Share the Trails
Local and international examples of multi-use recreation trails and paths
Sharing recreation spaces and trails is both possible and desirable. Shared spaces mean smaller expense to cater for the most number of people and activities. It also has the ability to bring communities together to work on projects, maintenance and fundraising together instead of competing against one another for limited resources.
There are many examples of large cities with excellent shared use trail systems, bridleways and equestrian parks. Many of the following examples show how bridleways, horse parks and multi-use trails are being created for economic, recreation and health benefits to the community.
Sharing in New Zealand
Yes, sharing happens in New Zealand.
The most obvious case study of sharing is the legal road system. On the roads everyone is expected to share - horses, pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, including large trucks. Of course, we also have 150 years of historic sharing. Horses have been in New Zealand for 200 years. They have been on our tracks, trails, and roads alongside bicycles for around 100 years. Anything still called bridle track, bridlepath, or bridleway in the name used to be for horses, rather than wheeled traffic. That meant horses (ridden), people on foot, and bikes once they were arrived all shared these routes. "Old Coach trails\tracks" are, of course, the old horse drawn wheeled vehicle 'roads', that, again were shared.
There is no historic problem, so presumably trail builders, and planners believe we have somehow learned to be less tolerant, or less capable of commonsense and courtesy despite being able to communicate better, and being more educated. One has to wonder if this is because New Zealand's trail building community is often led by mountain biking trail builders, who view every trail as a mountain biking trail , not as a recreation trail. Their view is that the only sharing that can occur is walkers, and bikers one direction - uphill. This, of course, presumes that the downhill section is a mountain bike run... so they aren't even considering that maybe not all cyclists are interested in the same thing!
A coastal path that links several roads, and the beach of Whitford in Auckland. Originally a simple informal single track created by hooves, and feet it was upgraded to a path that caters for all - walkers, runners, dogs, cyclists, and horse riders.
Coast Road at Muriwai Regional Park is used by walkers, dogs, runnders, horses, and cycles. There are few incidents because everyone recognises that all have the same rights. This is also helped by the rough gravel and limerock surface, which slows bikes and horses down.
Otago Rail Trail
The first rail trail project in New Zealand, and a shared trail. So sad that those who have followed have failed to recognise this.
Riverhead Forest in North Auckland takes a fairly live-and-let-live approach to recreation. On any day you may find trail bikes (motorbikes), mountain bikes, horses, walkers and runners, and even pig hunters and their dogs. Events are notified, but keeping clear is on the 'honour system' (which works well).
This trail is a legal unformed road and therefore shared by all user groups, like all unformed legal roads.
The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA)
From day one, IMBA has advocated multiple-use trails.
IMBA supports multiple use trails, and writes extensively on the subject. As one of the premier international cycling organisations (certainly one of the most respected trail building resources), surely NZ organisations would look to IMBA for guidance, or reassurance when it comes to trails here? Apparently not, apparently there is something very odd about cyclists in New Zealand, that means they are the only ones in the world who cannot share.
"A Trail of One's Own" - Article published IMBA Canada
They publish advice for their thousands of members on trail etiquette to ensure happy, safe trail use by all.
“Problems are often matters of perception rather than reality, and those that are real can almost always be solved with a proactive approach,”
- Michael Kelley, co-founder of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).
The US Forest Service Video on Trail Etiquette shows many more user groups regularly share there
Brooklyn, Central Park New York
Right in the centre of one of the world's largest cities, New York, there are bridlepaths and equestrian recreation areas. There are even horse lanes on the streets to help equestrians get from urban stables to trails.
includes over 310 miles of trail around the city’s ridge tops. It is open to Bay Area residents and visitors who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, dog walking and other outdoor activities. Its Council asks guests to stay on path and obey trail signs.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail is a work-in-progress for its Council. While it stretches along more than 310 miles of ridge-top terrain, it encircles the Bay Area, and is part of a plan to be extended to a 550-mile outdoor enthusiast’s dream Trail. Their goals may even take them further.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail is supported and protected by the nonprofit organization, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. Their efforts have made it possible to offer this naturally beautiful and functioning trail for bicycling, horseback riders, hikers and anyone who enjoys a breath of fresh air. The Council promotes the Trail, and has dedicated this land to serve as a natural recreational pathway for the people of San Francisco.
