What are the Common Dangers of Trail Riding?

Video Transcription:

- Hey, it's Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. So, what are the common causes, actually, the common dangers or trail riding? Today I'm gonna talk to you really, about three things. In my view, trail riding is safer than road riding but, it's not without its risks. We'll talk about four of the, really most common things we see in cases that come out of riding on the trail. And I'm gonna offer you a resource at the end of this program.

So what is it about trail riding? Here in my county, Pinellas County, we've got an extensive trail system and are continuing to add to it. We have some, 900,000 users on our trail system at least every month, excuse me, every year from what I understand. So, there's a tremendous amount of pressure, but it's spread out across the whole county.

Bear in mind that I think anything that takes us off our roads, that do not have protected bike lines, is a step in the right direction, and something that increases the safety of you, the rider, at all times. So, I view trail riding definitely safer than road riding, because you generally eliminate the issue of intersecting with cars at high speed. But, it's not without its issues, you know.

My assistant Judi is a rider. She and her husband ride frequently, every weekend, pretty much. I think being a trail rider requires an awareness of what the issues are and attentiveness, anticipating what you could be running into next. You know, Judi maintains that she's a really safe rider, because in our work we see all the dangers all the time, and she's thinking through in advance what the danger is, what she's seen it produce in the past, and how she's gonna avoid it before it comes her way. So, I think that's what we need to do as riders ourselves, so I wanna hope we raise awareness about what the issues are.

And, I think one of the first things that I'm concerned about when I'm on a trail or I talk to someone who's riding on a trail, is the issue of intersections. A lot of our trails go through heavily populated areas, here in Pinellas County. I know there's a lot of trails, the West Orange Trail, Seminole Wekiva Trail, there's just a lot of trails across Florida that go through heavily populated areas. And, the result of that is, we have trails that intersect with roads, which means, you get drivers coming to a stop and riders on the trail coming up to the trail.

Here's one of the things that we have seen regarding dangers of the cars at intersection. The first is, never assume the car's going to stop, because many times, they don't even pretend to stop. Secondly, if a car does stop, you cannot assume the car's gonna wait for you. Many cars will stop and they may or may not see you and they go. We even had a case once where a client stopped, the car stopped, client perceived the car was waving the client on, she went, the car ran into her. We just have to be constantly aware of some of those issues.

The other thing is, you cannot assume the driver sees you. I was on the trail, actually last night, and I put myself in a position where there was a car coming, he stopped, I couldn't see his face, because of the glare and the tint. I went but I was thinking the whole time that I went, I can't see this guys face, but he's not moving, so I'm gonna go. So the other thing is, you know, the big danger that I see on trails, and I saw this last night when I was riding, every time I'm out, really. I face oncoming cyclists or cyclists that are maybe going in my same direction, who make no pretense of slowing down or stopping for an intersection. Most trail intersections require us to stop. Some, the car is required to stop and some, down here particularly, cars are not gonna stop. There's no stop sign for the cars, although many times they do. So, you know, the burden is on us when bad things happen, and people are examining the conduct of the driver and the cyclist. The first thing they're gonna look at when things go south, is, did the cyclist obey the stop sign that was on the road at the time? And that's when we have to look very carefully what people did or didn't do. So, the way to prevent your case from being heavily affected, is simply, obey the stop signs, slow down, wait for the driver to give you the signal to go, and do the things we need to do to prevent being injured on the road. So, intersections are the first issue, I think, are the major danger, because they involve cars.

But they're not, there's some other things that involve incidents for us too, and that's, one of the first is, oncoming cyclists. I know when I'm over on the Seminole Wekiva Trail, in particular, there's some places where that trail goes under the highway, that you go down a slight decline or an incline, and suddenly you got a right turn at the bottom of it. That's fraught with issues about a cyclist coming the opposite direction and two of you running head on to each other. Well you can't assume that another cyclist on the road is experienced. Many times, on trails, you attract a lot of people who are casual, casual riders. They don't understand the importance of telegraphing what you're going to do before you turn left, or turn right or suddenly stop. Seasoned road riders know when you ride in a group you don't do those things, you signal, you're turning left or you're turning right or you're slowing down. But some of your more casual riders don't do that. And, regardless of whether you hit a rider coming against you or going with you, if one of you hits the ground, it's a good opportunity for a broken bone to occur, very common is a hip fracture, that comes out of those cases, and we've seen them. So, you have to be really heads up about who's this cyclist and what are they doing, are they telegraphing what they're doing. And we ride out there, we have to make sure that we're letting people know what we're doing. You can't simply change direction suddenly on the trail. People are anticipating you continuing in the same direction at the same speed.

