"The homeless man said he believes the trail ought to be closed at night for safety." That's an ominous quote from an unlikely source. It regards a new bike trail winding through a rough part of Seattle called The Jungle.
Concerns about crime near bike trails are not new. Beyond Seattle they have surfaced in Los Angeles, and Virginia Beach.
The takeaway message? There are ways to master bike trail design and ways to botch it.
This blog has shown how proper analysis and design can humanize and insulate urban designs, from ATMs and street furniture to lighting and trails.
Last month I spent time in St. Petersburg, Florida on the Pinellas Trail. It is an award-winning bike/jogging/walking trail that runs 40 miles from Tarpon Springs and Clearwater to St. Petersburg. The trail is 20 years old and I was impressed at the extent, quality, and resources the community invested in making this work.
Along the Pinellas trail you find art, bike shops, and bus stops located nearby for walkers who decide to bus home. Pinellas encourages vendor concessions and adjacent parks with places for wedding photos. In CPTED these are called activity generators.
Parts of it run through downtown St Petersburg, where some crimes do occur. For example about a dozen robberies are reported each year, mostly teens stealing from other teens (but not always).
Consider that a quarter million residents in St Petersburg experience over 1,000 robberies each year, and crime on Pinellas Trail seems remarkably low.
The day I visited there were walkers, joggers and bikers. It has an emergency response system and fairly strict rules (no alcohol, daytime only operation, no headphones permitted while biking).
Here's the question: Do municipalities demand a proper crime analysis, safety consultation and CPTED review before they construct bike/jogging/walking trails? If SafeGrowth planning was part of municipal development, that question would be irrelevant.