Simplifying Trail Etiquette: Whoever is having more fun has the right-of-way.
This entry was posted on July 23, 2015.
Out on the mountain bike/running/hiking trail, it seems that people either don't know the rules regarding right-of-way, ignore the rules, or have their own set of rules. And these rules spark all sorts of debates (and sometimes fights.) But the "law," as made by the trail gods, is this: Hikers/runners and bikers yield to horses, bikers yield to hikers/runners, and downhill yields to uphill within these specific categories (i.e., downhill biker yields to uphill biker, but uphill biker still yields to downhill runner). You should always assume that everyone else on the trail is going to abide by these rules, unless it's communicated otherwise.
The other day my friend, Aaron (who mostly bikes on trails), and I (who mostly run on trails) started talking about this whole right-of-way issue that crops up all too often on the trails we frequent. Personally, as a runner, I'll typically yield to the uphill biker, and often to the downhill biker. I know how hard it is to start up again when you've had to stop in the middle of a hill, and that it can be annoying to kill your momentum on your bike. But bikers shouldn't expect this type of behavior; it can be just as annoying for a runner to have to stop every two minutes to pull over for a bike.
Is it really going to kill you to pull over, put your foot down, and wave someone through because you can recognize they're having a great time?
As Aaron and I were discussing our views on who should yield to whom, he told me his interesting philosophy on yielding while on trails. Say you're riding up a hill when someone comes into view, mobbing down the same hill and loving it, their face bursting with a grin. Chances are you could use a break, and they're having such a good time, so why not give them the right of way?
His personal rule is simple: Whoever is having the most fun should have the right of way. Yeah, it's good to default to the standard trail etiquette, but is it really going to kill you to pull over, put your foot down, and wave someone through because you can recognize they're having a great time?
In the end, what it boils down to is this: Be nice, be respectful, and have fun. And when someone doesn't yield to you when they should have, don't let it ruin your day. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.