Spoke Talk: Trail courtesy — Be a good trail ambassador
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Many years ago, I worked for a horse outfitter. He was a crusty, old curmudgeon of a man, but every time we found ourselves on a multiuse trail, he would bend over backwards to be friendly and polite to every person we encountered.
“Some people don’t like horses on these trails,” he told me. “Remember, whenever you’re out here, you are an ambassador for all horseback riders.”
It was an important lesson, and one that I carry with me to this day, particularly as a mountain biker on our local trails. We are, each of us, ambassadors to our sports. Whether you’re on a mountain bike or a horse, trail running or hiking with your dogs, remember that you are the ambassador for your sport to every other trail user you encounter that day.
You have probably seen the Trail Courtesy Triangle at most trailheads. It indicates that bikers yield to hikers and horses, and hikers yield to horses. The reason for this is fairly simple. Even the best horses can be unpredictable. Fast moving objects, like bikes, can be unfamiliar and scary to animals. When a horse spooks, it can endanger all of the users on the trail, not just its rider.
When you are approaching a horse and rider, announce yourself calmly and clearly from a safe distance away. Stop, put a foot down, and ask the rider the safest way to proceed.
In most cases, you will find that the rider will want to pull their horse off to the side of the trail where the horse can watch you ride by. If nothing extraordinary happens, congratulations. You were a great ambassador for bikers.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were riding our horses near Stagecoach Reservoir, and we were approached by a biker who did not announce himself, did not stop pedaling, ignored repeated requests to stop, and who eventually fell almost directly underneath my horse. He was a perfect example of what not to do and a bad ambassador for mountain bikers.
On the other hand, this past Sunday, I was riding my bike down MGM on Emerald Mountain when I hit a deep patch of moon dust and augured myself face-first into the trail.
A couple of women were hiking up a few minutes later and noticed that I was covered head to toe in dust and dirt. They stopped and made sure I was OK, made sure the bike was OK (cheers to you both) and were incredibly kind to my bruised ego. They were amazing trail ambassadors.
So, please be a good trail ambassador. Remember that we’re all neighbors in this wonderful town. Slow down when approaching other users. Be kind. Make eye contact. Smile. Yield if it’s your turn to yield. Heck, maybe yield if it’s not your turn to yield. Common courtesy goes a long way towards minimizing user conflict.
Heather Jones is an employee of Routt County Riders.
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