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Laura YorkPosted by:
Laura York, Department of Public Health

Laura is the Director of the Coordinated School Health Program and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

Outdoor trails are the best places to spend a spring afternoon-the smell of blossoming magnolia trees in the air, the feel of a warm breeze brushing against your body, and the ability to run, bike or skate freely without the worry of cars getting in the way.   However, it seems that many people aren’t familiar with common trail “etiquette” and this can turn a blissful outing into a stressful, even dangerous, situation.  Here is a list of some unspoken rules to help make shared use of the trails safe and enjoyable for everyone.

1. Although most trails don’t have a line drawn down the center of them, you should treat them like two-way streets.  Travel on the right side of the trail and do not amble four across (or two if baby strollers are involved) so others can get by your group.  Additionally, move off the trail pavement if you need to stop as someone may be coming up right behind you.

2. When someone calls out “on your left,” it means he or she is about to pass you on your left.  Do not turn around or jump to the left.  Simply move a bit to the right to give them enough room to get by you safely.  

3. Passers should only pass on the left and give an audible warning at least a few seconds before passing to give others enough time to get out of the way. You should also look over your shoulder before passing as someone may be trying to pass you at the same time.

4. Inline skating is the only mode of trail transportation that cannot go off a paved surface safely.  Therefore, if you are a biker, runner or walker and the spacing looks tight for a skater approaching you, move off the pavement instead of playing “chicken” with the poor soul.

5. Leash laws were created for a reason.  Surrounding your pets, no matter how well-behaved, with fast moving wheels is an accident waiting to happen.  Keep pets on a short leash and walk them on the right shoulder of the trail.  Using a retractable leash is pretty much the same as having your dog off-leash in this setting.

6. iPods are becoming much more prevalent these days.  Although I feel iPod users are missing out on spending quality time with nature and their own thoughts, I realize that some need the distraction to get through a workout.  If you use an iPod, set it at a volume low enough to hear your immediate surroundings (see rule #2).

7. Taking your kids to a trail is a great way to get them active and introduced to the joys of nature.  Parents should ensure that their children understand the trail rules as well.  It’s extremely important that kids know to stay nearby so they won’t suddenly dart off into oncoming traffic and cause a collision.

8. The more experienced bikers and skaters should travel at speeds that are safe and appropriate for the trail, especially around curves.  As on the real roads, you never know who is or is not paying attention around the corner.

9. It should go without saying but don’t litter. If there aren’t any trashcans on the trail, take your waste with you.   Let’s help keep our trails clean and beautiful so we can all enjoy them for years to come.

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