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While riders in some parts of the world are currently confined to their homes, other riders, like myself, are able to responsibly enjoy riding their local trails. However, we don’t want to abuse the privilege. For mountain bikers, this can be an opportunity to show other trail users and the community how conscientious we are.
Here are four ways riders can demonstrate responsible riding if they are currently able to enjoy their local trails.
Maintain social distancing when riding
Riders still need to abide by the CDC guidelines for social distancing when riding, as well as any local and state ordinances put into place as a result of the pandemic. Be mindful of how many people are on the trails. If the trailhead looks crowded, don’t ride. There are always other opportunities to do so. Also, take time to thank your state and local officials for keeping the trails open. They are faced with making difficult choices every day, and most of them are unpopular, so they would greatly appreciate positive feedback from their constituents.
Health care professionals have been taxed to their limits by the COVID-19 pandemic. They need to devote their full attention to fighting the virus and caring for those who are affected by it. They do not want to see careless riders in the ER suffering from injuries sustained while trying to be a GoPro hero or chasing a new PR. When this all has passed, you can let ‘er rip. Now is not the time to attempt a new high-risk feature or see how fast you can fly down a trail. Dial it back, and just enjoy the fact you are able to ride at all.
Do your part to help with trail maintenance
Thanks to COVID-19, organized trail group work days are indefinitely suspended. This creates a problem for our local trails since spring is here and the vegetation is growing rapidly. Additionally, we’ve had some big storms come through our area, leaving behind fallen trees and other debris. While we can’t congregate together to work on the trails, we can each do our own part to keep them in rideable condition.
Clear away any debris you can, and report large debris like fallen trees to park officials or post it on social media so other riders are aware of it. Invest in a pair of hand clippers or a folding hand saw so that you can trim away any overgrowth you encounter on your rides, if allowed by your local land manager. These small acts can help keep the trails open and safe to ride until we are able to have organized trail work days again.
Politely educate individuals you see using empty trails for unintended purposes
Currently, there are fewer mountain bikers on our local trails due to the pandemic, and many caretakers have been furloughed. This has resulted in other individuals using the trails for activities that can damage them. Horseback riders have been using newly created trails that our local club and the county paid to build. My riding partner encountered the above-photographed dirt-biker riding another trail that is clearly marked as being off-limits to any motorized vehicles.
It’s easy to eviscerate these individuals on social media, or engage in shouting matches with them on the trail, but that won’t bring the desired solution mountain bikers are seeking. Instead, riders should calmly educate others about trail usage limitations. Engage in calm discussions with such individuals if you encounter them on the trail. If that doesn’t work, talk to your local authorities when you see repeated violations. Riders need to model the behavior they want to see in order to bring about change.
If you can currently ride, use the opportunity to keep mountain biking in a good light
Be grateful if you can currently ride your local trails. It is a privilege that riders should not abuse. If riders don’t act properly on the trails then government officials might decide to close them. We don’t want to suffer the same fate as the skaters in California who watched local officials dumping sand into their skate park because they wouldn’t comply with social distancing guidelines.
Good points to make. The trail I hit the most allows for trail maintenance but not group trail sessions. So there may be opportunities to keep up with some of the light trail work that needs to be done.
I also see many more parents out riding with younger kids. Great time to encourage the parents to keep at it. And being patient as you follow waiting for opportunity to pass. I like to encourage them and let them know they are just as welcome to the trail as I am. We can make sure those that are less skilled or younger know they are welcome and encouraged to be on the trails.
+1 @m.krupp. I too have seen soooo many more parents out with their kids. Soooo good to see. There have been whole families or just one parent with one kid and then every combination in between. I especially love to applaud dads on the trail with their daughter or son one on one. Our country needs every involved/engaged father we can muster up for the future well-being of our families and nation. Mongolia has a saying, “If the father is good, the family is good. If the family is good, then the nation is good.” Lots of truth in that statement. Generally, speaking mom’s get it and are going to be present in the family as best as they may be able as a person. Generally, it’s us dads who oftentimes need to step it up in family life. It’s been great to see some expression of that on the trails in this current situation.
Some good points, except the part about hospitals being over taxed. Most are struggling because NOTHING is going on. Dr’s and nurses are taking pay cuts or being laid off because there is simply no one coming in.
Unless you live in an actual “hotspot” for the virus, don’t be a hero and avoid seeking medical attention because they are “too busy”. Many medical practitioners are simply stressed about how they are going to keep staff on and the lights on.
The lockdown is crushing the medical community, and not because they are overwhelmed with Pts, exact opposite.
+1@FrankS29. I agree great article by Richard, but, Richard, you simply do not have your facts straight on the hospital point. I have many friends and family in the hospital sector all across the country including my wife. There were just a few hospitals, and I do mean a few, that were taxed by COVID patients, and that is a great thing. We should all celebrate that. But let’s not drink the cool-aid of the national media spin. Most ER, ICU, MedSur floors have been dead as could be. That is a repeat story we hear from many medical friends across the country. It is to the point that staff have been laid off and have had to burn up their PTO and worse. So this is not an attack on you Richard. You write great stories. We can all learn from this one point because it is an obvious and easy place to learn and see that many national media outlets do not tell us the truth any more on many matters. We all should wise up and not just take their word on points of all sorts of issues. We should do our homework and whenever possible talk to real people who live and work in whatever situation that is being reported on.
I stand corrected. However, even in places where the workload has tapered off to a major extent, there is still a heavy emotional toll being placed on healthcare workers, as I have seen from my friends in the industry. I don’t believe I should convey a message of “hospitals are empty right now, so go do stupid things on your bike”. Also, the threat of more outbreaks is ever-present and an injured rider could be exposed to the virus in a healthcare setting.
The workloads, or lack thereof, are going to depend on where you live, so my message is more specifically directed to riders who live in hotspots. However, I firmly believe all riders should be extra cautious during this time.
Richard, totally agree that people should not be encouraged to do stupid stuff on the bike, but I feel that way no matter the status of a virus.
The biggest issue is with all the misinform coming out of media outlets about medical facilities being overwhelmed, too stressed because of Covid-19 and are unsafe is dangerous. It’s leading to a lot of people that SHOULD be getting medical attention to refuse out of fear or guilt.