Trail etiquette

[B' Spokes: You know there is a lot of talk out there how cyclists don't follow the rules of the road, so it would follow we would face the same accusations on bike trails. Now don't get me wrong, I am all for sharing and cyclists following rules but it cannot be the sole responsibility of cyclists to stay out of the way of every single thing no matter what random direction it decides to go. On trails I have used a bell before passing only to have a jogger u-turn into me. "Why didn't you give warning?" they yelled at me. "I did." was my retort. And their response "What?" as they pull earphones out of their ears.

If cyclists have a duty to give audible warning then it would stand to reason that pedestrains should have a duty to HEAR an audible warning, that is simple logic, yet there is no such duty so maybe we should look at things differently. If bike trails are funded by transportation money for the primary purpose of transportation and not recreation, shouldn't standard rules of the road be applicable, like the duty to signal and look over your shoulder before doing any lateral movement? To give cyclists all the duties and none to pedestrains is just wrong. While speeding/unsafe passing distance cyclists are a hazard to pedestrains and should be curtailed so should random turning no warning pedestrains, they are a hazard to cyclists at any speed. I don't mean to be self centered here but trails are being built to encourage more cycling (and its great that others enjoy them as well but) there should be more stress on cooperative behavior from all users. If everyone took some care for everyone else the world would be a better place and that is something I hope we can all stand behind.

Someone has to point out the obvious, I have used a bell to little to no avail so I decided it would be safer to have both hands on the brakes then one on the bell and now just say "passing" before I pass and of course I slow down while passing but some help from the other side would be appreciated as well. ]

Lane Change: Kate Ryan Reports

I'm a WTOP reporter shifting from the driver's seat to the bike lane. And you can come along for the ride.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

News from the (Bike) Trail...
Took a ride on the Capital Crescent Trail this morning and met up with a member of the Maryland National Capital Park Police. While we were riding and interviewing, a cyclist shot up alongside us to flag Officer Donald Brew: there'd been a crash on the trail,
not far from Massachussetts Avenue and Little Falls Parkway.

It was just before 8 a.m. We cycled back and found a cyclist down, blood near his ear and side of his face, and a runner sitting up, resting with her back against a companion, her face, palm, elbow, wrist and hip bloodied. Both were clearly shaken.

Initial eyewitness accounts indicate that the runner and cyclist were originally headed in the same direction, with the cyclist behind the runner, when the runner suddenly stopped and did a U-turn. According to one witness, she did this just as the cyclist was swinging wide to pass her, and the two collided--hard. The witness I spoke to could not recall hearing the cyclist call out to the pedestrian that he planned to pass her. All of this is preliminary information...Officer Brew will be filing a police report.

Expect to hear the interview with Officer Brew on WTOP soon...and in the meantime, be safe out there.

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Maryland Trails Summit - October 19, 2010


Maryland Trails Summit - October 19, 2010 Mark your calendar!
Registration will Open Soon! We are using the ideas, information and momentum from these regional brainstorming sessions to produce the first ever Maryland Trails Summit scheduled for October 19, 2010. If you do not see your name on the Participants List, and you want to be involved, you can add your name to our mailing list! Just click on the link below and tell us who you are. I Want to be Involved! Background So far, over 300 trail users and enthusiasts, planners, conservation, transportation, park and recreation professionals, friends groups and interested citizens have contributed their energy, expertise and ideas toward what we hope will become a shared vision for a Maryland Trails System. These early planning sessions provided a rich opportunity to network, collect information and ideas, and start development of an online resource that will connect trail enthusiasts to each other and with our citizens and visitors. Keep networking! Here is full list of regional roundtable participants and their contact information. If you have any questions or suggestions, e-mail:

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Jones Falls Trail update

Riding a bike can be fun, but it is not just for recreation anymore. Increasingly it is a way to travel to and from work or to run errands. Bike commuting is not for everyone. Being fit, confident about riding in traffic, and having access to a shower at work helps.

It also helps to have a good network of bike trails. Baltimore made another move in that direction recently when it received $4 million from the Maryland Department of Transportation to extend the Jones Falls hiking and biking trail into Mount Washington.

