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Adherence to Physical Distancing Guidelines on Urban Recreational Trails During a Pandemic

Christopher J. Wynveen, Ingrid E. Schneider, Megha Budruk, Heather J. Gibson, William W. Hendricks, Kimberly J. Shinew, Taylor V. Stein, Deonne VanderWoude, Wyatt Tarter


Use of urban trails and other green space during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic reached record highs around the world. Although the use of these resource amenities has been documented to have several physical and mental health benefits, the density of their use during the pandemic required managers to issue guidance and/or use-requirements to mitigate the spread of the virus. Hence, this investigation sought to document adherence to commonly suggested physical distancing guidelines at 14 trails across six states in the United States. Trained research team members unobtrusively observed over 10,000 encounters between trail visitors. Results indicated that over half of visitor groups failed to allow for enough physical distancing between themselves and another party, suggesting a need for trail and green space managers to consider additional messaging and trail design changes to encourage greater adherence to future public health guidelines.

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COVID-19; green space; public health; social distancing; multi-use trail; recreation

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