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Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

  • 1.  Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 25 July 2019 18:25

    Recreation Trail construction project in Nillumbik, Victoria. The trail will be a 5.5km extension to an existing trail which connects Diamond Creek to Melbourne CBD approx. 25km away.

     The trail will be shared use and have a concrete surface for pedestrians, cyclists, parents with prams, kids on scooters etc and a natural surface trail running parallel for horse riders. The challenge is the 8 bridges along this trail as we need to cross the creek several times and also cross deep gullies and smaller creek tributaries.

     There are safety concerns about the bridges as 'shared zones' will be about 3m wide (consistent with the concrete trail) and at least 30 m long. The main concerns are risks to all users in confined space, risk of a trail user scaring a horse and what may happen, risk of injury. There are also no specifications to follow to ensure that the bridges are safe for riders, with peds/cyclist bridges we use Austroads standards but the sides of the bridges are 1.5m high.

     I am really looking for some advice on bridge construction:

    • Height of sides of bridges
    • Material considerations
    • Any other design elements to reduce risks for horses, riders and other trail users
    • Any examples or photos that you may know of

     Also any guidance on good signage that may help educate other trail users to share the trail safely with horses, give way signs etc,

     We want this trail to be safe and enjoyable for all users but have to ensure that we manage risk and gather as much information and advice as possible to make sure we get the design right.




  • 2.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 28 July 2019 17:45
    Hi Lisa,
    a few thoughts:
    how many horse riders are you expecting? And is this realistic?
    signage for shared use to encourage no cyclists or walkers on bridge when horses crossing. Encourage user politeness/courtesy...
    good luck!
    Scott Parker
    WBOPDC, Tauranga, NZ

  • 3.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 28 July 2019 21:47

    Whilst I haven't had experience with this particular issue, knowing how flighty horses can be in differing environments, would it be logical to have a "Give Way to Horses" for everyone's safety?


    Cheers, MT


    Mary Townsend

    Projects & Contracts Coordinator
    Strathbogie Shire Council
    P: 03 5795 0000
    | F: 03 5795 3550 | Toll Free: 1800 065 993





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  • 4.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 30 July 2019 17:43
    ​Hi Lisa,

    We have a similar situation on the Great Southern Rail Trail in South Gippsland. Bridge handrails at 1.5m high is not high enough for riders to ride their horses across the bridge. We have erected signs to instruct riders to dismount and walk their horse across the bridge, we have also built mounting platforms at each end of the bridge so that riders can easily mount their horse.

    Special consideration needs to be given to the decking material as the noise made by horses on the deck can spook them. I would not recommend any type of perforated decking as this will also spook them.

    In terms of interaction with horses and riders / walkers on a bridge we have not had any issues.

    All the best.


  • 5.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 28 July 2019 21:47

    Hi Lisa


    You may find this document to be useful:



    Best regards


    Peter La Roche
    Coordinator Asset Management
    Town of Cambridge




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  • 6.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 30 July 2019 17:43
    We have a rail trail network with a series of bridges that have been re-purposed for pedestrian and mixed use. Due to the rural nature and long distanced between towns we assumed the majority of users would bicycle / pedestrians. With the cyclist being at risk with the ride height with the standard 1.5 barrier fence and the risks associated with tyres in the gaps in timbers deck we opted to use signs at each end of the bridge with "Cyclist must dismount" & 'Beware of Gaps in Bridge Deck'  (see attachment). With my experience in L1 Bridge Inspections there is recommendations in ARRB learning guides to deal with cyclist.

    In more recent years during upgrades and  Level 1 & 2 inspections/works it is becoming apparent that horse riding along this area is increasing, and have also permitted horses along sections (as shown in website). To cater for these we have used a similar method as cyclist by using signs stating 'CYCLIST AND HORSE RIDERS MUST DISMOUNT BEFORE CROSSING BRIDGE' (see attachment). We were looking for other methods but the design requirements to retain the potential weight and height that a horse possesses would be impractical, cost incursive and aesthetically questionable an outcome.

    Our situation may differ due to the lower population we do not have to many conflicts with multiple users simultaneously using the bridge. Although in one location (Kilcunda Bridge) it is popular during high Tourism season but primarily are pedestrian beach access users during this time and cyclist. However the dismounting works well.

    Hope this helps.

    Phillip Pritchard
    Asset Officer - Pathways and Drainage
    Bass Coast Shire Council


  • 7.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 31 July 2019 18:42
    I did some work for DPTI (South Australia) several years ago and used a draft copy of their "Hores Trail Infrastructure: Guidelines for Peri-Urban Precincts".  A quick 'Duck Duck Go" -alternative to Google ;) - cannot locate this document, but  Recreation SA produce

    "Guidelines For The Planning, Design, Construction And Maintenance of Recreational Trails In South Australia (Re Vised 2016)"

    This document includes equestrian trail users.  The old draft document had recommendations about surface, pathy width, verticle clearance etc.  A quick look at the new Trail document seems to me that it is less prescriptive, giving guidelines for users of differing abilities.
    Horse SA also has useful information...

    Hugh Dixon
    HDS Australia
    Senior Traffic Engineer


  • 8.  RE: Shared use trail bridge construction including horses

    Posted 31 July 2019 23:47
    It would also be worth a discussion with ATHRA (Aust Trail Horse Rivers Assoc) to see if they have been party to development of standards with state or local government bodies.

    Mildura Rural City Council
    Snr Technical Officer (Building Assets)