Spring on the Path – Remember the Etiquette!

Spring is a wonderful time for outdoor runners, cyclists and other outdoor exercise enthusiasts. Even though I run and walk outside all year round, there is still a thrill, each year, when it’s warm enough for me to don my shorts and tank top, instead of my “cold weather tights and two layers and my toque”. There are other considerations in the spring and summer (sunscreen, chafing ointment on the inner thighs and upper arms if it’s a very long run in hot weather). But, that first run in the warmer weather season is freeing. The sunshine is perky. I don’t have to worry about whether the sidewalks and paths are going to be slippery from the last snow fall. Ahh, bliss.

Part of the Martin Goodman Trail that is a regular part of Nicole’s running route. There is a runner ahead in a white top and shorts, who is running on the right side. There is a cyclist going in the opposite direction, also on the right side. Both are practicing good path etiquette.

Until I hit the part of my route where I reach the “shared use recreational path” and I hit the “fairweather” recreationalists who don’t seem to know or care about the etiquette on such routes. It may not seem fair to blame it on the “fairweather” recreationalists, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem most of the year. It may just be a case of volume, similar to January at the gym. I welcome the fairweather fitness enthusiasts. There’s room for all of us. I know it’s not “my path” ….But, there are good reasons to understand and practice “shared use recreational path etiquette” while getting your natural Vitamin D.

From “”, “If you have ever wondered how best to engage with people you encounter on a hike, you’re not alone. Trail etiquette is mostly about common courtesy and common sense, both are especially important for maintaining a positive atmosphere on the trail.”

From “Ontario Trails Council”, “Walk, ride or cycle in single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy. Stay to the right of the trail and pass on the left.”

Aside from courtesy, the practice of staying to the right and passing on the left, is about safety. If I’m running to the right, and I come to 2 or more runners, walkers or cyclists, walking across the path instead of single file, I have to go far to the left to pass, further over to the left than usual. This is a safety hazard for bikes coming up behind (I do a shoulder check, but sometimes bikes are going pretty fast) and for bikes coming in the other direction, particularly, if the bikes coming in the other direction, are also, not advancing single file.

Typically, my long run happens early enough in the morning, so that there isn’t too much path disruption. But, every so often, particularly in the spring, there are running groups (dozens running together), cycling groups (again, dozens in packs) and new pals walking their dogs on the path, on extra long leashes or no leash at all. Welcome! Now, please learn about keeping to single file. It’s so much safer! Also, keep your dog close to you. A dog running in the path of a cyclist is never a good scenario. Same goes for toddlers.

Just this morning there was a dude (imagine what you will) running in the opposite direction on the wrong side. Meaning, I was running to the right of my side of the path and he was running towards me in my line of fire, rather than being on the opposite side of the path for those going in the opposite direction. He remained oblivious to me and I yielded and went around him. What occurred to me, was that, if I were another guy or a cyclist, he would have yielded, but because I am neither of those things, and he figured I would yield, he ignored me and the etiquette of the path. This annoyed me briefly and then I let it go.

I know I sound a bit curmudgeonly. I am an ardent rule follower. I get annoyed with (increasingly) distracted people walking and driving. People could use reminders about sidewalk etiquette too, but that’s for another time. It’s not surprising that I get annoyed with people using the path in a way that makes it less blissful. There will be people who read this and who think I am being silly and will ignore the suggestion. However, if some people read this and remember that there is an etiquette on such paths and think, “Oh! I forgot and I will try to remember” or didn’t know in the first place and keep it in mind the next time they go for a (walk, run, cycle) on the path, perhaps I’ve made a small difference in the overall enjoyment of pathways around the world….

How about you readers? Do you think there are benefits to practicing path etiquette? Or, do you fall into the etiquette schmetiquette camp?

Nicole P. loves running, walking everywhere, HIIT/strength training and practicing good path etiquette.

5 thoughts on “Spring on the Path – Remember the Etiquette!

  1. So, as readers, let’s embrace and promote path etiquette. Let’s strive to be mindful, courteous, and aware of our surroundings. By doing so, we contribute to a safer and more pleasant experience for all path users, ensuring that everyone can savor the beauty of outdoor activities without unnecessary disruptions or hazards.

  2. I agree with you. And, at the same time, last night I was riding Citibike somewhere and ran through a red light, as I often to when there is absolutely no traffic. There was a pedestrian crossing very far from me, in no danger of being hit or obstructed by me, and yet she yelled after me that I should obey traffic lights. I admit that I was annoyed by her righteousness.

  3. Pathway etiquette is super important! As a person on a bike, I keep a close eye out for kids and dogs because both can be unpredictable despite the best efforts of their adults. I despise having someone ring their bell at me when they are passing, unless I am breaking the rules: I just call out that I am passing on the left, which seems friendlier to me. Even that only happens if they seem are very close to the middle of the path, or moving around in unpredictable ways.

  4. Interesting — because I ring my bell not to signal GET OUT OF MY WAY but “I’m coming up behind you.” Because so. much. of. the. time, people are not tracking that someone might be coming up behind them. I think this is a regional difference too — in Ottawa, motorists get annoyed if someone honks; in Toronto, honking is part of our collective communication. I’ve never had anyone ever give me the finger while driving in Toronto but I’ve had it happen like 5 times in Ottawa when I’ve lightly tapped my horn to indicate a car is coming up (for peds walking in the road) or that someone is about to back into me. We honk to say “I’m close to you” or “go” or “the light has changed.” It’s not rude, it’s part of the way we drive. Like a cat meowing when you are filling their dish.

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