The trail will run from Cylburn Arboretum through Mount Washington and will end at the Mount Washington light rail station. Construction will probably begin in November and is likely to be completed in 12 to 18 months, according to Gennady Schwartz, chief of capital development for Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. Eventually it will link up to a section of the Jones Falls trail that now runs from Clipper Mill to Penn Station, Mr. Schwartz said.

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The Gunpowder Valley Conservancy is in need of 20 more volunteers for Saturday, July 31st!

...What: Trail Maintenance/Invasive Plant Removal/Native Planting Workshop at Loch Raven Reservoir, sponsored by Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI).

When: July 31st, 8:30-1:30 pm. FREE WORKSHOP!

Why: Our goal is to offer a hands-on learning experience within Loch Raven Reservoir on the proper techniques of trail maintenance, (such as rolling grade dips to prevent sediment erosion and improve water quality), and on an invasive removal and native planting project by Dr. Sonja Schmitz of Biology from the Catonsville Community College of Baltimore. A bonus educational
presentation on the history of Loch Raven Reservoir and the water supply system by the Baltimore City Gov. Watershed Manager will also be offered.

This FREE event is made possible by a conservation grant from Recreational Equipment, Inc., a new partner with Gunpowder Valley Conservancy (GVC), and partnerships forged with the City of Baltimore Reservoir Natural Resources Section and the Watershed Rangers, the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts, Sierra Club, and the Prettyboy Watershed Alliance.

Who: No Experience is necessary! We are looking for middle, high, and college level students, REI employees, community businesses and residents, scouts, and trail users who care about our drinking water, our watershed, and the Chesapeake Bay! Do you like being outside in nature and don't mind working hard? Do you want to receive community service hours? Then join us, and help improve the quality of our drinking water and the environment!
(Ages 12 and up.)

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Cyclists keep riding Northeast Branch trail despite spat of crimes

Patrols have been upped since robberies, assaults along Northeast Branch Trail
by Elahe Izadi | Staff Writer

Cyclists aren't letting a spat of June crimes on a trail that runs through Riverdale Park deter their biking habits.

Three incidents in June where pedestrians and cyclists were robbed or assaulted along the Northeast Branch trail have caused Maryland-National Capital Park Police to increase patrols and community members to encourage others to use the trails more frequently.

The trail starts in College Park and ends near the Hyattsville/Edmonston border.

Scot Brown, a member of the Hyattsville Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, organized a safe ride June 26 as a "show of force that the community cares and we're going to show up and we're going to respond."

About 35 residents, as well as Hyattsville officials and park, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park police, biked and walked portions of the trail as part of the safe ride and information about trail safety was handed out to residents.

"I wanted to promote the trails as a safe natural resource and a great community resource for everyone in this area," Brown said. "I also wanted to put out there the idea that the more heavily used these trails are the more safe they are."

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Great news for the Great Allegeny Passage and C&O trials

Excerpt from the C&O Towpath yahoo group

Yesterday at a meeting in Harrisburg, Amtrak officials announced that they would begin offering roll-on/roll-off bicycle service on the Capitol Limited by the end of June 2011!

This means that cyclists boarding at Pittsburgh, Connellsville, Cumberland, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, Rockville, or Washington, DC will be able to roll their bikes onto the train(reservations will be required; spaces will be limited at first), put them in a rack, and get off at any of these stops. Amtrak will be retrofitting several cars and needs to work out operational issues before the service can begin.

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Independence Day on the Gunpowder Trail

Bent Lorentzen
(c)1994, 2010, Bent Lorentzen & Baltimore Sun - All Rights Reserved

Thousands of Baltimoreans escaped the city heat to enjoy a different kind of Independence Day. Built up over an old railroad bed, the Northern Central Railroad Trail offers the cyclist and hiker easy access to one of Maryland's most historic and pristine state parks. I asked many who walked, cycled or live along the trail what being here on the Fourth meant to them.


Gunpowder River, looking up to RR trail of park

It is curious to know that though construction impacts heavily locally, on the trail you are completely insulated from this. You can almost see the Native Americans who walked and traded along the misty river for thousands of years, or Maryland's freedom fighters as they campaigned here to gain independence, or sadly, to hear the whistle of Lincoln's final train ride, as his body was returned to Illinois. He'd taken this same train ride to deliver his address in Gettysburg.

