Passing Safely on the Trail

Passing on a bicycle trail

Passing on a bicycle trail is no trivial matter. It should be performed with care and concern and timing. Remember, when you are passing another trail user on the trail, whether they are cyclists or pedestrians, it is YOUR responsibility as the passing party to ensure the safety of the pass!
Let me reiterate; if YOU are passing someone else on the trail, YOU are responsible for their safety, your safety and the safety of anyone else approaching on the trail.
That means sometimes YOU may need to slow down! Just because your are faster than the user in front of you does not mean that they are subordinate to you. YOU are the responsible party.
When passing, you should first, determine if a pass is safe and feasible. Can you clearly see the trail ahead and any oncoming users? Are you on a blind turn? If there are other users, is there enough distance to safely make the pass and get to the right without cutting off the user you are passing? If it is safe to make the pass, announce LOUDLY and clearly your intentions. The usual phrase is “passing on your left!”
Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to make the pass safe.
Another thing Carol and I do when passing is to tell the user there are two of us: “passing on your left, two bikes!” we usually finish the pass with a little courtesy wave after passing.
All that said, there are some things you should do or should not as a trail user being passed. Number one on our list is don’t have your earbuds cranked so loud that you can’t hear me calling (loudly), “passing on your left!” it’s annoying at least, scary at worst. Something you can do is acknowledge our pass. A little wave, head nod, or even just moving six inches to the right… Just something so we know you heard us announce our pass and that you are prepared for it. Please don’t stop or run off the trail abruptly. That is also unnerving. Something we do when being passed is to let the passer know the conditions ahead. If they want to pass and its not clear ahead, we will signal them to wait. When it’s clear we’ll signal them to pass.
Noticing a pattern? Communication. It’s the key!
Here’s an especially unnerving scenario. It plays out on suburban trails every weekend. Parents and little children, especially toddlers, on bikes either oncoming while you are passing another user, or you are passing them. The only thing that this situation calls for is an abundance of caution!
SLOW DOWN!
Sometimes, it might even be best to just stop. Bicycle accidents can result in REAL injuries. If you are traveling at 15 mph, and an oncoming cyclist is traveling at the same speed, guess what? That’s a 30 mph collision. Get on your bike, ride down the biggest hill in town, then aim for a parked car. It’s gonna feel that good.
Other Tips: get a bell. They’re cheap and reliable. Get a mirror. They’re also cheap and reliable. It’s an easy way to avoid being surprised.

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