Bike Trails: Etiquette

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Excuse: “I want to bike without worry about traffic and stopping.” 

I love biking around town, but sometimes you just want to bike for miles and not worry about stopping every block for a stop sign. This is where bike trails come in handy. Miles of paved trail, winding through neighborhoods and nature, typically have less to worry about in terms of cars and potholes. Of course, a trail can be just as much of a nuisance if everyone doesn’t follow bike trail etiquette. As you gear up to hit a local trail (and I highly recommend it), keep the following rules in mind:

–       Passing: Just as with cars, always pass on the left. Before passing another traveler, whether a pedestrian, cyclist or another trail friend, make sure to let them know that you’re coming. A simple “Passing on the left!” will do. You’ll find that it keeps pedestrians from randomly stepping in your way, letting their dog cut you off, and, really, it’s just polite. Of course, never pass when going around a turn, especially a blind turn.

–       Stay to the Right: Treat a trail like a street and stay on the right side of the trail. Even better, if it’s clear to do so, stay toward the right of your right lane, allowing others to pass you more easily without getting in the way of on coming traffic. Keep this in mind when rounding corners. If you’re clipping along, it’s easy to have enough speed that you swing into the oncoming lane around a tight turn. This is dangerous and can really freak out an oncoming cyclist.

–       Squeezing Between: For some reason, the science of trails means that inevitably at some point several people will be in the exact same point in the trail at the exact same time. A runner will be coming towards you on their side of the trail, a dog walker in front of you on your side, and you’ll need to pass exactly when they intersect. It may be a bit inconvenient, but slow down and wait. Do not squeeze between groups to pass.

–       Groups: If you are riding with a friend, riding two abreast is fine if there is nobody around you. However, if there are others on the trail (or will likely be others ahead), keep it to single file. This keeps extra middle room clear for passing.

–       Taking a Break: If you need to stop, be sure to pull over on the side, off the trail. Do so after a straightaway so you don’t pull over just after a corner (this will make it easier to get back in). It’s unsafe to simply stop in your tracks in the trail, even if just for a minute. Get out of the way and when you’re ready to get back on on the path, make sure to take a good look both directions.

–       Obey Signs and Signals: Trails will intersect with streets and traffic at some points. In those moments, always follow the posted signage, even if it feels inconvenient. It’s easy to assume drivers are expecting to see a cyclist where a bike trail crosses their path. Assume they aren’t. Follow the rules of the road and if there is a stop sign, stop. If the crossing signals says to wait, wait.

–       Bring a Snack: This isn’t etiquette, but it’s good practice. When you’re doing a long ride, be sure to bring some water and a healthy snack with you (like trail mix or a Clif bar). The general rule is “Eat before you are hungry, Drink before you are thirsty.”

There are miles of trails around the country to explore. They’re also a great place to practice your biking if you’re still not feeling comfortable enough to ride on the road.

Have suggestions to add? Share your bike trail etiquette suggestions in the comments below!

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