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The benefits of using multi-use trails have been recognized from different perspectives, such as improving public health, expanding active transportation options, and enhancing environmental quality. Trail managers in Greater Cincinnati have developed a 212-mile trail network, with plans to expand and connect the system. Given regional priorities for trail development, trail managers and advocates need to understand more about trail users and how they use the network. In response, two nonprofit organizations in this region, Tri-State Trails and Interact for Health, along with the assistance from researchers at the University of Minnesota, launched Greater Cincinnati’s first comprehensive trail measurement program including both trail traffic monitoring and an intercept survey of trail users. Monitoring results show the network is heavily used: in 2017, monitoring results on 137 miles of the network showed users traveled an estimated 11 million miles on those segments annually (Lindsey et al. 2019).

This paper describes results of the survey which was designed with questions covering trip characteristics, perceptions of the trails, socio-demographics, and locational information. Between August 2017 and October 2017, 31 trail staff and volunteers administered the survey at 20 locations. 734 responses were obtained. Three methods are used to analyze the survey: descriptive summary, statistical association analysis, and geographical mapping. The descriptive results show 89% of respondents are recreational users while only 8.8% are utilitarian users. These utilitarian users cluster in areas close to Cincinnati downtown and along a centrally located, long trail that connects several communities. Most recreational users are female, white, between 35 and 64 years old, well-educated, and with relatively high incomes. These users primarily bicycled and walked on trails, drove less than 25 minutes to trail, and traveled less than 5 miles. In contrast, most utilitarian users are male, with income of less than $59,999, walked or biked to trail, and traveled no more than 2 miles on trails. Recreational and utilitarian users’ preferences are consistent with positive attitudes towards trail use and environment. Some differences between recreational and utilitarian users are statistically supported using the statistical association analysis. Geographically, the neighborhood context of trail users with different socio-demographics is displayed to illustrate clustering phenomenon among trail users by race and income.

The differences between recreational and utilitarian users imply the importance of developing policies to satisfy various needs of trail users. This analysis provides a valuable framework for local governments to evaluate, manage, and improve the multi-use trail network.