The other thing is, you know, in edition to the inexperience, last night when I was riding, three kids riding little bikes side by side, totally took up the entire width of the trail. They stopped, the bikes are laid down on the trail, you know, I passed 'em twice. Kids are unexp, you know, they're unanticipated, in terms of what they're gonna do next. And they bring that behavior out to the trails as well. When you see them, you really need to be careful, you need to back off, because you don't know what they're going to do. You know, a child, if they live in a home with a homeowner's insurance policy, they're covered just like an adult would be if they do something that results in your injury, but we don't wanna even go down that road. So, the big issues with other cyclists are coming in the opposite direction from blind intersections, overtaking and not letting people know that you're being overtaken, changing direction, and the unpredictability of kids.

Then we have this issue, number three, of pedestrians. And don't you love them. These trails are a magnet for the neighborhood pedestrian to do their walking, which is great, but sometimes they walk two and three abreast, and sometimes they have a dog on a leash, and sometimes they've got the kids in tow, they're not on a bike but they're walking with them and pushing a stroller. They're under the category of unpredictable behavior, so your antenna go up when you approach a pedestrian, a child, someone with a dog. Give them plenty of room, because the dog can be on a leash. We had a case recently, got a call from someone who got knocked down by a dog, on a leash, on the sidewalk, but the dog had enough room to get to the road and took the cyclist out, simply because the six foot extension let him get onto the road. Be aware, anticipating these things could come up while you're riding. You know, just be heads up on it.

The last thing I wanna talk about in terms of dangers on a trail, are the bollards are fixed posts we see so often on trails. When a trail gets to a point where automobiles could ride on it, some municipalities opt to put a fixed, solid bollard or steel post in the trail to prevent automobiles from driving on. It's a bit of a two edged sword. We'd be complaining if cars were on the trail, but I'm a real, I'm not a fan of bollards or fixed posts on a trail. I think they present more danger to the cyclist and to the public than they do preventing cars from coming on the road. The design manuals for putting those things in, actually require, can hear the phone ringing in the background. The design manuals require that they put, at least, a diamond mark on the pavement around it, but there's also other ways they can mark it. Those things could be elongated. You need to have enough of a pattern on the road, on the paved trail, to alert you, the rider, that there is an object in the middle of the path ahead. And I think the little diamond isn't enough, it needs to be a lot longer than that. But I have, we have a case right now, where there was nothing on the path, and cyclist was significantly injured running into a bollard.

Another thing that can happen with bollards, or steel posts, is that, if someone's riding ahead of you, maybe even a pedestrian is ahead of you, they can shield your vision of where that post is, or even that it exists. And many people will ride the same area repeatedly, but not be consciously aware that, a need to anticipate this post up here that you can't see. I know of a situation personally, where a gentleman was riding with his father. The father just moved slightly to avoid a post on the trail and the person behind him didn't have time to avoid it and hit it head on, was really hurt badly. So, I don't like bollards, I don't like steel posts or posts. There's a lot of science on that. They can do break-away posts, there's a lot of things they can do to design these roadway intersections so that we don't have to use them. But, they're out there, every trail has them. You have to give it a heads up, and kind of, be aware as much as you can that they're there.

So, we have intersections, we have other cyclists, we have pedestrians, dogs and children, and we have bollards, those are, to me, the calls that we receive and the things I see on the trail, kind of, the major issues that create a potential danger for you. I think all things being equal, in many situations I'll take those issues over road riding, depending on where my options are to ride on a road that day, but it's not without its problems.

So, I hope that you enjoyed this program. We have a resource for you to day. If Kati's going to run the resource link on the bottom of the screen there. But this is, Replacing Your Bike After a Crash. This is a real handy resource, that really walks you through what you need to do. I mean, I can tell you, but this will tell you exactly what you need to do to get your bike frame repaired or replaced after a crash, it's very handy. So, get that and keep it with you.

I hope you've appreciated the program, I'm Jim Dodson, The Florida Bike Guy. We practice in Clearwater, but we represent cyclists and other injured people throughout Florida. If I can ever help you, let me know, and I look forward to talking to you the next time. Okay, take care, bye.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.