Look Out! Bike Path Etiquette 101

by Suzanne Hiscock

One thing I like about my area is the miles of bike paths linking the cities along the St. Lawrence River.  When the warm weather hits, the bike paths are flooded with people walking, running, biking or rollerblading.  I love seeing people out and about, getting some exercise and enjoying the sunshine.

I’ll be tooling around on my bike, nodding a greeting here, a smile of camaraderie there only to come to a screeching halt because a group of people decided to STOP RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BIKE PATH to, I don’t know, do something important like solve world peace?

Oh. My.  I told myself I wouldn’t turn this into a rant post, so ignore the all caps up above.  Let me take a deep breath and start again…

Sometimes we just don’t think.  None of us are perfect, that’s for sure.  So, the other day, when I seemed to be almost literally running into people on the bike path, I figured it would a perfect time to write a post on basic bike path etiquette.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when using a bike path this summer: DON’T

  • Don’t use the wrong side of the bike path. An unwritten rule is: whichever direction you’re heading, use the same side of the path a car would use on the street. We drive on the right side of the road here, so I keep to the right side of the path.  If you need to use the other side, try to stick to the edge of the path as much as possible. (Naturally, follow your town’s rules about bike paths, if they have any.)
  • Don’t stop in the middle of the path. Especially so, if you’re more than one person.  With bikes.  Even if you’re trying to solve world peace. Move off the path if it’s safe to do so, or as close to the edge of the path as possible.  (See?  I can be good.  I kept my finger off the Caps Lock key.)
  • Don’t walk in the middle of the path.  I get it.  I really do.  It’s fun to walk along a painted line—but just don’t do it on a bike path.  A cyclist coming along behind you may end up clipping you as they pass you, for one thing.  It’s not cool to bogart the bike path, dude!

DO

  • Do put your dog on a (short) leash.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a dog lover and have two of my own.  But no matter how well-behaved your dog is, all it takes is one little distraction to send your dog across the bike path and into trouble.  One butterfly that your dog wants to chase or a stinky scent to roll in that’s on the other side of the bike path and a collision can happen.  If you’ve got your dog on a flexi-leash, keep it short for the same reasons.
  • Do go single file if there’s not enough room. If you’re a group of two or more people, make sure you’re not encroaching on the opposite side of the bike path, especially rollerbladers with your wide strides.
  • Do look behind you when passing—and look ahead, too. When you need to pass someone, look behind you first for anybody who might be trying to pass YOU at that moment. You also need to assess the situation ahead of you, too. The other day, I was biking in one direction when I saw a cyclist heading in the opposite direction—and right ahead of him was a pedestrian.  It was pretty obvious to both me and the other cyclist that he’d end up on my side of the path right as we were passing the pedestrian.  I slowed down and waved him ahead.  Accident avoided!

Those are a few things to keep in mind this summer when heading out on a bike path.  Do you have any do’s/don’ts when it comes to bike path etiquette?

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About the Author

Suzanne Hiscock is a PN1 Nutrition Coach, ACE-certified Health Coach, as well as an ACE-certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. For over 16 years, she has been helping people lose weight and get fit through her website, FitWatch.com. Whether it's with one-on-one nutrition coaching, nutrition programs or courses, and tools or calculators, she can help you to eat better, move more and believe in yourself.

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