It's National Bike Month, and with the coming improvements in the forecast (fingers crossed…), we can expect to see thousands of walkers, runners, and people riding bikes hitting the trails, streets, and sidewalks of Northwest Arkansas. With recent investments in trails and other bike and pedestrian infrastructure, we’ve seen phenomenal growth in these user groups, but that growth comes with a price: nearly everyone who has used a paved or mountain biking trail in the last few years has a story about a collision or a close call.
When it comes to people riding bikes, the story often involves someone riding too fast on a paved trail, not ringing their bell or calling out “On your left!” when passing, veering into the other lane on a blind curve, failing to stop at a stop sign, ignoring a traffic or trail signal, or group rides taking up the whole roadway for miles without letting cars pass. These problematic pedalers engender ill will among other road and trail users—and that ill will is toxic to our project of fostering a fun and thriving culture of biking.
As for walkers and runners, the story typically involves a group spreading out across the width of a trail or sidewalk and not allowing enough room for someone to pass safely. Other common incidents involve individuals obliviously immersed in a podcast or dog-walkers using leashes long enough to allow their canine companion to be in the grass on one side of the trail while their supposed handler saunters along on the other, resulting in a dangerous clothesline hazard. And no offense, moms, but is it totally necessary to walk four abreast while pushing strollers down the Greenway?
And when it comes to interactions between people driving cars and people running, walking, or biking, the raised stakes are accompanied by understandably raised emotions—after all, a close call with a passing car isn’t so much an annoyance as a potentially fatal threat. But this is not to say that people driving cars behave in a purposefully threatening manner. The problem is that too many motorists suffer under the delusion that they are the only type of road user. As a result, drivers frequently cut off cyclists or pass by frighteningly close. And if a cyclist is lucky enough to be noticed by motorists, she is all too often accosted with that familiar reproach: “Get out of the way! Streets are for cars!” (By the way—that’s not true. According to Arkansas state law, cyclists are legally entitled to ride on all roads except interstates (for obvious reasons) and may take the full lane if the cyclist deems riding on the right to be unsafe.) And we can't say this enough: texting and driving will get someone killed.
If all users of our roads and trails would be more courteous and considerate, these stories would be tales of the past. We understand that not everyone can be expected to simply “know the rules,” so we need your help. Please take a minute this week to talk about this with your child, partner, co-worker, friend, or neighbor. Familiarize yourself with the etiquette of the trail and road (see below). Finally, like Travel with Care NWA on Facebook and share this message with the hashtag #TravelWithCareNWA to show your support.
If you’re driving:
- Be on the lookout for cyclists, pedestrians, and runners—especially at curb cuts that traverse a bike path or shared-use trail.
- Take a deep breath and wait till there is a safe time to pass a person riding a bike or a group of cyclists.
- When passing cyclists or runners, give them at least three feet because if there is a collision the results could be fatal.
- Check your side mirrors for cyclists before opening your door.
If you’re walking or running:
- When listening to music or a podcast with headphones, keep the volume at a level that will allow you to hear folks trying to pass you.
- Please don’t take up the whole trail and move to the right when you hear cyclists approaching.
- When walking or running at night, wear brightly colored or reflective clothing and, if possible, a blinking red light.
If you’re biking:
- Yield to pedestrians.
- Ring your bell before passing a runner or walker and give them plenty of room (you and your bike are a force to be reckoned with).
- If you are part of a group ride and notice a long line of cars behind you, alert the group (“Car back!”) and, when safe to do so, ride single file to let them safely pass.