Now more than ever before, people are using recreational trails to stay healthy and as an outlet for stress relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But not everyone who is accessing trails by foot or bicycle may be an experienced path user, and others may now be accompanied by more children who are home from school or daycare during the state’s stay-at-home order.
So, it’s important to know how to conduct yourself on a trail so no one gets hurt and there is less chance for the new coronavirus to spread.
Here are some basic trail use rules that everyone should follow:
- Be aware of other trail users and exercise proper judgment for the safety of everyone.
- Travel at safe speeds and proceed at a slower pace when the trails are in heavy use. Slower traffic should stay to the right.
- Faster traffic, such as bicyclists and runners, should pass on the left, warning of their approach from behind by announcing, “On your left” loud enough for other trail users to hear.
- Don’t wear ear buds in both ears and have your music so loud you can’t hear others on the trail.
- Walkers and runners who are out with members of their households should form a single file line while passing to maximize safety and social distance.
- Bicyclists should wear helmets and other personal protective equipment.
- Do not block the trail. Use no more than half of the trail width when in a group, and be sure to watch and listen for other trail users.
- On trails where dogs are allowed, pets should be on a leash no longer than 10 feet and they should be kept at their owner's immediate side.
Also, all trail users should know that Illinois' current COVID-19 mandate requires that everyone wear a face mask when circumstances do not allow for a social distance of 6 feet or more to be maintained. The Forest Preserve District strongly recommends that preserve visitors wear a mask whenever possible.
The American Hiking Society has additional coronavirus hiking guidance in the form of FAQs. For instance, the group urges everyone to stay on trails close to home home so you don’t have to use a restroom. This is an important tip as forest preserve latrines are closed to prevent the spread of the virus – so pit stops are not an option.
The hiking group also advises that short trips near your home will prevent you from having to get gas or snacks and maybe not being able to social distance as you run those errands before a longer recreational outing in a town farther away.
"From public restrooms to gas stations to food and supply runs, you will be coming in constant, needless contact with surfaces that others have touched and will touch," the hiking society advised. "And if you’re sick already and don’t yet know it, you’ll be spreading it far past your household."
Here are some of the hiking society’s other guidelines:
- Always, always practice social distancing and follow the guidelines of your local government or the federal Centers for Disease Control, whichever are more restrictive.
- As much as possible, sterilize anything you touch before you touch it (and wash your hands afterward).
- Do not carpool with friends or family who are not members of your household.
- Do not hike in any groups other than members of your household.
- Avoid parks or trails that have become crowded, even if the area is officially open. If the parking lot is crowded, there are already too many people there. Turn around and find another location or go home.
"Social distancing isn’t just about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those at highest risk of contracting COVID-19 and succumbing to extreme symptoms," the American Hiking Society stated. "It’s also about protecting healthcare and essential services workers. The quicker and better we do it, the sooner we 'flatten the curve' and are able to resume normal, daily life."
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