Spoke Talk: To yield or not to yield
August 4, 2015
You're riding up the steady climb of bluffs. A downhill rider steps off the trail so you can maintain your momentum. Thanks. You're riding down a super flowy section of Morning Gloria. (OK, it's all super flowy.) An uphill rider steps off the trail and waves you through so you can continue your descent, in the flow and having fun. The best of both worlds.
According to International Mountain Bicycling Association's Rules of the Trail, "bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic." That's the rule many of us grew up with and teach our kids. But there is another side of the coin to consider. Enter the uphill yield.
Let's be clear — downhill cyclists need to ride at a speed at which they can stay on the trail and still stop, and a rider coming downhill should never assume the rider coming up will yield for them unless they are called through. However, it is becoming more common these days to be waved through as a downhill rider so you can enjoy the descent uninterrupted. One might suggest it can be easier for an uphill rider to step off the trail than it is for a downhiller. An uphill rider may be more aware of downhill traffic earlier than the downhill rider, because the uphill rider typically is traveling more slowly and quietly.
In the end, as the rules of the trail are universally understood, it is the uphill riders' choice to yield or be yielded to, just as it is the hiker's or runner's choice to step off the trail for a bike, even though bikers are obliged to yield to pedestrians. Whomever yields the trail — be it an uphill or downhill biker, a hiker or a runner — a genuine "thanks" goes a long way.
Happily, there are options for those who want to speed downhill without giving the up a second thought. The Steamboat Bike Park has numerous downhill-only trails, and Emerald Mountain soon will join the ranks with its own directional trail — "NPR" (no pedaling required) — which is being built this month with Accommodations Tax funding. Once that directional trail is complete (with possibly another in the works, per the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance proposal), uphill riders, hikers and runners may even notice markedly less traffic coming down. Several mountain bike centric communities, such as Fruita and Bend, have successfully implemented directional trail designs, which reduce user conflict and promote safety by providing alternate uphill- or downhill-only access for trail users.
Routt County Riders supports keeping our trails both fun and safe, and that requires all cyclists to ride in control and be aware of what might be coming at them, either up or down. We're interested in hearing your take on the downhill versus uphill yield. Leave a comment.
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Wendy Tucciarone is a Routt County Riders member, volunteer and the club's administrator.
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