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If you are lucky enough to have access to multi-use recreational pathways and trails, consider it a wonderful privilege.  Many pathways go through parks and along rivers providing excellent scenery and a great place to be active and enjoy the outdoors.  These places provide not only a place to exercise, they provide a space away from city traffic so that people can enjoy the little snippets of natural scenery.  What may mar the enjoyment of these pathways is a lack of “trail etiquette” that can lead to frustration and sometimes conflict.

Whether you are new to outdoor exercise or a seasoned trail user, there are some tips you can keep in mind to ensure that everyone can have a pleasurable time outdoors:

  • Stay to the right, pass on the left – Think of it as if you are a car on the road, yield to the oncoming traffic and wait until the path is clear before you pass.
  • Call out “passing” or “on your left” as you approach – This lets the person you are about to pass know that you are behind them so they aren’t startled or move into your path.  That being said, watch to make sure that they have heard you (maybe they’re wearing headphones), so slow down to ensure that you pass them safely.
  • Be aware of those passing you – If you hear someone call out or ring their bell, stay to the right and maybe even acknowledge you heard them with a wave.
  • If you need to stop – Maybe you’re winded or you just saw someone you know, be courteous and step off the path to make sure you avoid collisions.  For people who exercise in groups, two abreast is ideal, any more than that crowds the trail and makes collisions more likely to happen.  
  • Watch for little kids and people walking their pets – Both can be unpredictable so be aware of your surroundings.
  • Pay attention to what’s around you – Not everyone is going to follow the same rules of etiquette as you do, so be observant and prepared to avoid potential collisions.

While most of us think of trails as being exclusively used for runners and cyclists, other sports like horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross country skiing for example, could also benefit from some trail etiquette so that all of us can exercise safely and have fun too.

    References from the SIRC Collection: 

    1. Bonner L, Habak A. Trail etiquette: 23 tips for winning friends, influencing people and avoiding conflict on the trails. Equus. July 2003;(309):54-58;60.
    2. Devaughn M. Trail etiquette. Backpacker. April 1997;25(3):40.
    3. Edwards S, McKenzie M. Snowshoeing [e-book]. Champaign, Ill.; United States: Human Kinetics Publishers; 1995.
    4. Henderson J. Trail mix. Runner’s World. December 1990;25(12):14.
    5. Hendricks W, Ramthun R, Chavez D. The effects of persuasive message source and content on mountain bicyclists’ adherence to trail etiquette guidelines. Journal Of Park & Recreation Administration. Fall 2001;19(3):38-61.
    6. KENNEDY J. Rules of the Trail. Bicycle Paper. June 2009;38(4):1-3.

    The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.