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Trail etiquette and safety tips

Last Modified: May 09, 2023

Safety & Prevention


We tapped safety expert and Fort Wayne Trails board member Lisa Hollister, DNP, MSN, RN, LSSBB, administrative director, Trauma Systems, Parkview Trauma Centers, for her top tips for those planning to utilize our impressive local paths and walkways this season.

12 strategies for staying safe on the trails

Motors are a no-go.
The trails are intended for slower pedestrian activities like walking and jogging, and cyclists pedaling bikes. Electric bikes and motorized equipment should not be on the trails for any reason. The trails also aren’t recommended for those who are clipped in and cycling at an elevated speed, as this lowers reaction time and raises the risk of hitting a pedestrian. This type of training is best done on the roads.

Stay the path.
Those using the trails should avoid going onto the grass or private property whenever possible. This is a matter of respect for those who happen to live along the trails as well as a safety measure, as there can be poisonous plants and taller grass with parasites, such as ticks, outside of the paved paths. There are instances when it is appropriate to step off the trail, such as a flat tire or untied shoelace. Use your best judgement in these situations.

Rules of the route.
When on a trail, think of it like you would a road. Stay to the right, unless you are passing. If you need to go around someone, look over your shoulder and ahead first to make sure it is safe to pass.

Pass politely.
It’s always a good idea to alert those ahead that you are passing. If you’re walking or jogging, that might be a simple, “On your left.” If you are on a bike, you can verbalize that you are approaching on the left, or, even better, use a bell to make others aware that you are coming around them.

A big “don’t” for drivers. 
At points where a trail meets a road, pedestrians have to stop for traffic and can only cross once all vehicles have passed. Accidents happen when the flow of traffic is disrupted, so it’s best for drivers to follow signs and keep moving. A yellow flashing light, for example, is not a reason to stop, but rather to be cautious. A red light would signify a need to stop your vehicle. It can seem like the courteous thing to do–stopping to let pedestrians cross–but it’s actually very dangerous, since the drivers behind you can’t see what’s causing your actions. Remember drivers: Follow the signs and signals and keep traffic flowing!  

Listen up!
We all love a good podcast or playlist when we walk or jog, but it’s important to make sure that you can still hear what’s going on around you. Try lowering the volume or a headphone in just one ear. Bike riders should never wear headphones while cycling, as they are traveling faster and have less reaction time.

Be bold.
Everybody using the trails should wear bright clothing so others on the trail and drivers can see them. It can be difficult to spot people at dawn, dusk or in the dark, so make sure you have the proper reflective or brightly colored accessories so you don’t get hit. A headlight can also be helpful for visibility, both for yourself and others.  

For our four-legged friends.
Dog owners who bring their pets on the trails need to have their animal on a very short leash at all times, to protect the animal and pedestrians. A long leash is not only a tripping hazard for others on the trail, but also gives a dog enough length to approach people and potentially bite. We don’t want to think our pets would do this, but it does happen. It’s imperative that you maintain control over your animal and clean up after them. In addition to being unpleasant, waste can be a slipping hazard.

Get in line.
Gathering with friends or having a walking meeting on the trails is a great way to get outside and get some exercise. Just be sure to walk single file or closely, side by side, depending on the width of the trail. You want to be sure to leave at least half of the path for others.

Don’t leave home without it.
We cannot emphasize the importance of helmets for cyclists enough! Be sure to review these bike safety basics and get everyone in your family properly fitted head protection. It could save your life. (Just ask Bob.)

Take the tricks somewhere else.
While most skateboarders don’t spend too much time on the trails, it’s important to remember that these areas, including bridges and railings, are not designed for tricks. If you choose to skate on these paths, stay to the right, pass with caution and don’t skate off without a helmet.  

Beware of oncoming foot traffic.
Some trails have pedestrian intersections, which are rarely marked. Approach these trail crossings slowly and with caution. There is no right of way, so all parties should yield and merge with care.

Need safety gear?

The Parkview Safety Store located in Parkview Hospital Randallia is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 4 – 7 p.m. and offers helmets for just $10 ($8 in the month of May) as well as fittings. Browse bike lights, reflective gear and more.


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