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New research on greenways encourages more stops along the way

If you build greenways, will people really come?

Greenways and multipurpose bicycle paths have been built since the 1890s, though little systematic research has been conducted on greenway designs and people’s preferences in using them.

But a recently completed dissertation by Anne Lusk at the University of Michigan provides research that shows how new or under-utilized greenways and sidewalks, parks and streets might be improved. The overall goal of the research was to increase exercise and improve health.

Based on extensive investigation of six preferred greenways, Lusk found that when people walk, jog, in-line skate or bicycle, they identify three to four places along the route where they stop or pass by but acknowledge as achieved goals. This Theory of Destinations has been underutilized in urban design, she says.

Lusk has summarized her findings in a set of 23 guidelines for greenway development. Previous guidelines have focused on the necessary engineering for safety, drainage or accessibility, but these guidelines address the needs of the trail users. For example, social bridges or design elements at destinations can promote interaction between strangers.

For the research, Lusk developed the Pathway Destination Survey that identifies the preferred distance between and the features of destinations. The survey was designed as an assessment tool to be easily and affordably implemented by communities. She received her doctorate in architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at U-M.

"Anne Lusk's work offers a complete health track to new urbanism that heretofore has primarily focused on the broader goals of reducing car trips, encouraging mass transit and building concentrated communities," said Doug Kelbaugh, dean of the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. "In addition to pedestrian and bicyclists considerations, Lusk proposes multiple destinations as magnets and an inclusion of joggers and in-line skaters."

Destry Jarvis, executive director of the National Recreation and Park Association, said that with the growing epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in America, there is no better time for Anne Lusk's study.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. that helps create a nationwide network of public trails from former rail lines, has reviewed the study. "Anne Lusk's design principles can uniquely improve the rail-trail experience because these corridors were originally engineered for the expedient passage of trains," said Marianne Fowler, senior vice president of programs for RTC.

Lusk has been invited to be a visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she will write and continue her research. The Guidelines for Greenways are available at: http://www.tcaup.umich.edu/acadpgm/archphd/research/greenways/ Contact Anne Lusk at AnneLusk@aol.com

Contact: Maureen Perdomo
Phone: (734) 763-6518
Email: mperdomo@umich.edu