Friday, July 24, 2009

Sharing and Caring

Belmont Trig - reachable by foot or mountain bike

Yesterday at work we were discussing the shared pedestrian and cycle lane one of my colleagues uses to walk to work and back. It got me thinking about the number of shared pathways through the wilderness, and whether they work.

More and more it seems there is competition for trails between the hikers and the mountain bikers. Hikers want to keep the wilderness pristine (rut-free) and quiet, with narrow, unassuming tracks. Mountain bikers want enough space to safely enjoy the ride, and get around the non-bikers if necessary. Often this leads to track being designated either for hiking or for biking. Sometimes, though, we are asked to share.

Last weekend G and I were using a shared track in Belmont Regional Park. It was a beautiful, sunny winter day and there were many people out enjoying the break in the weather which thankfully fell on a Sunday. The track is popular because it can be accessed right from the town of Petone. So we shared the track with lots of dog walkers, some trail runners, and a number of mountain bikers.

This particular track follows a stream through a gorge, so at times the track is narrow and drops off to one side, with a steep wall on the other side. It could lead to problems as people try to get past each other, but everyone was very accommodating. If we could step aside to let a cyclist through, that's what we did. If there was a narrow bit coming up, the cyclists would stop if someone was walking through, rather than try to scrape by.

Sharing a track is easy, but it means thinking about what's going on around you, and not just getting lost in your own experience. A daydreaming walker can be infuriating to runners and cyclist, ambling up the middle of a track oblivious to those behind; cyclists enjoying the thrill of a good downhill run can terrorise hikers heading up (or down) the same hill; a poorly behaved dog can give chase to a terrified cyclist.

Shared tracks are a sometimes unfortunate reality, but they're not going away so we all have to learn to get along out there. It's easy to get frustrated, but remember that you're out in the wilderness to relax. It's not a hiker's fault that hiking is slow. It's not a cyclist's fault that their wheels can spray mud; but it is the dog owner's fault if there's poop on the track! (Bring a baggie, it's not that hard!)

So go out there and enjoy the trails however you prefer. But remember to respect you fellow user, and be prepared to break your stride so we can all safely stay on track.

(I feel like a public service announcement. Oh well, sermon over.)

1 comment:

Mike said...

Teehee. I wonder if you walked past me last Sunday.

Well I think they work (usually). So far I've found Belmont Regional Park to have really good respect between people walking and people on Mountain Bikes. Sometimes I've felt nervous near the blind corners you mentioned above the Korokoro Stream, but it's never amounted to anything in that area, which has been great. One thing that helps a lot is when the first person in a group of bikes will tell someone how many more of the group are coming behind, and I had that a couple of times last Sunday.

I've only felt very threatened by mountain bikers (as a walker) in two places. One was in Richmond Forest Park when we were coming out of a tramp, but that was just a couple of young kinds who were screaming back and forth along the track near Nelson without paying much attention. The other was up Makara Peak, which is really built as a mountain biking playground anyway so I don't feel bothered.

I think city streets still have problems, but maybe that's just a sign of the different environment. I get annoyed sometimes when people stop for idle conversation without making any effort to get out of the way of everyone trying to get around them, and also people who blow smoke back in your face after every breath and then chuck their cigarette in the gutter (hey it's my footpath too!). (I wrote more about my thoughts on this a while back though.)