If you're a hiker, you might have heard about the generally accepted rule that bikers must yield to hikers? But do hikers yield to bikers?
Hiking is a recreational activity with its own rules and etiquette that one must understand before hitting the trail. It is about how hikers must respect others using the same trail and the trail itself.
Technically, hikers do not yield to bikers but horse riders only, while bikers yield to hikers, regardless of going uphill or downhill. It is the generally accepted rule. However, an individual hiker should yield to a group of bikers since it's easier for one person to take a side than a whole group.
Hiking is not just a fun activity but involves many risks. Trail etiquette aims to keep hikers safe and protect the hiking trails. Everyone using the trail has the responsibility of protecting it and its users. You might get hurt waiting for the biker to slow down, especially when they're coming downhill. For this reason, many trail users find it always better to be safe than right.
If it is always better for a hiker to get out of the way for your safety, then what is the purpose of these hiking etiquettes? We have gathered information on the subject from the National Park Service (NPS) website and other public forums to provide valuable insights into hiking etiquette. Here's our explanation!
Do Hikers Yield to Bikers?
Hiking is one of the best recreational activities to explore outdoors with endless opportunities. However, since it involves potential risks, the hikers must know the rules, written or unwritten, before hitting the trail. Whether hiking alone or in a group, following hiking etiquette promotes land stewardship and helps instill respect for other trail users.
The best thing to remember is to treat others the way you want to be treated. This 'golden rule' should be followed by every hiker and biker.
Yield means to slow down or, if needed, pull to the side, to the other person's speed, and let them pass. Depending on the condition, you would likely stop entirely.
Hikers are not technically required to yield to bikers but to horses. Here's what the hiking etiquette says:
- Hikers yield to horses on the trail since maneuvering the trail is harder for horses.
- An individual hiker should yield to a group of bikers since it is easier for a person to climb a fence or take a side than for a group of bikes to slow down and make way.
- Hikers going downhill are supposed to yield to those going uphill, as going uphill takes more energy and effort.
- Because of the speed factor in downhill biking, you need to be doubly alert and ready to clear the trail fast. Any steep section of the trail can be dangerous for hikers. Some trails are even classified off limits for pedestrians.
- Although bikers yield to hikers, it is always better to be safe and make way for them if possible to avoid unnecessary injury.
- A hiker encountering a horse should yield by positioning downhill since horses bolting on the trail tend to bolt uphill.
- Bikers should yield to both hikers and horseback riders unless they are on a bike-only trail.
- Downhill bicyclists yield to uphill bicyclists (unless the trail is clearly marked for one-way traffic or downhill only).
- "Leave No Trace" - Mountain bikers must ride in a manner that does not cause ecological damage or erosion to the trail. Passengers must not cut curves. If there is standing water, bicyclists should not go around it if it causes sidewall erosion or will cause the trail to widen.
In short, the usual rules of etiquette on the trails are:
- Bikers give in to everyone
- Everyone gives in to the horses.
- If you are both bikers (or hikers, etc.), someone going downhill gives way to someone going uphill
Mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders are often called upon to use the same trails. Remember that bikers must give way to hikers and riders, respecting the principle of vulnerability.
When you meet other trail users, reduce your speed. They, like you, frequent the place to have a positive experience.
Do All Bikers Agree to this Rule?
As per the rules, hikers are not supposed to yield to bikers. The biker must slow down and make way for the hiker, regardless of going uphill or downhill. However, this seems illogical to many trail users, especially bikers, since they find it easier for the hikers to give in, climbing a wall or jumping a fence to make way than for the biker to slow down.
If we consider such rules for bikers, they will fall between people and horses, and horses would always take precedence over bikes, and hikers or bypassers would be dodging the trail to let cycles through. But unfortunately, that's not the rule!
The goal of putting bikers after hikers and horse riders might be to make them pay attention and always be more vigilant. The biker can ride a path no wider than a hiker with relatively slow speed.
Another reason could be that hikers may be carrying heavy loads or belong to a certain age group where they cannot get out of the way fast enough, even if they are aware of the potential danger. Taking responsibility for bikers, they must take care of their surroundings and, if necessary, slow down as a provision.
Guide to Responsible Hiking and Mountain Biking
Here are some instructions to follow for hikers and bikers:
- Prepare for your outing. Bikers must always wear a helmet, respect their abilities, and have a repair kit and cell phone.
- Respect closed trails. If they are, it's for a good reason. In the case of a temporary closure requested by the landowner where the trails are, your delinquency can jeopardize an entire trail.
- Do not ride on rainy days and at least the following 36 hours to preserve the trails from erosion. Already that the paths dedicated to cycling require more maintenance, riding after rain can cause a lot of damage.
- Always walk or ride on the trails to respect the natural environment. Do not create a shortcut.
- Bring back all your waste, even organic waste, i.e., banana peel, orange peel, etc.
- Double up with caution and be courteous at all times.
- Circulate in a small group (maximum six). If necessary, split up and take different paths.
- Yield the right of way at all times to uphill bikers and hikers.
- When you come near other users on the trail, slow down and politely announce your approach. Be prepared for all eventualities and stop if necessary.
- Do not re-route or perform unauthorized work. Make sure you have the permission of the trail managers before any development or maintenance work.
- Respect private property by being discreet. Do not shout during your hike. Keep your feedback and appreciation of the tour for a low-key spot as a group.
- Riding on private land is a privilege, not a right. Be grateful for the generosity of the owners. The vast majority of trails are on private land – the hiker or biker you meet on the trail may be the owner.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks