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I've seen rules and graphics online that basically say that bikers are to yield to hikers. Is this the generally accepted rule, and if so, how do you define "yield"?

Background The areas I normally hike are wilderness areas (US) so I don't encounter cyclists very often. Yesterday I found myself on a trail that is very popular with mountain bikers and can honestly say that while hiking uphill I think that most of the cyclists barely bothered to slow down to allow me to step off the trail.

Coming down and normally being approached from behind they would slow and pass with comment like you normally would on a multi-use path.

I'm not being critical of the behavior of the cyclists - and in general I found them to be courteous - but it seemed that the expectation was that I would get out of the way, especially while I was hiking uphill.

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"Cyclists yield to everybody". That's not true in the case of trails shared with motorized users. Moto users should always yield to non-motorized. –  user2072 Aug 8 '11 at 20:19
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3 Answers 3

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The usual trail etiquette rules are, basically:

  1. Cyclists yield to everybody
  2. Everybody yields to horses
  3. If you're both cyclists (or both hikers, etc), somebody going downhill yields to somebody going uphill

So as a pedestrian going uphill on a narrow path, the cyclists were supposed to yield to you. However, if you looked like you were stepping off the trail, they probably assumed you wanted to let them pass.

Yield means something like: slow down to the hiker's speed, and if needed pull to the side and let the hiker pass, and depending on conditions would likely mean needing to stop entirely.

See also:

Cyclists that don't yield on trails scare other trail users and eventually lead to controversy over cyclists on the trails and possibly closing or limiting access for cyclists to those trails. For instance, Mount Tamalpais was important to the original development of mountain biking, but cyclists are now banned from many of its trails.

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I've often had times where I'm going uphill on a single-track then a few kids bombing down blindly just expect me to get out of the way –  helloworlder Oct 4 '10 at 18:29
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The world is full of dicks. Even hiking you have runners that will happily knock you off the trail to shave a fraction of a second off their time. Hiking I expect the cyclist to stop (you give way to the more fragile thing) but then I will step off the trail because it's easier for me than for the bike. –  mgb Feb 7 '11 at 17:45
    
Regarding horses/llamas/mules on inclined trails, I have OFTEN heard, and it makes sense to me, to yield to horses BELOW them - they are less spooked by something beneath them than above them(like a bobcat for example). Move to the lower side of the trail and quietly wait. –  Ash Machine Aug 12 '11 at 19:24
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Communication is key. I have a cowbell I attach to my bike when riding on trails so people know that a bike is coming. Or that a cow is speeding toward them. Either way, the trails I go on are vacant, save for the occasional hiker, and they're often courteous enough to move off the trail in order to let me go by. I thank them as I pass by because hikers do have the right of way. When hikers hold their ground, I have to clip out, go to the side of the singletrack path, and then lean my bike as far as I can toward the brush so the hikers can get by my handlebar.

Is it bothersome to yield to hikers? Absolutely. But I think crashing into someone is worse. Especially with all the lawyers here in California.

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In the UK the general idea is to not go mountain biking on the 'tourist' paths that walkers use. In most cases these paths, e.g. in Snowdonia, are not open to cyclists anyway.

Obviously if you are on a path used by walkers then you go at a fairly pedestrian speed and give them lots of room.

However, there are other trails that are not so popular with walkers and you kind of expect to have them to yourself. Negotiating the terrain without falling off is really the name of the game and 'oh there could be a walker ahead' is not really what you are thinking about. Equally they might not be expecting mountain bikes to be heading their way. So, even with the best of intentions, there are occasions when mountain bikers will set a bad example to others enjoying the great outdoors.

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