Respect the Trail: 7 Practices for Riding Responsibly on Bike Trails
June 9, 2023
In honor of National Trail Day that occurred on June 3rd, we thought it would be a great idea to take this opportunity to remind everyone, including ourselves, about proper trail riding etiquette. Trails offer a wonderful opportunity for many people to explore the outdoors, stay active and connect with nature! To promote a harmonious experience for all trail users, for hikers and cyclists alike, we’re going to delve into the essentials.
Here are the 7 ways you can ride responsibly on bike trails:
- 1. Plan Ahead
- 2. Use Proper Pathways
- 3. Be Aware & Control Speed
- 4. Be Courteous
- 5. Pass With Care
- 6. Leave No Trace
- 7. Respect Wildlife
(Click on the section titles above to roll to the desired subject)
1. Plan Ahead
By being prepared, not only will you be ready for the route ahead, but you’ll open yourself up to a more enjoyable ride!
Before hitting the trails, familiarize yourself with any specific rules or guidelines that may apply to you. Different trails have different regulations, such as speed limits or designated bike-only areas. Be conscious of ebikes usage. Ebikes are classified differently than traditional bicycles, and may not be permitted on certain trails.
E bike trails are generally trails for Class I and Class II ebikes. Call your local agencies or park authorities or search online to find out what the ebike laws are in your area, and if your ebike is allowed on the trail.
Know Your Route
It can get pretty rugged out there. If you know your experience level and what kind of ride you’re looking for, selecting a route ahead of time can prepare you for what to expect. Research the trail or trails and pack accordingly. Some trails are longer than others so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. And most importantly practice safe riding by always wearing a helmet!
If you’re looking for beginner bike trails, or wondering “Are there ebike trails near me?” There’s plenty of opportunity for everyone. So pick a trail to your ability level, and get out there!
Ensure your bike is in good working condition before hitting the trails. Regular maintenance keeps your bike running smoothly and minimizes the chances of mechanical issues. Routine maintenance and ride pre-checks can keep your bike at its highest performance level. Check out our blog ‘Bike Safety Checks You Should Always Do’ to find out more about prepping for your big ride.
2. Use Proper Pathways
Why is it important to stay on trail? For starters, trails are carefully planned and maintained to provide a safe and enjoyable ride for all trail users. But that’s only a bit of the dirt that goes into trail safety.
Trails minimize environmental impact and preserve the natural surroundings. By staying on designated trails, you help protect fragile ecosystems, prevent soil erosion, and preserve vegetation. When you venture off-trail, you can disturb wildlife habitats and disrupt their natural behaviors.
Most trails are designed with safety in mind, taking into account factors such as grade, visibility, and potential hazards. Straying from the trail increases the risk of accidents, encounters with dangerous terrain, or collisions with other trail users.
By staying on a designated trail you can help maintain a consistent experience for all users! It ensures that everyone can easily follow the trail's intended route, markers, and signage, avoiding confusion and potential navigation challenges.
Trails often traverse public or private lands with specific access permissions. By staying on the trail, you demonstrate respect for the property rights of landowners and minimize the risk of trespassing.
By adhering to the trail and respecting any associated rules and regulations, you contribute to maintaining positive relationships with landowners, trail managers, and the local community. This, in turn, helps secure ongoing access to the trail for future enjoyment!
3. Be Aware & Control Speed
Being attentive to your surroundings is crucial. Keep an eye out for fellow trail users, wildlife, and any potential hazards. When approaching others, communicate your presence in a friendly manner to reduce startled reactions and promote a sense of community on the trail.
Maintaining a safe and moderate speed is key to preventing accidents and conflicts on the trail. Slow down when approaching blind corners, crowded areas, or when encountering obstacles. Be prepared to stop if necessary, ensuring the safety of both yourself and others.
4. Be Courteous
Trails are for everyone! Keep that in mind before you head out on multi-use trails. Exercising patience and courtesy towards fellow trail users can enhance everyone's experience. If you come across slower-moving individuals, wait for a safe opportunity to pass, and give them ample space. A smile or friendly gesture can go a long way.
Whether you're sharing the trail with pedestrians, joggers, or equestrians, it's crucial to respect their presence. Slow down and yield the right of way to others, giving them enough space when passing. Remember, not all trail users may be familiar with cyclists' behavior, so patience and courtesy go a long way.
5. Passing With Care
If there’s one rule to remember while riding on a trail, it’s this: Ride on the right, pass on the left. This flow of trail traffic ensures the safety of all trail users. But there’s more to it than that.
Clear communication is vital on bike trails. Using hand signals or vocal alerts to indicate your intentions when passing or overtaking others can be a good way to get someone’s attention. A friendly verbal greeting or a bell ring when approaching from behind is a good way to prevent surprise and promote a positive interaction!
Also, keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings. Just because you’re following the rules doesn’t mean that everyone else is. Stay alert and pedal on!
6. Leave No Trace
Preserving the natural beauty of bike trails is essential for future enjoyment. Always carry out your trash and dispose of it properly. Avoid littering and respect the environment. This means staying on trail (see Proper Paths). Ride on designated trails to refrain from disturbing plants, animals, or any natural features you encounter.
Remember, what you pack in, you pack out. This will keep our natural areas beautiful for everyone!
7. Respect Wildlife
It’s called “wild” for a reason. Animals on biking trails may become frightened and protect themselves in certain situations. To avoid finding yourself in a confrontation with a wild animal, here’s a few things you can do:
- Be on the lookout. When an animal is startled, such as bears or mountain lions, they may want to protect themselves.
- If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll know what sort of wildlife to expect on the trail. If there are larger animals (such as bears or mountain lions), make sure you’ve learned the proper techniques on how to act when you encounter them.
- If you’re going on a trail that’s isolated, it’s best to ride with one or more people. Animals are more than likely to leave you alone if there’s more of you.
- Leave them be. Don’t provoke or draw attention to yourself if you can. This will offer the opportunity for more people to enjoy nature and all the beautiful wildlife found within it.
Remember, most animals are afraid of you more than you’re probably afraid of them. So keep calm and do your best to prevent the situation from escalating.
Trail Fun For Everyone
By adhering to proper bike trail etiquette, we, as a biking community can continue to make the outdoors a place of beauty and wonder and joy. You may be wondering “Are there bike trails near me that I can help preserve?” And the answer is, yes!
The biking community and various organizations have worked hard to keep outdoor riding alive. By doing your part of maintaining respect, patience and communication on the trail, you can leave a lasting impression of responsible and considerate biking for future generations to enjoy.
Gear up and hit the trails!