Courtesy and safety first
June 15, 2011
After reading Roger Marolt’s piece on ironclad rules of the road for multi-use trails, our first response was that surely this was meant to be a light-hearted but poignant piece designed to admonish mountain bikers that they need to realize that arrogant use of back country trails doesn’t serve anyone.
First, let’s address who has established trail use rules. The ultimate authority is the governmental agency that oversees the land use protocols; this is typically the Forest Service or BLM. Most backcountry users are aware of the triangular signs that clearly delineate that all trail users yield to horses. Perhaps we need more of these signs and/or more awareness of their meaning and required trail protocol. Roger’s sign-off at the end of his column suggests that trail users might consult local outdoor shops about rights-of-way on trails. Please inquire with local Forest Service officials for the definitive word. It may be in the best economic interests of outdoor shops to tell bikers that they come first, but that doesn’t square with Forest Service rules.
Most troubling is the just-do-it, rabid mentality of a minority of mountain bikers, who – as Roger characterizes them – are out to awe other trail users.
May we suggest that an eye on the stopwatch and heart-rate monitor are misguided focuses, which should be replaced by concern for courtesy and safety. Perhaps these speed-trial devices could be more safely implemented on closed courses where hikers and horses would not be encountered.
The notion that the outback is the appropriate and exclusive playground of cyclists is misguided at best, and extremely dangerous at the least. Rather than trying to impress other bikers and alternate trail users we suggest reasonable adherence to simple courtesy, line-of-sight visibility standards so as not to endanger other trail users, and potential injuries to horseback riders, horses and bike-riders alike.
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A gracious acknowledgment that bikers are not alone in their passion for trail use and that other users with non-speed-oriented interest have equal rights to expect courtesy and safety when on the trail will go far in precluding conflicts and injuries among diverse trail users.
Tom Detweiler and Ann Jeffrey
Three Rivers Back Country Horsemen