Just over one million miles -- that’s the distance covered during the more than 147,000 trips made by cyclists and walkers using the Cannon Valley Trail during the summer of 2018, according to a report published by the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota.

Putting that distance of 1,038,500 miles into perspective: That is the equivalent of going around the earth at the equator 42 times.

While bicyclists accounted for 86% of total traffic on the Cannon Valley Trail, the report noted that near downtown areas and near campgrounds, pedestrians accounted for 52% to 78% of trail traffic.

The trail was used continuously during all months of the study, but July was the busiest month. An average day saw more than 300 users pass by several of the counting locations.

Researchers found higher use on weekends when traffic is normally twice as heavy as during the week. Weekend volume sometimes exceeded 1,000 users per day.

On a daily basis, the study showed that late morning and early afternoon, generally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. were the busiest times at most of the counting locations.

To arrive at the distance and user numbers, the Parks and Trails Council monitored traffic on the 30-mile trail system formed by the Cannon Valley Trail, the Goodhue Pioneer State Trail, Mill Towns State Trail, and connecting city trails.

They conducted traffic counts at 18 locations between May 22, 2018, and October 31, 2018 by using two types of counting devices at most sites. Pairing an Eco Country PYRO -- a passive infrared counter -- with an Eco Counter TUBE -- a pneumatic tube counter -- they were able to determine relatively accurate use numbers.

Cannon Valley Trail users can take a break at the Marshall Memorial Rest Area about two miles east of Welch.  The rest area is named for late Republican Eagle Publisher Albert Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth Marshall, both strong supporters of parks and trails.  Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
Cannon Valley Trail users can take a break at the Marshall Memorial Rest Area about two miles east of Welch. The rest area is named for late Republican Eagle Publisher Albert Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth Marshall, both strong supporters of parks and trails. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

“Passive infrared sensors count all trail users and do not distinguish between bicyclists and pedestrians,” according to the Cannon Valley Trail System 2018 Traffic Estimates report. “Pneumatic tubes only count bicycles. Using both types of counters in tandem is necessary to estimate both total traffic and mode split.”

The report explained that non-motorized trail use is often weather-dependent and that 2018 had several periods of bad weather, including storm damage that caused a one-week closure of the Cannon Valley Trail in September.

The Parks and Trails Council is a nonprofit organization founded in 1954. They work to protect threatened and critical land by advocating at the Minnesota State Capitol and by publishing research on Minnesota’s parks and trails.