Joggers and hikers who use Sope Creek and the popular fitness trail loop at Cochran Shoals in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia will soon find they'll be sharing more of the trail network with mountain bikes.
Sometime in April the NRA will open nearly 7 miles of trail in those areas to bikes. Later this week NRA crews will begin installing signage and bike barriers to show bikers where they can, and can't, ride.
Currently, just about 2.5 miles of trails in the Cochran Shoals area are open to bikes, and that route follows an administrative road. The plan being incorporated will expand the multiple-use trail mileage to 6.7 miles, leaving 3 miles to hiking only.
During the development of an environmental assessment on the proposal, concerns were raised both over the safety of hikers and bikers sharing the same trails and erosion caused by the bikes. NRA officials believe they can avoid those issues by creating a loop-system for bikes and better trail construction.
"Conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists are primarily caused by the difference in speeds between the users. Bicyclists can often travel at higher speeds, and the speed differential between bicyclists and pedestrians may reduce the communication between the users, startle pedestrians, and increase the odds of conflict," NRA officials noted in a notice about the multiple-use trails placed in the Federal Register. "To minimize the potential for conflict, the Cochran Shoals trail network was designed to create a 6.7-mile loop-style system, rather than an out-and-back style trail, thereby reducing traffic and congestion at any given point on the trail."
Under the approved rule, the NRA superintendent holds the authority to close the trails to bikes following wet weather that could lead to easily erodable trails and water quality issues.