The trail begins in Ashland, and on Sunday morning, the Fourth, mist from the Loch Raven Reservoir and the Gunpowder River hung heavy in the air. Bicycling into Sparks, shafts of sunlight have begun to pierce the green canopy and mist. Passing Glencoe, once a resort village for Baltimore's affluent (circa 1880), the ivy shrouded rocks silently tell the story of those who carved out this railroad.

Emerging from a dark, misty overhang of trees, I came upon a startling view from a bridge. Below spread a farmfield of parked cars.

"It started as a wedding party," said Richard Hyatt, who had walked up from below, "and has evolved into an annual gig. They call it 'Kool-Aid.' I came last night with a friend from D.C. and partied all night long, listening to a neat group, the Oxymorons, on an outdoor grandstand. We all brought along some food for the homeless. Part of the admission fee, I guess, goes to the homeless too. I guess that's how the Fourth and this park relates to me."

I cycled down to an ancient stone house, barn and several hundred people sleeping in a tent village or out in the open around a smoldering campfire. "Come back later this afternoon and talk with 'Stan'," someone suggested.
Sergeant Dave Davis, chief park ranger, ministering to Annie, the dog hit by careless driver

Cycling north, I entered the Monkton Train Station, now the park's headquarters and museum. While there, Sergeant Dave Davis, chief park ranger, rushed to help a dog hit by a motorist. With thick but tender hands, he gently scooped up the paralyzed dog and set it in his truck to take it to the vet.

"Annie," the dog, was doing okay at the vet's, I was told later.

"That's the Fourth to me," said the ranger later while arranging several flags along his station. "I've had to dispatch deer who've been hit by cars, and it's sad, so to be able to help an animal into recovery makes my day. Come on by later... we'll be having watermelon. And there's a nature walk at eleven."

John Welling, a Towson State University student interning as the Station attendant, said, "I love this park especially on the Fourth. It's like a part of me now. I love telling people how this area used to bustle with the railroad traffic from the Calvert Street Station in Baltimore to the Sunburg and Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania...."
Sands & Wantz family, by Monkton Train (ranger) Station

A two-family group descended on the station in bicycles with training wheels and high-tech ATBs. James Sands, father of three, said, "Coming here for the Fourth was a convenient thing to do for the whole family without argument--" His young daughter shuffled uncomfortably. "Well," he admitted, "almost everyone."

Judith Wantz, mother of three girls, said, "It's a nice family trail. My husband is going all the way to Pennsylvania. We'll be picnicking half way there sometime. Whenever they," and she gave her brood a nod, "get tired."

"Mom!" cried out little Melissa Wantz.

"Oh yes," said Judith. "Tell the man what your job is."

"I push," she said matter-of-factly.

"Push?" I asked.

Smiling her mother said, "She means, she helps her daddy along by pushing him."

"How old are you?" I asked.

She slowly unfurled four fingers.

Traveling north again and passing the crumbling relics to the old gunpowder-related industry, I come behind a beautiful Arabian mare.
Barbara Marcus with Mellodi

States Barbara Marcus of White Hall as we stopped: "For me to ride Mellodi--that's two Ls and an i--on this trail on the Fourth is a part of my every day life as an artist. I come here not only to work out and exercise my horse, but also to find painting inspirations. There's something about the early morning lighting here... haunting shafts of light..."

I was now following the smaller, Little Falls River, which empties into the Gunpowder. In White Hall, rose a landscaped rock where Old Glory hung limp in the late morning heat.
Gene Stiffler

Gene Stiffler, the property's owner, squinted his eyes, then said, "Well, I usually work on the Fourth--"

"He means, around the house or on the grounds," said his camera-shy sister.

"Err, yup. --Haven't decided what I'll do today. Kind'a early yet. Might look for some seasonal music and play it for the folk on the trail... Can't find too much of that patriotic stuff, though--"

"That's because you like Bluegrass..." said his sister.

"How long have you lived here?" I asked.

"Been around here since , oh, 1964. The house here was built in 1898."

"Do you like being so close to the trail?" I asked.

