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Editor's View: Readers sound off on local trail rules

By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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As a newspaper editor, nothing makes me happier than receiving feedback on the paper, our stories and opinion pieces. My column last week, which addressed some concerns brought up by a reader regarding the “new” trail rules in Folsom, sparked a lot of that feedback. When reader Debbie Rabourn wrote to us questioning the legitimacy of the rules, and claimed we had ignored the issue with her in a previous request, I decided to do what any average person would do: I turned to Google.

I included some of the top search results in my column last week, boiling it down to a few paragraphs rather than the pages and pages of “stuff” I waded through to get to those nuggets of information.

My column last week finished with this line, “If everyone else is using a different set of rules, we’re begging for disaster on our trails, especially considering how many people come from outside Folsom.”

A lot of the responses I received directed me to the region and Folsom (or Sacramento) trail information. That misses the point. We have a lot of visitors to Folsom, El Dorado Hills and Sacramento from outside the area, even outside the region. If they are all using a set of rules which don’t conform to our region’s rules, there is plenty of room for confusion.

Most of what I found in my online searches read, “Every trail user should stay to the right, with cyclists announcing their approach from behind and passing on the left.” I decided to do one last search on Google with this simple question, “What side of the trail should I walk on?” The top result was this response, “even if not posted, the generally understood (even if unwritten) rule applies in most things - slower traffic (i.e.: pedestrians) keep right - faster traffic (i.e.: bikes) pass on the left,” posted on wiki.answers.com.

I received a few calls on this subject and many people (from our region) said I was nuts, claiming everyone else does it the way Sacramento County and Folsom does, with walkers on left and cyclists on right. Well, here’s one for you. How about the National Center for Safe Routes to School (saferoutesinfo.org)?

This is what it had to say, “On a bicycle path do pedestrians, strollers, etc. walk in the same direction bicycles are traveling? If a path has signs that indicates where the pedestrian and bicyclist should travel along the path, it is recommend that you following what is posted.

“On a path that does not have instructional signage and the path has two opposing travel lanes divided evenly by a broken yellow line running down its center, the proper side that a pedestrian should walk on is the far right side of the path and bicycle should ride on the right side of the path. This way, the pedestrian is walking with his or her back to the bicyclist traveling in the same lane. The broken yellow line indicates that bicyclist can use the other lane if needed when passing.

“As for strollers and pedestrians walking their animals, they are considered pedestrians and should also walk to the far right side of the path. Bicyclists are encouraged to provide an audible warning, perhaps by bell, horn or voice, as they approach a pedestrian from behind to let pedestrians know that a bicycle is preparing to pass them.”

This is an indication there is confusion regarding trails and it isn’t as clear-cut as some would have me believe. We aren’t all using the same set of rules, despite what a local trail group president called to tell me. He also offered to bring maps, diagrams and charts to prove his point.

Let’s look at what some of the readers had to say. You can find other responses on the following page.

Ken Crouse of Folsom said Folsom has it right.

“In response to the left or right discussion for pedestrians on the bike trail, the left is recommended for pedestrians so they can see bikes coming towards them. If you are on the right, you can’t hear or see an approaching bike which is often traveling at a much higher rate of speed. Not knowing a bike is approaching and turning or moving even slightly into their line of passage is a recipe for disaster. The American River Parkway is a wonderful gem in our region – here is a link to the basic set of guidelines for both pedestrians and bicyclists to follow: http://www.msa2.saccounty.net/parks/Documents/Bike%20Trail%20Rules%20and%20Regulations.pdf.”

For those who don’t want to hit the website, here’s what it says about pedestrians on the American River Parkway trail, “Use the left shoulder when it is accessible to you. Joggers and walkers should stay on the dirt shoulder off the pavement to minimize the chance of an accident.”

Bob Stofan said the same rules as the road apply to the trail, meaning pedestrians should walk facing oncoming traffic.

“I have never heard of a rule for pedestrians to be on the right side of a road or path where traffic is approaching from the rear. I have always understood the importance of a pedestrian to be able to see oncoming traffic, especially on a narrow bike trail with bicyclists whizzing by. With your research into other states they say ‘traffic’ must stay to the right unless passing etc. A pedestrian is not considered traffic according to the California Vehicle Code. Please check California Vehicle Code section 21956.”

I appreciate our Telegraph readers jumping in on this issue. Check out the rest of the letters we received on this subject.

Reach Editor Don Chaddock at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.