survey, and both the objective trail count for usage and the earlier TEMBA study, it is hoped that the online sample is representative of the population of regular trail users. A comparison of subjective and objective ratings revealed different patterns of agreement depending on east vs. west group membership. Overall, west users are misinformed about crime and amenities on the east side but are in general agreement on other characteristics. This suggests that their concerns about trail continuity, directional clarity, and loop options may be warranted. Overall, east users showed general agreement with objective measures on the west side except for exposure to traffic, which they rated more poorly than objective measures.

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