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[This piece was originally written to address an issue regarding a specific trail. But since it applies to virtually any bikeway, we decided to place it here instead. We've heard of at least two cases in Ohio where cars or trucks were used to perform regular patrols on bikeways. Though this may be an obvious mistake to many, to a few trail overseers it was not. Therefore we felt the subject deserved a proper 'Trailside' seat. It should be noted that though this article addresses the negative impact of these types of trail patrols, the same holds true for any overuse of heavy vehicles. This can include maintenance trucks, ranger suvs or even utility company vehicles.]

The Problem

Car and truck use can undermine the integrity and condition of multi-use, hard surface trails. While illegal or unauthorized vehiclular traffic is often regarded as an obvious perpetrator, it's not unheard of for those responsible for overseeing a trail to make a similar mistake without realizing the consequences. While maintenance and repair projects sometimes require the use of a truck or other large vehicle, routine patrols do not and can have a negative impact.

Not only does automobile traffic have a negative impact on trail surfaces (which are not designed for their regular use), but it presents safety and usage problems as well. Patrolling a bikeway by car requires trail users to clear the trail when the patrol comes through. This is not only impractical, but it begs the question: "What's a wheel chair user to do?" If the patrol attempts to drive around some users it wanders on and off the trail surface contributing to a premature breakdown along the edge. For those that may best relate to economic impact, the bottom line is that premature surface breakdown means premature repair/replacement costs. Repairs and paving are not cheap or within most annual park budgets.

The Solution

A better solution is to use smaller vehicles that integrate better with the flow of trail traffic and have less negative impact, such as a four-wheeler, golf cart or better still, a bicycle! Though some may argue that a bike patrol will do little to combat problems such as vandalism, consider this: A car or truck stands out and can be seen from a considerable distance by vandals. The sound of an approaching 4-wheeler can also be heard well in advance. But a bike is a common sight on the trail and is less likely to alert criminals as it approaches.

What You Can Do

If you use or live in the vicinity of a bikeway where this practice is taking place, please do your part to inform and educate your local city officials, trail volunteers and parks department regarding vehicular impact and the negative consequences. We also encourage you to report such problems to us, so we may assist in educating the overseers and trail users in your area.

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