To the Editor: Trail Etiquette

Mint Springs Valley Park

Well, I am now officially terrified to hike the trails of Mint Springs. What, bears? snakes? aggressive unleashed dogs? you ask. No, although I have encountered all of these and they have made me tremble and hold my breath. I still don’t understand why some people seem to think the signs to leash their dogs aren’t meant for them. No, it’s mountain bikers.

Three days ago I was hiking with my two dogs on a narrow, steep stretch of one of the trails. The path ahead was only visible in short spurts. I heard a sound that I thought might be a bike so I stepped off the trail into the poison ivy and gathered my dogs around me. Seconds later a mountain biker came careening past me at full speed and then he was gone. He did not slow his pace one iota even though for a split second our eyes met and he saw my terror. No, he just continued on to take out some other unsuspecting walker further down the path I guess.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against mountain bikers. My son and nephew are both avid bikers and I respect their love of the sport. I just have a problem with stupid, thoughtless, self-serving bikers who put other people in danger. If he had hit me at that speed I could easily have ended up in the hospital, or my dogs could, or he could, or most likely we all could. I cringe when I think of the possibilities. There are plenty of people who hike those trails with worse hearing and more brittle bones than I who could easily have been less fortunate.

The introduction of mountain biking on those trails is not new. Most of the bikers I have encountered have been careful and respectful of those walking. There are official signs telling bikers to give walkers the right of way. So what to do about the few that cannot and will not respect the rules? I’m not sure. Maybe biking on the trails should be designated for certain hours of the day. Maybe there should be separate trails for bikers and walkers. But something needs to change and Albemarle County Parks and Recreation officials need to address this issue before someone less lucky than me gets hurt.

Carolyn Brandt


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