Trail education critical as usage ramps up
Anyone who has been on any part of our Cape Region trail network has seen it for themselves: More people than ever before are out walking, running and cycling. The trails are doing exactly what planners hoped they would do, providing a pathway for residents and visitors to enjoy our region’s natural beauty and improve their health through exercise and relaxation. While we are outdoors enjoying healthy activity, we are also sparking the growth of bike shops, coffee and beverage shops and other amenities.
Our trails are a great success for both health and tourism. Families and friends with strollers, children on training wheels, tandem and triple-seater bikes are all sharing the pathways with walkers, runners and avid cyclists.
Still, as we pointed out in this space just two weeks ago, this mix of users can also be dangerous, especially because trail etiquette is not yet ingrained in our culture, and visitors may not be experienced trail users before they arrive.
In the weeks since our first editorial, officials stenciled arrows at some trail entrances and posted small signs explaining the rules of the trail.
While good first steps, arrows alone may not be sufficient. Pedestrians are accustomed to walking to the left facing traffic. An arrow showing the direction of traffic does not convince everyone to walk to the right on trails. Clear stencils showing both pedestrians and cyclists should move right are essential.
Nearby roads must also be marked, reminding pedestrians coming off the trails that on the roads, they must once again move left, facing traffic, while cyclists must stay as far right as possible.
Better signage will help, and area cycling and running groups could volunteer to assist with new signs. But until we are all more used to trail etiquette – as well as proposed bike boxes coming to our roadways – it is up to each of us to slow down and heighten our awareness of everyone sharing our roads and our trails.