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By Anna Baklund • June 7, 2022

I wait all week for this. It’s Friday night and my partner and I are scurrying around the garage to get everything ready for our ride tomorrow. We’re muscling the dirtbikes into the Sprinter, gathering up our trail maintenance tools and packing riding gear for any weather scenario. Tomorrow morning we’ll leave before first light to venture out to one of our favorite multi-use trail systems.

For me, riding dirtbikes is about the outdoor places I get to experience. There’s this incomparable freedom and excitement that comes with riding the trails out into our great expanses. It’s about shifting through the gears and having the fresh air whip through my helmet; it’s about winding through moss-covered forests and zipping along rugged ridgelines. 

Part of the exhilaration comes from the speed at which the machine can carry me. But at what point does speed become a problem? With the increased number of recreationists and all of the emerging forms of trail activities, there’s been a renewed sense of concern over how fast folks are going on the trail. These concerns over speed aren’t solely directed towards dirtbikes, but include mountain bikes, trail running, and so on. But is it really the speed itself that has folks concerned? I believe the heart of the issue is how speed plays a role in the interactions between users, and how speed impacts safety. This boils down to courtesy and safety on the trail.

Photo courtesy Anna Baklund


Every so often, there will be someone out on the trail who comes up on you quickly, doesn’t slow down, doesn’t acknowledge you, and zooms right past. You wonder, “What was their problem?!” Kindness is paramount on the trails; we’re all out there to have a good time. 

The simplest way to come into a friendly passing situation is to slow down, smile, and say hello. Following this initial interaction, it’s important to understand what user groups we need to yield to. It can be a little confusing when you’re on a multi-user trail system, but the generally accepted yielding protocol is as follows: Horses always have the right of way; motorized users yield to everyone; mountain bikers yield to hikers; downhill yields to uphill. 

In a passing situation, it’s best to continue going slow as it doesn’t take much of a bobble to bump into someone or tap bars with another rider. When horses are involved, passing becomes trickier, as they can spook easily and put the horse, its rider, and the other party in danger. Experts recommend coming to a stop and communicating with the horseback rider about next steps, whether approaching from ahead or behind. In these situations, non-horse users need to be flexible in the solution as everyone’s safety depends on cooperation between the parties.  

Photo courtesy Anna Baklund


No one goes out on the trail for their morning ride or run with the malicious intent to cause harm to another person. Good intentions are, well, good, but thoughtful and deliberate actions are better. Taking care to not jeopardize someone else’s physical wellbeing should be a top priority for all trail users. 

Collisions are one of the biggest threats to our safety out on the trails. Places where collisions have an especially high probability of occurring are on blind corners and in areas of dense brush where visibility is limited. We’ve all been there: someone turns a corner in the hallway and bumps into us—we fumble our papers and spill a little bit of coffee, but no harm no foul. Now, consider a blind corner on the trail with one or both parties traveling at speed. Were the two parties traveling at a rate of speed where they could get stopped in time to avoid the collision? Dialing back the speed in these areas of low visibility is a proactive step towards looking out for each other’s safety.

Photo Courtesy Anna Baklund

At the end of the day, we’re all out on the trails because of the experience they provide. Whether you’re a trail runner who craves traversing through varied terrain, a mountain biker that lives for those twisty descents, or a dirtbiker that revels in powering the machine through flowy sections of trail, we’re all part of the greater trail community. For the sake of our community, let’s do our part to be courteous towards one another and look out for each other’s safety so that we’re all able to continue to enjoy our chosen avenue of recreation.

Anna Baklund is a Program Manager at Tread Lightly! Follow her adventures at @annabaklund.