Let's All Practice Simple Etiquette on Our Bike Trails
Whether you're a walker, runner, biker or driver, we can all learn to coexist.
It seems people just can't seem to get along these days. Whether it's partisan political discourse or the latest news event, no one wants to give up an inch of ground. Even on our local bike trails we can't seem to compromise.
The bike trail is for the enjoyment and exercise of everyone, but spring seems to bring out the worst behavior as people get used to spreading their wings outdoors again. Walkers and runners travel four abreast and don't allow anyone to pass, bikers whip by at breakneck speeds, drivers don't stop to let exercisers cross the street, and the inevitable cursing, yelling and fighting occurs. Aren't we supposed to be adults?
Speaking as a member of all four groups, I can tell you that we need to all coexist. So, in the interest of getting along, here are some basic courtesies and guidelines to use while navigating the trails.
Stay to your right on the path, and pass on the left, even if it seems like no one else is around. There's always going to be someone faster than you that needs to pass you up. Don't curse him because he's going faster; remember that you are faster than someone else.
Don't take up the whole path. While I completely understand that exercising is a companion effort, it doesn't mean you should choke up the whole path with your group. Walking or running two abreast is probably OK, as long as you stick close together to the left, unless of course the two of you take up the whole width of the path.
I'm always amazed on busy Sunday mornings the number of people that seem oblivious to the fact they have spread out so wide there's no room for anyone else to get by from either direction. Really? Be aware of your surroundings. If you sense someone else is coming up behind you, move to the right and let them pass.
School your kids on proper trail etiquette. There's no doubt we all need to be patient and extend extra courtesy and consideration to the little tykes on their trikes. But it's in parents' best interest to begin teaching them the rules of the trails. I've seen some awful accidents in the making.
When a child makes a quick move and strays into the path of an oncoming bike, either the biker has to stop suddenly and risk flying over the handlebars or hit a child. Neither is a good option. Realize that people are on the paths to exercise; watch your little guys and stay to their left to protect them and guard against any quick moves. Reinforce the rules of the road so they become proper citizens, as well.
Bikers, share the trail. Believe me, I love whipping around turns like there's no tomorrow. But walkers and runners have the same right to the trail. It's OK to go fast, but within reason. We don't own the trail.
Please don't stand in the middle of the trail talking. Awesome that you ran into your neighbor who moved last year. Not awesome to clog up the trail catching up. Move it to the side so others can get by.
Announce yourself when coming from behind. While some think
it's rude for a biker to scream "on your left," it's actually a helpful way to make sure someone moves over and doesn't get surprised. Others prefer a bell on their bike.
Be aware of where you are walking. There are actually some parts of the the Prairie Path and the Salt Creek Greenway Bike Trail that utilize a pedestrian sidewalk. Yet people get incredibly indignant when you are riding along the trail. Last year, I witnessed several bikers getting screamed at and cursed out by a man for riding their bikes along one of these trails. Again, if it's part of the bike trail, practice proper etiquette so all can share it.
Drivers, please give walkers/runners/bikers a break at the designated areas. It's just polite. However, I do agree we also must reciprocate this courtesy. There are times when traffic is moving fast and runners or bikers quickly dart across the street and almost cause an accident. It's not a game of Frogger. Use common sense, and wear something reflective at night; don't make it so difficult for drivers to see you.
Watch your dogs, please. This is directed toward people who have an electric fence and let their dogs run free on it. Or, worse yet, have their dogs off-leash with no electric fence. I cannot tell you how many times I've been running down the street and a massive dog has sprinted toward me, barking and growling like crazy. I don't know if you have an electric fence—often your sign is displayed in another part of your property or not at all. If your dog is unleashed, I have no idea if he is a nice dog or if he's going to tear my head off.
I am a huge animal lover. But having been chased and nearly bitten by a German shepherd as a child, my heart instinctively races uncontrollably when your dog comes at me. Imagine if an elderly person was strolling down the street and your dog came running at him. They might fall down or truly have a heart attack. Use common courtesy, please.
And in the end, take a deep breath and realize nothing is worth getting so upset over. Fistfights, cursing and other violent behavior only serves to ignite the situation.
Instead, stop and smell the roses. Coexisting makes the world a better place for all.