Safe Trails: Defensive Driving

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Reflecting on having authored the Safe Trails column in Trail Mail for more than a year has caused me to wonder what, if any, difference I have made. Perhaps I am preaching to the choir, since most readers of this newsletter likely have some commitment to using the trail safely. When using the Little Miami Scenic Trail, I still encounter far too many users who are overly aggressive, discourteous, unsafe, helmetless and clueless when it comes to etiquette. And yet, if I have caused even a few readers consciously to think about safety and to alter their behavior, I would consider my contributions to be a success.

Trail Mail’s distribution list now exceeds 2,000, but the trail is used by tens of thousands of people. The simple truth is that behaving safely is not sufficient to keep us safe. Others’ actions and natural events pose dangers that we must address. As when operating a motor vehicle, we must practice “defensive driving,” anticipating what might happen and either acting proactively or reacting appropriately. Expect the unexpected from people (especially children), dogs and wild animals. Slow down and be prepared to stop; announce your presence, give a wide berth and identify an escape route.

I would love to give the green light for trail users, especially bicyclists, to proceed at speed. The reality, however, is that we must contend with other users who don’t share our knowledge of or focus on safety. As a result, we must be defensive. Having to slow down or stop can be frustrating, but injuring ourselves or others is far worse. Be patient and stay well.
Past Safe Trails articles are now available here.


by Erick Wikum
August 2018

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