Our time on trails is precious. We enjoy the scenery, we like the exercise, and we appreciate the time to be with our thoughts. But sometimes the moments are interrupted when we encounter other users. Let’s model the best behaviors and teach/encourage others to do the same so that we all return home with happy feelings about our time out on the trail.
Most people think that sharing the trail is common sense, and that’s true to a point. But the more you ride, walk, or jog on a trail, the more curious encounters you may likely have. Some trail users thoughtfully pay attention to their surroundings, while others get caught up in their experience and forget that their actions may impact the joy others wish to achieve.
With the help of Bike Fed staff, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, and our friends at Rail to Trails Conservancy, we would like to share some resources and reminders that can help you and others enjoy more great times on trails. These tips are perfect for parents, new trail users, bike education and club leaders, as well as a general refresher for yourself and those who plan to head out on a group ride of any size. And be sure to become familiar with posted trail sign rules on every ride as they vary from location to location.
Wisconsin Bike Fed and Wisconsin DNR Trail Etiquette
This quick but detailed summary created in partnership between Bike Fed’s Community Engagement Manager Michelle Bachaus, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission encourages all users to share trails equitably and courteously. Simple techniques like announcing your presence as you pass on the left with a quick “hello” or a bell ring can gently give advance notice to walkers or cyclists and give them a moment to become aware but not startled. It is also a perfect time for those walking a dog to tighten up the leash and guide their pet to the outside, giving everyone peace of mind that there won’t be any sudden or unexpected moves across the path.
A valuable tip for all trail users who like to listen to music or podcasts while walking or rolling – using one earbud, one side of your headphones, or managing the volume on your radio can help you better hear announcements from other trail users as well as oncoming cars and trains at street and railroad crossings. When being passed on the left, a simple acknowledgement with a hand-raise or a returned greeting will assure all users involved that everyone is on the same page.
Rails to Trails Conservancy Video Series
Not surprisingly, our friends at Rails to Trails Conservancy want everyone to have a great experience while biking and walking on trails, and have a series of videos that encourage us all to share the trail and just be nice. Each of the six short videos demonstrates potentially bad trail behavior followed by the proper way to handle situations. Although most of us understand the value of alerting fellow trail users as we pass from behind, there are courtesies that are just as important when traveling in opposite directions towards each other.
In the video’s Rule #1, we’re encouraged to “consider the comfort of others.” This can be very meaningful for how a group of riders approaches other oncoming recreational walkers and bikers. When cyclists are riding towards each other, it is important to stay in your respective “lane” even if not marked, as you are both approaching at increasing speed and the gap closes very quickly. Don’t wait too long to get in single file or expect others to slow down or feel pushed to the edge of the path. As soon as you see someone approaching, please give them peace of mind by moving over promptly.
Parents & leaders of youth/adult bicycle education program & bike clubs –
Please save and share these resources with your children, students, and club members to multiply the number of savvy trail users in your community!