"It has its advantages and disadvantages," he said. "It's convenient for my bicycling and you meet the nicest people. But some people trespass, or their dogs run loose in my yard. I'd like for the DNR to definitely enforce some of the leash laws on the trail." He smiled reflectively: "But there's no rowdy people to speak of on the trail. It's just that late at night... bikers talking to each other kind'a spook the night quiet."

"Sunday mornings, too," complained his sister.

"Yup. Sunday mornings is a nice time for quiet. But I'm glad the trail is here, especially on the Fourth, so I can show off my garden and flag."

The trail was now busy with cyclists, joggers and picnickers. Just south of Parkton, Little Falls cascades into a large pool from an overlook with picnic tables.
Beetree Run beaver colony

Parkton once served as the northernmost point of the Baltimore commuter line. About a half mile north of Parkton, the trail leaves the Little Falls River and follows Beetree Run, a prime trout fishing stream. It also boasts an active beaver colony. The nearby Bently Springs once served as a health resort. Here also, blackberries and raspberries hang heavy.

The trail begins to ascend more steeply. To the seasoned cyclist, this slope feels absolutely flat. To a child who has been cycling for ten miles, it might be murder.

Freeland is the last outpost before the Mason-Dixie line. Crossing Freeland Road, I asked a pair of brightly attired cyclists how far I was from Pennsylvania.

"A little over a mile," said the one in orange and black spandex.

"And it's all uphill," said the lady in red.

"But it feels great coming down," said the other.

I found it a relaxing climb, with ever more dairy farms coming into view among gently rolling hills.

At the state line the trail instantly changed into a horrible bed of rocks for a hundred yards, then into complete disarray, and seemed to disappear into the local farming scene.

Back in Freedom I stopped at the FLOWER CAFE, on the west bank of the Beetree. Vera Simmons, proprietor, said, "For the sake of thirsty hikers and bicyclists, the Fourth for me means we're open...

"We came to this area twelve years ago," she continued, "to be a part of something more peaceful than what we had before. Now I feel I'm a permanent fixture of the trail."

Sitting beneath the shade listening to the stream, a forty-something couple dismounted and sat beside me. "Well," said Philip Gillum, "we're here on the trail for the Fourth because..." he paused.

Bonnie Dunn, smiled as she said, "It's because we weren't invited anywhere..."

"We do it every Sunday," he said.

"Too bad it doesn't keep going in Pennsylvania," she reflected.

"Yeah," he said. "I hear it's because the farmers up there have been farming the railroad property for so long now that they don't want to part with it."
Accident scene in Parkton, after arrival of ambulance

Southbound, I come upon a cycling accident in Parkton. A woman bleeding from the head was surrounded by cyclists.

A young girl approached and said, "That's my mommy over there."

"The one who got hit?" I asked.

"She didn't get hit!" she said like I was supposed to know absolutely everything. "She ran into that pole... Anyways, that's not my mommy. My mom's helping the girl. My mommy is a doctor."

"Do you like being here on the Fourth?" I asked her.

"Yeah... but now my mommy's working."

Back in Monkton, Sergeant Davis motioned me over to a flag-adorned table full of cold, sliced watermelon. "Dig in," he said heartily. "It's free."

Suddenly, he sprang up and lectured a cyclist who failed to walk his bike across Monkton Road. After the warning had sunk in, he said, "Want some melon?"

I returned to the Kool-Aid fest along the Gunpowder to interview the landowner. Sporting a distinguished salt-and-pepper beard, Stan Dorman explained: "This all started as a wedding anniversary eight years ago in D.C. Somehow it grew--"

Tim McGuinnis of D.C., continued: "We're all friends of friends of family. Last year there was two hundred--"

"And this year," said Stan, "it grew to five hundred."

"That's too many," reflected Tim.

Stan nodded in agreement but said, "But you know, when these people leave here, the farm is spotless. These are a remarkably responsible group of people. And we want to keep it that way. We had many kegs of beer, lots of good partying. There's a river over there where we tube, and the live music... We didn't have one brawl."

"It's not open to the public," explained Tim.

"So don't reveal our location, please," stated Stan.

"What's this I hear about helping the homeless?" I asked.

"Together with the groom, I'm in charge of the donations thing," said Tim. "We decided to have lots of fun while also helping our fellow man. The food will go to the Capitol or Baltimore food bank."

