Hey You. Be Nice.


The sound startled me to jump aside before I could even see where it came from: the grinding CRSCHHHHH of a tire skidding through gravel when the brake’s been slammed on. The mountain biker was farther away than he sounded, stopping halfway down the next switchback I was headed up. He politely stepped aside for us to jog by at our glacial upward pace, and I thanked him as we passed. But the next rider on the trail wasn’t so polite, nor the next, barely slowing and assuming we’d jump out of the way. Is that how I come across when I’m mountain biking?

A few weeks before, I’d pulled my bike to the side of a trail to let a group of uphill hikers pass when I heard that same CRSCHHHHH from behind me—but this time the rider didn’t stop. Shirtless and helmetless, he didn’t wait for the hikers to pass. He didn’t wait for anything. He blew straight downhill, spitting dust and gravel at the wide-eyed hikers. Straddling my bike, one foot off the trail, I stared after the rider in disbelief. The hikers shook their heads and moved on, and I wanted to say, I’m sorry! We’re not all like that!

How are all of us trail users supposed to get along, when we all want different things? Vernon Felton at BIKE Magazine posted a thoughtful piece recently about a run-in with a woman on horseback, in which he was made to feel like a criminal despite doing nothing wrong or rude. Obviously, rudeness can come from any direction.

When hikers, bikers and horse riders share a trail, we’re always going to have run-ins. We move at different paces. We crave different things from the trail experience. Some of us are mountain bikers in our blood and bones—the only reason we’d hike a trail is to carry our bike over a section we’re unable to ride. And some of us wouldn’t get on a downward-pointed mountain bike for a million dollars. But either way, it only takes one rude person to completely sully your trail experience.

So what do we do? The best advice I’ve heard came from Reverend Chainring during his pre-race sermon to the riders at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. The crowd was 100 percent mountain bikers, but with super-fast corporate-sponsored relay teams on the same course as singlespeed soloists and first-time racers, the dynamics were almost as varied as if there had been hikers, runners and horse riders, too. Instead of spelling out 100 different rules for the race, the legendary Reverend Chainring took the stage in front of the charged, dusty, beer-swigging crowd and gave a single commandment: Be Nice.

And maybe that’s all it takes. If our first thought is being considerate to the other person on the trail, we probably won’t have to worry much about who is supposed to yield to whom. Maybe it’s just as simple as asking, Am I being nice?


5 Responses to Hey You. Be Nice.

  1. FatGuyOnABikeSeattle says:

    They need to make hike lanes. They’d be like the bike lanes on the road but for hikers.

    • Ben Briggs says:

      The hikers wouldn’t use them because they would want to be treated as an equal on the trial… you know similar to bikers on the roads.

      There are times that I surprise myself at how funny I am.

  2. Ben Briggs says:

    I write about this kind of thing often because in Boise Idaho, it’s a very sensitive subject. Not only is Boise a huge trail use city, but the residence act like a child when someone else starts having fun with one of their toys.

    Be Nice should be “The” campaign period. This should be the next “Don’t Mess With Texas”

    Everyone is too caught up in “right of way”. These rules are designed to create a safe environment for all, but if you use your brain and think for yourself you will see that it doesn’t need to be so black and white.

    When I’m hiking up hill and I see a Mt Biker coming down the hill and I have the opportunity to just step aside and let the biker go by… wait for it… this will freak you out… I do that. Every time I’ve done it, I get a wave or a thanks and we both walk away happy. It took no extra effort for me to do that, and I in no way walked away thinking my rights were taken away from me.

    The fact is, even though I have right of way, it doesn’t always make sense for me to force a biker to stop his momentum downhill when all I have to do is step aside.

    “Be Nice” and stop acting so god damned entitled out there.

    • carol dixon says:

      In Boise we need to take the “Be Nice” campaign and post it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. Maybe it would catch on!

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