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Trails Need Good Humans

First and foremost, I’ll be writing this from the perspective of a mountain biker, a runner, and also a hiker who has been able to enjoy various types of trail systems. Currently, I am an active member of FORBA (Forsyth Offroad Bicycle Association), which puts in countless hours of trail work at Horizons, Hobby, and Tanglewood Parks. Regardless of what type of trail you are on and how you are accessing it, I hope by reading this article you will come away being more aware of how our own attitudes and actions affect the trails. Most importantly, I encourage you to share these ideas and have conversations with other trail users, especially people who may be new to trails in general.

When you access a trail system in our area, you are sure to encounter walkers, runners, mountain bikers, hikers, and sometimes as in the case of Tanglewood Park, horses. Typically, a trail system will have signs/maps located at the trailhead with important information to read and become familiar with, because each trail is a little different. While each trail may be different in mileage, terrain, and the types of users, you may also notice differences in people’s attitudes towards the trails and each other. Here’s where it is important to realize a little bit of trail etiquette goes a long way and for every trail, it should be the same. The following tips will go a long way in providing you with an enjoyable experience as well as the preservation of our trail systems and the hope we can continue to enjoy them for a long time to come.

Tip #1 Who has the right of way vs who wants the right of way.

The faster person should always be yielding. For example, mountain bikes yield to runners, runners yield to hikers, hikers yield to walkers and everyone yields to horses. When traveling in the opposite direction of each other, the faster person should pull over and allow the slower person to pass safely. Typically, we encourage runners, walkers, and hikers to travel in the opposite direction as mountain bikers, because well, it just makes sense. No matter who you are, it is common decency to call out to someone ahead of you and let them know you are about to overtake them from behind. You might say, “On your left.” Or, “Hi, I’d like to pass.” When I’m on my mountain bike or when I am running, I will greet whomever I am coming up on, with a “Hello” or, “Hi, how are you?” (More on this later).

Tip #2 Leave NO Trace!

Honestly, not depositing your trash on the ground is the most decent thing humans can do when they are accessing trail systems. Most trailheads will have trash cans, but even if one is not available, or if it is full, please take your trash with you! I believe this tip works especially well when you are trying to figure out whether to ride your mountain bike after it rains. If your tires, leave an imprint on the trail, it is too wet to ride!! A good general rule for rain is usually “no riding for at least 24 hours after raining.” Also, if you do encounter muddy/wet spots, ride through not around. It also helps to be aware that maintaining the trails requires time and work provided by volunteers of trail advocacy groups, like FORBA. As we approach warmer temperatures, mother nature will provide more showers and even storms, so please give our trails time to dry out.

Tip #3 Say, Hello.

Saying hello to people on the trail not only shows that you are friendly, but it shows you are aware of others who may be enjoying the trail for the same reasons you are. Taking that extra minute to make eye contact or to acknowledge someone might even contribute to your own safety. It’s important as a mountain biker and a runner that someone on the trail heard my voice or noticed the color of my jersey because it puts it in their mind that I am out there. If you are a blur in passing, then you are also a blur in someone’s mind.

Tip #4 Take Care of Your Dog!!

The reason most trailheads have signs that ask dog owners to keep their dogs leashed is mainly that the interactions between dogs are something we often can not control. While you might think or feel your dog is friendly, you cannot guarantee that other dogs are. Also, you cannot guarantee that someone on a bike will be able to remain in control when your dog runs by them or near them. This tip not only protects the owner, but it also protects the dog.

As I conclude, trails need good humans. Being a good human means doing what’s right and what will, in the long run, protect our trail systems, even if that means having a conversation with someone who has no clue. Being a good human means being respectful of other users, period.

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