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This blog is on fire! Great information day after day.

FYI Here is Raw Data from survey

And here is Summary of Survey

Kudos to Brett Young for working with those who had hoped to quash this idea, and coming out with data overwhelmingly in support of making improvements. I didn't think it could be done. By having this data hopefully we can avoid those meetings where the media pick up on those against the trail and paints them as being the majority voice, which tends to make the DDOT folks and the politicians shy away from getting something done. Now, let's hope we can get DDOT's attention and have some design work done!

A couple of notes about the methodology of the survey:

Opponents of improvements have claimed that the survey has an implicit bias because so many of the questions were about improvements. The reality is simple: if you're against any improvement, you only need a one-question survey.

There was one question where respondents were asked to rate the statement, "I prefer no enhancements." Of respondents, 7% agreed somewhat and 18% strongly agreed, while 53% strongly disagreed and 10% mildly disagreed. So clearly, leaving the trail as-is is a minority position.

This question was worded in a confusing way -- it's a double-negative -- so some trail opponents have claimed the results aren't reliable because of confusion. However, random confusion would tend to drive the results closer to a 50-50 split. The only way that confusion would understate the level of trail opposition is if trail opponents are more prone to confusion than trail supporters. It's a scurrilous slander to tar trail opponents as easily confused, so I won't entertain that possibility.

While the survey does a good job of establishing a high overall level of support for trail improvements, it falls down on the two most contentious factors, what the surface should be and what the role of bicycles should be. In many ways they are the same question. Currently cycling is permitted on the trail, but the surface of grass and dirt is impassible by bicycle for much of its length. Among many of those who oppose improvements it's an article of faith that opening the trail to cyclists will make it unusable for any other purpose. Certainly the proximity of the Capital Crescent Trail, which experiences periods of heavy use that make it unpleasant to dangerous for non-cyclists, weighs heavy in the minds of respondents.

For the surface, respondents were asked to rank five possible surfaces: no change, wood chips, gravel, paving, and a combination. The problem with ranking is it says nothing about the intensity of feeling, respondents have no way of indicating whether they approve of an option. From the responses there is no way of determining whether a compromise surface, acceptable to a majority of respondents, exists. Further complicating things, the five options are not exhaustive, other surfaces exist, and the multiple surfaces option is really a non-answer answer.

Turning to bicycle, respondents were asked if bicycles should be allowed on the trail, and were given three choices: yes, no, and yes with (unspecified) speed control features. The results broke down almost evenly: yes 25%, no 39% and yes with speed control 36%. Again, from the way the question was asked it's impossible to tell whether a satisfactory consensus exists.

What's clear is that the trail should be designed so that non-bicyclists don't feel pushed out. For most of the trail the right-of-way is wide enough that separate walking and riding surfaces could be provided. Where there are pinch points, the trail could be designed to encourage cyclists to slow down and yield.

Overall, the survey is really a breakthrough accomplishment, and everyone involved should be commended.

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