Suburban Assault

Bicycle Etiquette – Trails

with 9 comments

Trail Hog

I don’t want to spend too much time or effort on Suburban Assault, complaining about cyclists – but every once in a while, I need to vent.

Part of my commute takes me on a nice multi-purpose trail. I’m typically cautious on these types of routes, since we share them with pedestrians and, sometimes, their four-legged companions. Not only do I ride a bit slower, but I’m extremely polite to everybody that I pass – which I always announce.

One morning, a couple of weeks ago, I moved over to the left (of course after announcing it) to pass around a lady and her dog. As I was pulling back over to the right lane, this rude, selfish, idiot speeds through and squeezes between us. He didn’t announce his presence, barely missed the pedestrian and positioned himself in the blind spot of the direction I was merging. We nearly collided, but I quickly cut back to the left and let him pass.

In retrospect, I should have confronted this jerk, really give him a piece of my mind and explain to him some trail etiquette. But I was so caught off guard with this dangerous maneuver, that all I could manage to shout was, “BE CAREFUL!”  He didn’t even acknowledge me.

I’m going to chalk this up as an inexperienced rider. Judging from the low seat-height, his lack of helmet (I support your freedom to choose – that’s why I wear one) and his poor actions on the trail – I’m assuming that he just didn’t know. I hope he figures it out soon, before he ends up hurting somebody – or himself.

Written by dickdavid

June 18, 2012 at 5:38 am

9 Responses

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  1. In my experience, confronting people on the trail doesn’t help much. Same as on the road. It always escalates. Simply shrug it off and hope he finds some friends who show him how to ride more courteously.

    I mostly avoid MUPs, especially at peak hours, for the reasons you mention. I love living close to WRL, but I really dislike how many discourteous trail users there are.

    As far as shouting “on your left”… maybe this is wrong, but I have slackened up on that a bit. I got tired of constantly yelling it. Now I’m more selective and only say it when I see someone who doesn’t look predictable or is taking up too much of the trail and there’s literally no room to pass.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that many cyclists seem unwilling to slow down and wait for a safe time to pass. If I am behind a pedestrian and there is oncoming trail traffic, I will slow down and wait for it to clear rather than rudely tell the pedestrian in front of me to get over (which I have seen others do) or try to cram between them.

    My 3 cents. 😉


    June 18, 2012 at 6:59 am

    • Wise words. I feel like a little of my Cycling Savvy learnings kicked in and gave me better judgement.


      June 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

  2. I agree with Eliot. If we can’t slow down a bit for a pedestrian, we’re no better than the cars who get annoyed by having to slow down for us. I always slow WAY down for pedestrians, especially ones with dogs or kids. But it’s not bad for me since so few people really use the few MUPs we have around here. I’m sure it’s worse where you have lots of foot traffic and other cyclists to deal with.


    June 18, 2012 at 10:21 am

  3. That kind of encounter happens a lot at White Rock Lake Park. As for confrontation, shouting as you did is about all that can be done. My experience is that riding ceases to be fun if you go into it “on guard” — that is, thinking that something might happen. And the more times that it does happen, the more that trail becomes associated with conflicts, and nothing even needs to happen there to get uptight.

    Living next to WRL was great, for awhile. But this sort of stuff happened too many times, so I got burned out on the place, and I’ve found other places to ride. As long as I live here though, I am forced to deal with it, because I can’t get anywhere on bike without using White Rock.

    For what it is worth, if I am on a high use trail (or any trail for that matter) I look behind me before I pass. Probably not required to, but it saves headaches. If someone is coming, I stick to the right and let them pass first. If someone approaches on a bike from the front, I assume they’ll thread that gap. I am rarely wrong; at WRL, they almost always do. So I mostly wait.

    And yes, you start using the road riding techniques, such as Cycle Savvy, on the mutlipurpose trail!

    It’s not personal, so don’t take it personally. Those people are not picking you out. They’re just another road hazard, like a pot hole.

    I am all for a peaceful state of mind. Too much stress in the world.


    June 18, 2012 at 10:45 am

  4. Ever since learning “passing on your left” from Richard Wharton, I am frequently reminded that we should not slack off on that. OTOH, looking at the website link reveals that I make a full lane change after so alerting the passee – an imaginary one in the video. Thank GOD for cross bikes!

    Steve A

    June 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

  5. There are lots of different flavours of inconsiderate cyclists on the trail and I recognize the one you describe. Hopefully the only one he ever hurts is himself.


    June 18, 2012 at 7:03 pm

  6. Thanks for taking a balanced opinion, as I find many cyclist act like they are always right and everyone else is out to get them. It does help to walk along White Rock Creek Trail or Lake and see what others experience at cyclists go by at 10-25 MPH. If we could get drivers to experience riding in traffic and bikers to walk on trails with bike traffic, everyone would probably be more considerate of each other.

    Plus all of us,even ones that stop at lights, stop signs and have good trail etiquette, should have close calls in cars and bikes that we wish could be a “Do Over.” My philosophy is make it home alive and without injuries that run up large medical bills, as that’s what makes riding fun.


    June 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  7. I’ve looked at a few of these forums tonight since I am venting similar to the author above. One thing I note is that it is really important to say “passing on your left” (or the like) because if you don’t give some warning, the person you are passing won’t know you are there until you are on top of them. A good rule of thumb is the rule for car drivers that courts of law follow: if you hit someone from behind, you are at fault (with pretty much no exceptions). If the person is wearing headphones or is deaf, they will know enough to stay further over once they’ve probably experienced a couple of close calls. Now onto my vent: I had a guy today that I was in front of and there was no one else on the trail within the vicinity. I noticed the guy was way behind me so I picked up the pace because I do sprints (in which I go really fast). But eventually, I slow down because you can’t sprint forever and the guy pulls up on my left, without announcing he was passing, and says “So are you going to speed up this time? Its dangerous to speed up” Now wait a minute here, I sped up before this guy was even close to passing me. What a Prima Donna this guy was. Then he startles me by pulling up on my left without announcing it beforehand. So then I told him that it is common etiquette to announce yourself before passing. And he starts mocking my bicycle (yeah i borrowed my wife’s bike because mine’s in the shop). Then he starts bragging about how he rides 10,000 miles a year and stating the trail has two lanes so you don’t have to announce yourself. To you Prima Donna’s out there: YOU DON’T OWN THE TRAIL. EVERYBODY GETS TO USE IT. YOU SHOULD ANNOUNCE YOURSELF BEFORE PASSING SOMEONE FOR YOUR SAFETY AND FOR THE SAFETY OF OTHERS! to you readers: thanks for letting me vent a bit. Peace…


    October 2, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    • Yep. You get all sorts on the trails, and on the roads. The best thing to do with those self-involved jerks is to ignore them. They are the guys that make cycling suck for the rest of us. He is right, in the sense that speeding on a trail is dangerous – only because you are potentially sharing it with pedestrians, kids and dogs. However, communication with your fellow trail users is MUCH more important.


      October 3, 2013 at 4:46 am

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