QUESTION: I understand that the final rule for accessible rights-of-way, or PROWAG, has been delayed as the U.S. Justice Department incorporates shared use path language into public right-of-way guidelines. What language should we follow in the interim?

ANSWER: In its attempt to develop an inclusive standard, the phrase “shared use path” can be confusing. Here’s language straight from the guidelines that may will help.

Public comments raised valid issue

You can read the Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way; Shared Use Paths. The Executive Summary defines shared use paths as multiuse paths designed primarily for use by bicyclists and pedestrians, including pedestrians with disabilities, for transportation and recreation. They’re physically separated from motor vehicle traffic by an open space or barrier, and are either within the highway right-of-way or an independent right-of-way.

Because shared use paths are distinct from trails and sidewalks, public comments recommended that guidelines be developed specifically for them.

The Executive Summary states, “the proposed guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way would require access routes to be provided within circulation paths and establish proposed technical provisions for width, grade, cross slope, and surface (see R204.2 and R302). Where existing circulation paths are altered and physical constraints make it impracticable for altered paths to fully comply with proposed technical provisions, compliance would be required to the extent practicable (see R202.3.1).”

The board has incorporated the multiuse pathways within the sidewalks because they often intersect, which wasn’t originally considered.

Per R105.5, sidewalks and shared use paths are types of pedestrian circulation paths. As revised by the Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM), the term “pedestrian circulation paths” in R204.2 includes sidewalks and shared use paths.

R302.3 Continuous Width. Except as provided in R302.3.1 and R302.3.2, the continuous clear width of pedestrian access routes shall be at least 4 feet, excluding the width of the curb.

R302.3.2 Shared Use Paths. A pedestrian access route shall be provided for the full width of a shared use path.

As a member of the original PROWAG committee (PROWAAC) from 2000 to 2003, I initially was very upset that the PROWAG wasn’t moved to the final rule. Now I see this addition as positive because the outcome will be more inclusive.

To answer your question

No one knows when the final rule will be published. But in the meantime, you can never go wrong by using the existing guidelines. Doing so shows your municipality is following the spirit of the law by using the most recent best practices.

When you visit the website, click on public comments in the right-hand column. I’ve learned from the praise, concerns, and technical information provided by commenters, who include municipal and county public works departments, advocates for the disabled, consultants who specialize in accessible design.

The website’s left-hand column provides the table of contents to the proposed rule.

Michele S. Ohmes is an Americans with Disabilities Act consultant. She travels the country giving presentations, and providing training and consulting work. You can e-mail