Bike Path Etiquette for Walkers
I had the itch to get in some exercise and take in some nature this weekend, so I went for a long walk through a forest preserve with a winding bike path. I encountered a number of walkers and bikers along the way. The path was ten to twelve feet wide with an asphalt surface, divided with a solid yellow line. It made for a great path for the casual biker or the advanced cyclist.
What side of the bike path should I walk on?
I walked the path with my kids. They wanted to walk 4 across. I told them that we needed to be cognizant of the bikers and stay near the edge — the LEFT edge facing the bike traffic. You should always walk on the left side, facing the bike traffic.
It is clear from walking the 5 miles that others disagree. Nearly every other walker we encountered was walking on the right side.
When you walk on the left side, facing the oncoming bikers, you can visually pick them up early. You can see their speed. You can make eye contact to know that they see you. You can visually see them moving to the center to pass you up. If you don’t see these cues, you can easily move off the path to allow them to pass.
This is especially true on a winding path that may have some obstructions. Why do you want to put your safety in the hands of a biker? When you face the biker, you take on some of that responsibility, without having to continuously peer behind you.
When you walk on the right side, bikes are constantly creeping up on you. Sometimes they go unnoticed and surprise you. The veteran cyclists might give you a verbal warning: “On your left!” Still, you’ll often find yourself turning your head to check that they see you. If you you are paranoid, you might stop on the side of the path every time to make sure they make it by.
From a biker’s perspective, what would you choose? You are going to pass people either way. Wouldn’t you rather be able to make eye contact and know that the walker sees you? When a biker comes up on a group of walkers with their backs to them, there is always a concern that the walkers don’t see or hear the bicyclist and veer out into to traffic or are startled, putting both the walker and cyclist in danger.
When you can, it is better to choose a path without bike traffic. Please be careful when walking with bikers, and always walk on the left side.