Tracking and Analyzing Trail Use in Indianapolis

Identifying environmental factors and policies that influence physical activity

Researchers from the Indiana University Center for Urban Policy and the Environment used new technological tools to:

  • Examine patterns of trail use in Indianapolis across hours of the day, day of the week, month and weather condition.
  • Analyze the relationship between trail use and physical characteristics of trails, characteristics of surrounding neighborhoods and trail management policies.
  • Create statistical models for tracking and analyzing trail use that can be used by people in other parts of the country to better understand trail use in their state or community.

Key Findings:

  • Trail users tended to be cyclists, male and White. Many came to the trails in groups of two or more.
  • Trail use varied systematically by hour of the day, day of the week and month but not from year to year. Average daily use on weekends was about 60 percent higher than average daily use on weekdays.
  • Trail use is higher in areas with high population density, trail greenness, higher percentages of commercial establishments in the neighborhood, parking spaces and longer trail segments between intersections.
  • Simulated models using infrared and remote sensors are effective in forecasting traffic on urban trails.
  • Trail traffic ratios and models can be used to estimate urban trail traffic in a variety of situations.

This project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Active Living Research program. The program funds research that improves knowledge and policies regarding ways that environmental factors affect physical activity, particularly for children.

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