Vienna Pedaler: Remember Rules Of The Trail
As spring gets into gear, our columnist offers some reminders about best practices for riding the W&OD and other trails.
Well, spring is certainly in the air. This being March in the mid-Atlantic region, we might still get some cold, messy weather, but the overall trend is toward warmer, sunnier days. Just this past Thursday, I was surprised to hear choruses of spring peepers and wood frogs along the W&OD on my morning ride. After a remarkably mild winter, we seem to be headed into an early spring, so it’s time to start getting out there for some rides.
Many of you will no doubt be venturing forth on the local trails ... in fact, last Thursday I saw many more folks out than I have on a weekday morning in quite some time. The W&OD, Custis, Mt. Vernon, and other multi-use trails are great places to ease your way back into riding, so it’s no surprise that they start getting rather busy as the weather warms. And with the additional traffic comes additional challenges. What’s most important is to just use common sense and courtesy when sharing the trails with others. As a cyclist, you’re moving faster than most of the other trail users, so it’s really important that you stay alert and exercise care and caution. Any one of us can tell tales of a careless, discourteous walker/runner/cyclist/rollerblader/etc. - let’s just try not to be one of them, ok?
Some basic trail tips:
- Keep to the right, except when passing.
- Warn others when you are passing them - a bell works well, as does a verbal warning, such as “passing on your left”. Often I use both, and I find it helps.
- Pass ONLY when the trail ahead is clear of oncoming traffic. I can’t tell you how many scary near-misses with head on collisions I’ve had, so err on the side of caution. If in doubt - WAIT!
- When you do pass someone, give them plenty of room... don’t “buzz” them close to their shoulder... it’s unnerving when someone passes too close.
- It also never hurts to say “thank you” when someone gives you room to pass, or simply say “good morning” or some other greeting. The more pleasant we can all be out there, the more likely we’ll all get along.
- Be extremely careful when approaching either children or dogs. Both can behave unpredictably and seemingly irrationally, so be ready for anything, for your safety as well as theirs.
- Use common sense with regard to your speed. If the trail is heavily trafficked, with walkers, runners, dogs, children, etc, don’t behave as if you’re in the Tour de France and chasing the yellow jersey, ok? If you really need hard training, pick a more appropriate time and place for that than a busy Saturday morning in spring.
- Be extremely cautious at road crossings! STOP and look both ways before crossing, and only cross when it is safe to do so. And remember, just because the motorist on one side of the road has stopped, that doesn’t mean the person coming the other way is going to. Only cross when you are sure they see you and are stopping.
Finally, remember as you get out and about on your bike this spring that it’s a new season, for you and for others. Be kind and careful with your body. Don’t immediately push yourself to the limit on your first ride. Ease yourself into your riding season, and it will be more fun and healthier for you. Remember too that most folks haven’t been riding this winter, so they are out of practice as well. And with fewer of us out there on bikes in winter, drivers have gotten out of practice at interacting with us too. So take it easy, and be careful... but have fun!