The buzz

The trails are for everyone, so mind your manners out there

Bikers ride along a paved trail.
(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

On a nice day, our local trails can be as busy as some of our most well-traveled roads. And just like on our roadways, patience can wear a little thin when crowded trails are full of people not practicing proper trail etiquette.

First and foremost, trail users should remember that the trails are for everyone. Most of the trails that criss-cross the preserves are multi-use trails, and no one is more entitled to use them than anyone else.

Bicyclists, in particular, should be mindful of other trails users because they are traveling at higher speeds. Just like when driving, cyclists should ride on the right and pass on the left. When passing, signal and announce your intention, saying "On your left" so trail users ahead of and behind you are aware, the League of American Bicyclists advises. Move back onto your side of the trail once you have safely passed.

When not passing, cyclists should stay on their side of the trail and travel predictably in a straight path. Be mindful of the trail and weather conditions and don't bike too fast for those conditions. Lower your speed when the trail is crowded or could be wet or icy.

When riding at dusk or dawn, make sure to use bike lights so other trail users can see you coming, the League of American Bicyclists advises. Be mindful, however, that flashing or strobe bike lights can be disorienting for some people.

Always yield to oncoming traffic at intersections, and follow all posted signage. Remember, too, that some Forest Preserve trails are equestrian trails, so horses may be present along your ride. When passing a horse, cyclists should rely on their voice to announce their presence rather than bells or horns, which could spook a horse.

Trail users on foot should also practice common trail etiquette. Be aware of your surroundings and other trail users, and don't block the entire trail with people walking side by side.

If you have to stop for any reason, whether to check your phone, tie your shoelace or take a photo, step fully off the trail so you aren't blocking traffic. Cyclists should also remove their bikes from the trail until they are ready to resume.

If you’re bringing your dog along, make sure it is on a leash at all times, and keep it at your side rather than allowing it to roam on a long leash. Leashes longer than 10 feet are prohibited.

And this seems like common sense, but we’ve seen it many times: Do not take photos directly on the trail. This impedes the flow of traffic and creates unnecessary hazards for others. We know the preserves are beautiful and we’re happy you want to preserve the moment, but please do so a safe distance off the trail. 

Be mindful of trail rules as well. Dogs are not allowed in preserves that are state nature preserves because of the sensitivity of the habitats. And bikes are only permitted on designated trails, paths and roadways. Bikes not allowed on natural surface trails, and off-trail riding is not permitted.

And finally, always leave the preserves as clean — or cleaner — than you found them. The Forest Preserve District has trashcans in all preserve parking lots and along many trails, so make sure to use them for any waste you generate or take it home with you. 

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