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A footpath (also pedestrian way, walking trail, nature trail) is a type of thoroughfare that is intended for use only by pedestrians, not other forms of traffic such as motorized vehicles and horses. They can be paths within an urban area, or rural paths through the countryside. Urban footpaths are usually paved, may have steps, are called alleys, lanes, steps, etc., and may be named. Other public rights of way, such as bridleways, byways, towpaths, and green lanes are also used by pedestrians.
The terms "shared-use path", "separated-use path" or "multi-use path" may be used, if pedestrians and other forms of traffic make use of the same thoroughfare. The term footpath can also be used to describe a pavement / sidewalk in some English speaking countries.
Footpaths may be constructed of masonry, brick, poured or modular unit concrete, cut stone or wood boardwalk. Also crushed rock, decomposed granite, fine wood chips are commonly used. The construction materials can vary over the length of the footpath and may start with a well constructed hard surface in an urban area, and end with an inexpensive soft or loose surface in the countryside.
Footpaths do have drawbacks. The main issues include maintenance, litter, crime, and lighting after dark. There are also growing issues concerning conflict between walkers and livestock resulting in severe injures and deaths. Dog walking is also associated with these conflicts - see Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. As many footpaths can be in remote locations, it can be difficult to provide needed routine maintenance to them.
Types of footpaths
Footpaths can be located in many settings for varied uses and experiences. As a few examples, these can include:
- parks: for means of convenient, recreational, and aesthetic, movement in and through public spaces, urban parks, neighborhood parks, linear parks, botanic gardens, and regional parks.
- in gardens and designed landscapes: in private gardens, at school, university and business park campuses; and at park visitors centers as natural history interpretive nature trails in designed wildlife gardens.
- in sculpture gardens and open air museums, as sculpture trails and historic interpretive trails.
- in a wilderness setting, such as a day-trail or long-distance trail within a protected nature reserve, such as a national park, from a trailhead.
- as jogging or running paths.
- as disability handicapped and wheelchair accessible paths meeting ADA specifications in sensory gardens and all the above settings.