A Detailed Analysis of How an Urban Trail System Affects Cyclists' Travel

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - track, mode - bike, mode - rail, place - urban, planning - route design, planning - surveys


Urban areas, Travel surveys, Travel behavior, Origin and destination, O&D, Minneapolis (Minnesota), Distance, Cyclists, Cycling paths, Cycling, Cycle tracks, Bikeways, Bicyclists, Bicycling, Bicycle trails, Bicycle routes, Bicycle riders, Bicycle paths


This study addresses how travel is affected by the use of off-street bicycling trails, specifically the role of distance to the trail in using such facilities. The paper describes a highly detailed analysis of use along an off-street facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The core questions examined the relationships between: (1) the propensity of using the trail based on distance from the trip origin and destination, and (2) how far out of their way trail users travel for the benefit of using the trail and explanatory factors for doing so. The data used in the analysis was collected as a human intercept survey along a section of an off-street facility. The analysis demonstrates that a cogent distance decay pattern exists and that the decay function varies by trip purpose. More than half of the riders cycled less than 2,500 m to reach the trail and there was a sharp decline after that. Findings also suggest that bicyclists travel, on average, 67% longer in order to include the trail facility on their route. The effect is heightened on weekends and on longer trips. This distance decay and shortest path versus taken path analysis can aid in the planning of new trail systems. Directions for future research are discussed.