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Using Trails

Be Alert! Five Tips for a Better Trail Mindset

By: Katie Harris
September 3, 2015

Photo by Eric Beteille
Photo by Eric Beteille

I was 13 years old once, and like many others my age, I was self-centered. I didn’t notice much beyond my own space—unless, of course, it impacted the middle school pecking order.

Remember those days?

Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that phase. And when it comes to trail use, I try my very best not to revert back to that mindset … because I know from experience that great trail experiences come with respect and awareness for others—as well as ourselves.

Here are five trail tips on how you can be alert on the trail and help ensure a safe, fun experience for all!

1. Be predictable.

Just because you know your next move doesn’t mean others do. When you decide to change direction or pass a slower trail user, you might be moving into someone else’s right of way. Be aware of your space and don’t push it, even if you think you can jet ahead or swing around in time. Better safe than sorry, you know?

2. Be extra mindful if you’re “plugged in.”

Lots of folks like to listen to music while they walk or run on the trail. And while jamming to your favorite tunes isn’t a bad thing, keeping your ears to the music does put you at a significant disadvantage for hearing what’s happening on the trail. Consider leaving one earbud out, or at the very least, keep the volume low so you can stay aware of what’s going on around you.

3. Anticipate the behavior of others.

If you see someone that is acting in an unpredictable manner (a wobbly training-wheel rider, for instance), give them a little more space. Hey, we were all beginners at some point, right?

4. Cross with care.

It’s not just fellow trail users that you need to keep in mind during your run or ride. Being alert when crossing railroad tracks, roads and driveways is also of utmost importance. Keep your eyes peeled for potential hazards—both for yourself and your trailside compadres.

RELATED: The Most Universal Trail Tip: Standing Still? Stand Aside.

5. Take care of others.

If you see someone in turmoil, check to see if they are okay or if they need assistance. People in need always appreciate a good Samaritan. Whether it’s a flat tire or a scraped knee, being alert on the trail will set you up for being a trail helper, and that’s something that we can all celebrate!

Katie Harris

Katie Harris is a climate justice advocate, bicyclist and beekeeper who lives in Bellingham, Washington. Katie is inspired by and works on projects in the built environment that have benefits for climate + community + health, like trails, stormwater infrastructure and parks.

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