We’re in This Together. Use Safe Speeds on the Trail.

Posted 07/31/15 by Katie Harris in Trail Use

Met Branch Trail in Washington, D.C. | Photo by M.V. Jantzen

This blog was first published on July 31, 2015, and has been updated for our 2016 Share the Trail Campaign. Be the best you can be on America's pathways, and pledge to Share the Trail today!

I’ll admit it. I can be a little selfish.

I love to cruise on a completely empty trail, daydreaming and whistling without a worry in the world. Just me, my bike and the trail—I’m at the center of the universe.

undefinedBut without other people, it can get a little lonely—so like many other trail users, I invite others along to ride with me. And that’s the power of trails—how quickly they bring us together and help us build community!

The other side of the coin, however, is that it’s no longer all about me (*gasp!*), and I need to remove myself from the center of the universe. I must acknowledge that respect and courtesy toward others is absolutely more important than my own individual experience. And the first step in removing myself from the center of the universe is … slowing down and using safe speeds when I’m out there on the trail.

But what does using safe speeds actually mean, and why is it important?

1A safe speed on one trail may not be safe on another.

The most standard speed limit on trails across the country is 15 miles per hour. But not all trails are made equally. Some trails have strict speed limits that are monitored and enforced. Others advise a certain speed but trust trail users to police themselves. You can often find speed recommendations and requirements posted at trailheads or online. One thing remains constant: Speed limits and advisories are put in place to keep everyone—of every age and ability—safe.

Use your best judgement, and be respectful. If it feels like you’re traveling too fast, you probably are.

Capital Crescent Trail in the Washington, D.C. area | Photo by Barbara Richey

2Just because you feel safe doesn’t necessarily mean everyone else does.

Speed is a major discussion on trails because of perception. While some individuals may feel their speed is suitable, other users might actually feel unsafe because of how fast their fellow trail users are going. For everyone, regardless of mode of travel or level of experience, this is a great opportunity to put your own desires on the backseat and put the needs of others above your own.

Would you zoom past your grandma Roadrunner style on the trail? If the answer is no, then keep that in mind when you share the trail with someone else’s grandma.

3Using Safe Speeds Is for the Greater Good.

Remember—we’re all in this together. The communities along America’s trails are made up of children and families just like yours and mine—and people just like you and me. Someone’s nephew that’s taking their training wheels off for the first time. Someone’s daughter who’s training for a 5k in the fall. Someone’s grandpa that’s taking a stroll after lunch. By using a safe speed, you are treating your fellow trail users with respect. That’s incredibly important because they’re familyif not to you, then to someone else.

RELATED: Five Common Types of Trail Use Rules (Everyone Should Know)

4Putting other people first is just an awesome thing to do.

By checking your speed and putting the needs of others above your own, you’re practicing compassion and respect. And those are things we can all get behind.

When it comes to using safe speeds on the trail, it’s really about a shift in perspective. It's also about using our best judgementon a lonely weekday evening or a packed Sunday afternoon.

Slowing my pace allows me to soak in the experience even more and connect with the trail community in a more meaningful way. It’s not all about me—thank goodness!

Tell us: How is your trail experience enriched when you use safe speeds?

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