85% of the trail is open to cyclists and equestrians i.e. the Golden Gate bridge crossing is one of the few areas not open to horses.
Phoenix is a city of about the same size as Auckland (1.5 million people).
Reach 11 Recreation Area is a 1500 acre park that is currently being extended to include a major sports complex. The recreation area is approximately 7 miles long and less than 1/2 mile wide.
It currently includes an equestrian centre, hiking and riding trails, and wildlife/nature desert areas. The City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department provides a variety of programs for people of all ages and ability levels.
San Diego County Trails
There are many miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in the County's parks and open space preserves
Cross Florida Greenway
Go green with envy when you check out the Cross Florida Greenway network, including the 110 mile Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway and trail bridges that cross major interstate highways. In Florida the creation of recreation trails is seen as part of a statewide initiative to connect communities. Read More ...
The Trans Canadian Trail
An 18,000 kilometre recreational corridor winding its way through every Province and territory, linking 800 communities along its route. When completed, this will be the longest trail of its kind in the world, connecting all regions. The Trail accommodates five core activities: walking, cycling, horseback riding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Some sections of the trail also accommodate trail bikes and ATVs. Amongst the reasons given for this immense project are that it is a stimulus for local economies e.g. bed and breakfasts and support services.
This bridlepath goes through a golf-course.
UK Bridlepaths Network
In the United Kingdom bridleways (also known as bridlepaths), in both rural and urban areas are part the traditional rights of way network. Bridleways have always been shared between horses and walkers. Since 1967 cyclists and mobility devices have also been allowed on bridlepaths.
Many are little more than ancient animal tracks. Some are paved, many are not and many go across private land or through urban areas.
The Pennine Way Bridleway
Like all bridleways in the UK, this Bridleway is for horses, cyclists and walkers. Many sections are also accessible for all terrain wheelchairs. Completed over 10 years. the Pennine Way covers 205 miles of scenic trails.
Crychan Forest, Wales
Crychan Trails is a partnership between the Crychan Forest Association and Forestry Commission Wales. They provide trails for horse-riding, carriage driving, walking and cycling.
Crychan Forest is one of many recreation areas and bridleways in Wales, encouraged as part of the country’s eco and adventure tourism initiatives.
The South Downs Way
160km following old droving routes and bridleways.
- Public Access Paradise!
In 2003 The Scottish Parliament took the amazing step of declaring all lands open to public access. Yes, all lands including private land. They put in place simple commonsense rules around protecting privacy and public safety. Walkers, horse riders and cyclists therefore share all paths, tracks and lands.
You may also be interested in this blog, which gives great information on the Scottish Outdoor Code, and provides other excellent advice, and in these case studies, showing a number of circumstances where horse riders have obtained access, and worked around issues
Almost all municipalities in Central Limburg have laid out a network of bridle paths and tracks for horse-drawn carriages
Bridle paths and shared paths criss-cross the Netherlands, including into their biggest cities.
Note the tramway and road running right next to to this urban bridleway, and the simple dirt surface.
Photo: Stockholm (Kista), Sweden
Link to photo album of Swedish urban bridlepaths (courtesy Doug Hunt)
Yes! International routes (ones that cross international borders) and public access ways exist.
For instance, the Sbrinz Packhorse Route an old, almost-forgotten packhorse route was reopened in 2003. It runs from just south of Lucerne, Switzerland to Domodossola in Northern Italy.
Germany - Holland - Belgium Cross-border bridle paths
Germany and Belgium are easy to reach from Holland on horseback through the Nature Park Maas-Swalm-Nette, the National Park de Meinweg and the border park Grenspark Kempen~Broek. You need a permit known as a ‘Reitkennzeichen’ to be allowed to ride in the countryside or in the woods in Germany.
The Kidman Trail
Closer to home South Australia created the Kidman Trail and there are a number of other trails throughout Australia that include horses.
The Kidman Trail, SA.Australia
Australian Rail Trails
The Tasmanian Trail is a long distance, multi-purpose recreational trail extending from Devonport on the northern coast of Tasmania to Dover in the south. It has a length of 480 kilometres.
The Trail is intended for use by walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. Therefore it differs from other trails that have usually started as walking tracks and are therefore restricted in use.
The Australian BiCentennial Trail
Mainly aimed at horse riders, and walkers this 5000km trail links up historic stock routes, and also caters to mountain bikers (on the easier bits)