Apr 29, 2022 - Things to Do

How to prioritize trail safety as nicer weather approaches

A helmet on a bike leaning against a building

Nicer weather means people need to keep trail safety top of mind. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Safety campaigns sometimes try to scare people straight with negative statistics. But I think playing up the positive is more meaningful.

What's happening: Nicer weather, the start of National Bike Month on Sunday and continued improvements to NWA's trail system mean more foot and bike traffic and more opportunities for accidents.

Driving the news: I recently had a near miss with a child on the Razorback Regional Greenway. We were both on bikes. As I moved out of the way to avoid a collision, I told him he should be on the other side of the trail.

  • The man he was with began shouting expletives and even threatened me with “I’ll beat your a**.”

Yes, it was an extreme overreaction. But it occurred to me later that the two may not have had a good foundation of trail safety knowledge (though both wore helmets).

Trail etiquette: There are some simple behaviors for both cyclists and pedestrians. Trail coordinators in Fayetteville and Rogers told Axios these guidelines are meant to keep people safe:

  • Be aware of surroundings. If you're listening to music when running or riding, make sure you can hear ambient noise.
  • Rules of the road apply. Stay to the right unless passing. Check behind you before moving left, and warn those you're passing with your voice or a bell. Yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Step off the trail to use your phone or visit with friends.
  • At corners, slow down if you're cycling and pay close attention if you're on foot.
  • Make eye contact with motorists when at crosswalks.

Kara King, trails coordinator for Rogers, told Axios wearing high visibility or reflective clothing, watching for water and loose gravel, and keeping control of dogs on a leash also are good ways to keep everyone safe.

  • You should also wear a helmet if cycling. A 2007 study claims helmet use reduces the risk of head and brain injury by 63-88%.

The big picture: King told Axios despite an increase in trail users over the years, there are fewer bike and pedestrian incidents (18 last year vs. 27 in 2020) on the greenway in her town.

Yes, but: 39% of the accidents in 2021 had injuries, compared to 15% in 2020. King said last year was an outlier of the trend.

  • Bentonville's incidents were up to nearly 200 last year and the city received funding to add six firefighters for greenway accident response.

My thought bubble: It's rare to run into rudeness on the greenway, but anecdotally, as more people use it, the rudeness factor goes up. You can read about another incident.

  • The trail system in NWA is an attraction for tourism and workforce talent. It's on everyone who uses it to not only be safe but also kind and courteous.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios NW Arkansas.

More NW Arkansas stories