Mountain bike riders and hikers have a historically somewhat acrimonious relationship. In part this is due to the perceived capability of mountain bikers to hog the trails, making it a less than friendly and relaxing environment for those on foot. In addition, some equestrians have had bad experiences with bike riders who spooked horses and nearly caused accidents. Subsequently, organizations devoted to furthering the sport of mountain biking have devised a number of mountain biking rules of the trail that seek to foster cooperation between hikers, joggers, equestrians and mountain bikers. These rules are meant to facilitate sharing the natural resources and trails, rather than go after specific use only designations.
Mountain Biking is Limited to Designated Trails Only
Stay off trails that are clearly designated as being for hikers only. Moreover, do not ride on trails that are closed. In the same vein, never veer off a shared trail to avoid a group of hikers and ride around them. This falls under the auspices of leaving no trace of your activities and in addition to not leaving any litter behind, you should refrain from leaving behind tire marks and broken foliage off the trails.
Stay in Full Control of Your Bike at All Times
Do not give in to the temptation of accelerating just before cresting a hill to enjoy the rush of the fast descent. Shared trails include hikers and also youngsters who might not hear you barreling down the hill. Stay in full control of your bike at all times and be prepared to stop on a dime if a child or hiker crosses your path.
Remember also that---in addition to hikers---you share the trails with the local wildlife. Deer and even bear can move stealthily and you may not be aware that one is nearby until you turn a corner. In some cases the animal may be too stunned to get out of your way, and an accident is unavoidable if you ride so fast as to not be able to fully control your mountain bike.
Be Prepared to Yield at All Times
Yield to hikers at all times. On shared trails, hikers always have the right of way. When you ride downhill, be prepared to give the right of way to those mountain bike riders who are actually ascending the trail. Check the trails' designations before you ride them; some are set up for downhill traffic only, while others are specifically marked to only be used by hikers.
Consider that even on a trail marked for use by mountain bike riders only, there is the possibility of encountering a stray hiker, jogger or equestrian. Avoid a serious accident by being mindful that such situations may occur and you may have to yield your right of way to avoid an accident or an unpleasant interaction.
Article Written By Sylvia Cochran
Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.