Biking, hiking and equestrian season is in full swing and the trails are getting more crowded, especially popular areas like Schultz Creek. Here in the Flagstaff area, we are very fortunate to have such an extensive network of trails open to bicycles. Along with that privilege comes the responsibility to behave appropriately and avoid hurting or offending others we meet on the trail. A bit of trail etiquette and good manners can go a long way toward making everybody’s experience in the woods pleasant and keeping our trails bicycle-friendly.
Here are a few tips to help minimize conflicts on the trail both with bicyclists and with other users:
1. Leave no trace! Try to avoid riding in muddy conditions or skidding on the trail. Deep tire tracks and skid marks are bad for the trail and are very obvious to hikers and other trail users. Stay on established trails and don’t cut corners. Don’t drop any garbage.
2. Be nice to everyone you encounter, be they on bike, on foot, or on horses. A friendly “have a nice hike” or “have a nice ride” puts a smile on the face of someone who might otherwise have seen you as a menace.
3. Share the trail fairly. Be considerate enough to slow down or stop when you come upon other bikers, hikers, dogs, and horses. If you’re coming to somebody from behind, let them know with your voice or a bell/horn well before you’re right on top of them. Passing slower bikers can be messy, but the best bet is calling ahead “on your left” or asking “can I get past you, please?” then giving the slower rider a chance to get to the side. When bikes are going opposite directions on the trail, the riders going uphill have right-of-way and those going downhill should stop their bikes, get off to the side, and let them pass. This is negotiable, however — if you want a break during a climb, it’s perfectly okay to pull to the side and wave or call to the downhill riders that they can keep going — but it’s the up to the rider(s) going uphill. It’s usually best to walk your bike past horses, but if you ask the riders they can tell you what their horses are comfortable with. Similarly, ask dog owners what’s the best way to get past, and give them a chance to secure the dog off to the side if necessary. Hikers typically step aside to let bikes go by slowly, especially if the bikers are friendly… but keep in mind that they have right-of-way over bikes on most trails. In all these cases, don’t forget to thank anybody who yields the trail to you.
4. Stay in control. Though many of us like to go fast on our favorite trails, we have to maintain enough control that we can slow or stop when it’s time to share the trail with others. Especially when there are blind corners, sometimes that means riding a little slower than we want to.
5. Educate others. A few “bad apples” can make big problems for everybody. Don’t be afraid to talk with friends or even with strangers on the trail about proper mountain biking etiquette. We’re all in this together — we all benefit when mountain bikers maintain good relations with other trail users, and we all pay the consequences when even a few of us are rude, inconsiderate, or destructive on the trails.
For more, check out www.imba.com/about/trail_rules.html
Have fun out there!