Trail Speed Guide

If a trail is designated multi-use, it means there are many types of users moving at different speeds. This includes nature photographers and bird watchers who stop suddenly and stand motionless; walkers and horses that move slowly; runners who move fast, and skaters and bikers who move very fast. To understand where you fit in and whom to yield to when on the trails, here is a guide by user types.

All trail users

Travel. Stay to the right on trails when stopped or moving. When on the left side for some reason, be alert for other trail users and get out of their way. Be predictable; do not make sudden speed or direction changes without looking behind you.

Passing, Only pass on left. Pass only when way is clear ahead. Give warning when passing slower trail users; as you close on them, sound a bell or horn, or say loudly "On your left," “Good morning” or simply “Hello.” This will alert them to your presence and give them time to clear the way. If they move over to give you extra room to pass, say “Thank you” or “Thanks.” Check beside and behind you before moving into left lane to pass. Pass slowly and carefully. Do not cut back in too soon.

Special case trail users

Parents with small children. Keep an eye on children on the path. Be mindful that children (on foot or bike) sometimes veer into the path of oncoming traffic, especially cyclists who may not be able to stop in time. If your child is cycling, be sure they are skilled enough to control the bike and maneuver as needed to share the trail and safely pass. Teach children that they must share the trail.

Disabled trail users. A disabled trail user may not have an obvious handicap; they may have hearing or vision problems, a problem with their balance, or they may need to walk slowly. Disabled users also may be in a wheelchair or a "racing chair." Both are about twice as wide as a bicycle and neither are as maneuverable as a bicycle. Disabled trail users may need an extra bit of courtesy when they interact with horses and riders since they cannot move freely and cannot yield off the trail. Inline-skaters overtaking a handicapped person should shorten their stride, so that the handicapped trail user may change direction or steer away or around the skater.

Trail user speeds (from slowest to fastest)

Dog walkers. Dog walkers are usually the slowest trail users, because dogs like to stop and sniff all the time, so be prepared for sudden stops by dog walkers. Since pets are trained to walk on the left, they will be closer to the center of the trail, so give pets a wide berth when passing. Even when they try, pet walkers may not be able to get their pets out the way quickly, so, when passing, sound a warning sooner. Try not to scare pets. Do not approach pets without permission.

Walkers. Walkers may walk very slowly or quickly. At busy areas on the trail, walkers should avoid walking three abreast; even two people walking side-by-side take up a lot of trail. When faster traffic comes up from behind, walkers should switch from walking abreast to in-line to give traffic room to go by safely. Pay attention to the traffic. Look and listen for oncoming, overtaking, and crossing traffic.

Equestrians. Some trails, such as the Salem Lake Trail, permit horseback riding. Horse are always walking on the trail, but they are faster than human walkers. Horses are large (1000 pounds or more), but skittish and shy animals. Small things will cause them to shy or buck. A biker, skater, or runner may startle them so make verbal contact with the rider before passing.

Runners. Runners are faster than the walkers are but not as fast as the skaters are. When approaching slower traffic, check behind you, move to the left side of the trail, sound a warning, and pass carefully. Some runners run with a dog.

Skaters. Skaters are much faster than walkers and runners. Skaters should watch for crack, sticks, loose rocks, etc. that make the trail less than safe. Check to see if the trail is safe in advance. Watch for pets or horses since they may be frightening by the motion and sounds of skating. Use short strides when passing.

Bicyclists. Bikers are the fastest traffic on the trail. Very fast riding is inappropriate for multi-use trails and should be done on bicycle-only trails or public roadways. Since bikes cover distance quickly, give passing warnings sooner. Some bikers ride with a dog running alongside the bike on a leash; this is dangerous so watch out for them.

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