Trail Etiquette: 7 Rules We Wish Everyone Would Follow on the Schuylkill River Trail

A guide to not ruining your fellow trail user’s training run or bike ride or leisurely evening walk.

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

This past weekend — a long one, complete with 65-degree weather in freakin’ February — was the kind of weekend that causes a person to spew out delusional sentences like, “Who needs California? I basically live in California. We have avocado toast! And sunshine! And trails! WHO needs California?!”

I was yelling such statements to my boyfriend, who was undoubtedly rolling his eyes, as we biked down a sun-splashed Spring Garden Street, dressed in sweatshirts (in February! Like California!), to make our way to the Schuylkill River Trail — with a pit-stop at Whole Foods for sushi (I was really embracing the whole wannabe-California-resident thing) — to get a good long bike ride and picnic in.

This didn’t go exactly as planned.

The SRT was packed — like human-traffic-jam-level packed — with other enthusiastic, sunshine-loving, movement-loving folks looking to get their run, bike and walk on along the river. And it was still lovely, but our bike ride ended up being a verrrry slow one (at points, walkers were moving just as fast) with many hurdles — dogs darting across the path! Tiny humans darting across the path! People stopped in the middle of the trail — bikes and all — to take selfies! We only managed to make it to East Falls before we gave up and hunkered down on the side of the trail to dig into our avocado rolls. After soaking up some sunshine, we crossed the East Falls Bridge, braving the many bumps on the (much less crowded) MLK path for our ride back.

Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s AWESOME that so many people utilize the Schuylkill River Trail. It’s a wonderful resource to have access to in the middle of a city, accessible to residents spanning across a slew of neighborhoods. (And with warm weather — and Broad Street Run training season! — headed our way, the trail will only fill up more.) But this busy Sunday ride got me thinking about a few rules that I wish everyone would follow to make using the trail a bit more pleasant for all. Read ‘em below. And if you have rules you wish everyone on the SRT would follow, shout ‘em out in the comments.

1. Keep your dog on a short leash (pretty, pretty please!).
Dogs are great. I have one myself and I enjoy her company more than that of any human. So I get why you’d want your pup to accompany you to the SRT. But it’s really hard to pass someone, running, walking or biking, when there’s 13 feet of leash stretching between where that person is walking and where their dog is walking ahead of them. This difficulty only increases when dogs zig-zag across the path. So, short leashes, people!

2. Keep your kid on a short leash, too.
Don’t get me wrong: We’d never ask you to be one of those parents who literally leashes their toddler. But if you’re out on the trail during a busy time, maybe just hold your kid’s hand so that they don’t decide to sprint across the trail with no notice. (I literally almost ran over a free-spirited tiny human this weekend, obnoxious bike bell, “On your left!” warnings and all.)

3. Don’t try to speed through at rush hour. 
And speaking of almost running people over, one of my former coworkers told me one of his biggest pet peeves when running along the SRT in the city is when he nearly gets clipped by a cyclist who’s clearly in Tour de France training mode, whooshing by him at lightning speed. “There’s a speed limit!” he screeched. The speed limit ranges depending on where you’re at on the trail, but it’s as low as five miles per hour on some stretches. And I get it: A speed limit that low can be a bit impossible to stick to as a cyclist — but it is worth being aware of at, say, 5:15 p.m. on a weekday when you’re sharing the Schuylkill Banks with crowds of commuters and people squeezing post-work workouts in.

4. If you’re going to stop moving, first move out of the way. 
Nothing irritates me more than being forced to come to a full stop on the trail because someone has decided — for whatever reason — to take a break smack-dab in the middle of the path. This bothers me in part because it’s dangerous, but also because it’s just rude. Like, move over, dude.

5. Don’t be a trail hog.
You know when you’re walking on the sidewalk and you get stuck behind a slow-walking herd of office workers all going out to lunch together, and taking up the entire sidewalk in the process of getting there? Well, this happens on the trail, too — just with people wearing Lululemon leggings instead of khaki pants. So, whether you’re walking, running or biking, if you’re traveling in a pack, don’t be those jerks who take up the whole path.

6. Stop drowning out noise with soundproof headphones. 
I am all for listening to a good podcast or playlist on a run, but setting yourself up to be unable to hear anything or anyone surrounding you in a public space is like walking into a pitch-black room without night-vision goggles and expecting not to bump into anything. My point: You will bump into something or get bumped into.

7. Be nice! 
Remember back in 2014, when a Philly-area cyclist used Facebook to try to track down the fellow user who saved his life when he had a heart attack on the SRT? Well, my point in bringing this story up is that if you see someone who looks like they need help — because they’re lost or hurt or whatever — you should be a nice person and help ’em out. It might not always be life or death, but there’s a lot to be said for being able to count on the people sharing space with you.

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