"That's the Fourth for us," said Stan. Proudly, he pointed to his home. "That was built in 1857... I've been here for seventeen years, and enjoy my proximity to the Trail."

Southbound, near Phoenix, I come upon a young couple with a child sitting in the water who were gently talking. The scene was ever so peaceful...  ever so Biblical.

Thus I left the trail and headed for the hustle and bustle of the hot city with a warm feeling about America stirring in my heart.
Danish writer, cultural anthropologist, Bent Lorentzen, exploring America's backwoods society by bicycle many years ago

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Don't build this trail, too many people will use it.

Planning Board Votes Unanimously for Lake Frank Trail

by washcycle

The Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the Lake Frank trail alignment "B" that WABA supported. One board member said he had previously supported the other option near the spillway but that he trusted the staff's opinion that it wasn't feasible. Another board member said that she had to rely on the master plan and not oppose a trail that's been in the plan for decades. Chairman Royce Hanson (in what may have been his last hearing and last decision as chair) made a statement including the point that every major trail that's ever been built in the county was opposed by neighbors but once built they're very popular. Parks staff noted their intent to remove the parking lots soon, without ICC money. Park staff said they would delay a trail connector from the Matthew Henson Trail to a neighborhood to do this but would try to find a state source of funds. The connector in question comes from a neighborhood that at first opposed the Matthew Henson Trail, but now wants a connection to it.

There were a number of people testifying against any paved trail along the lake, not just against the connector path. Some even supported the connector but not the path next to the lake (the next segment of the North Olney Trail). Arguments were mostly that the lake is pristine and meant for hikers wanting to enjoy the natural setting, not bikers flying through on their way somewhere. They contrasted it to Lake Needwood. They were very concerned about having the existing natural surface trail paved over. Jack Cochrane of MoBike pointed out in his testimony that no one wants to replace the existing natural trail with a paved one. The plan is to add a paved trail where there's only a natural one and add a natural trail where there's only a paved one. Users will have both.

People opposing the trail kept saying it would be part of a giant route to Olney and get too much through-use, calling it a "bike road" and "bike highway". Which is an odd argument to make. "Don't build this trail, too many people will use it."

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Baltimore area bike trails: Patapsco Valley State Park is a challenge

[B' Spokes: Note there is flat paved trails in the park as well, something for every one.]
Via Washington Post:
Detailed maps available at: The Avalon area visitor center close to the park entrance near South Street and Route 1.

Mountain biking is not for the faint of heart, and that's exactly why serious mountain bikers love it. Rocketing down hills, bouncing over rocks and roots, and splashing through streams all have a certain danger -- and therefore thrill.

Trails in Patapsco Valley State Park deliver on that thrill. Park in the lot on River Road near the swinging bridge. The blue-blazed trail head for the Cascade Falls trail is across from the bridge.

The trail is so steep and rocky that you must walk your bike the 0.1 mile to where it meets the orange-blazed Ridge Trail. Cascade Falls is an incredibly popular trail and for good reason: There are lovely views of waterfalls coming down the mountain. Get to the park as early as you can to have this picturesque scene to yourself.

The ride really begins on the appropriately named Ridge Trail. It is extremely rocky and hilly, and it will challenge even experienced riders. After a mile you get to the Connector Trail, which will take you to the yellow-blazed Morning Choice Trail, which is considerably smoother and flatter than Ridge and Cascade Falls. There are still some challenging hills, but for the most part you can slow down and enjoy the bright green spring foliage.

After about another mile, you will see the familiar blue blazes of Cascade Falls. This last mile is a favorite of mountain bikers because it is not so difficult as Ridge, but more challenging than Morning Choice. The loop brings you back to the parking lot.

Before leaving, be sure to take a walk on the swinging bridge. If you're lucky, that wobbly feeling will come only from the bridge -- not from your legs.

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Park and Trail Supporters: The Lake Frank Trail needs your urgent support!

An important planned trail that will connect the Rock Creek Trail to Lake Frank is in jeopardy due to nearby homeowner opposition. This paved trail will be a superb amenity that will greatly improve access to the lake, provide family recreational opportunities and serve as a high quality bikeway. The trail will also be an important piece of the future North Olney Trail that will link the Rock Creek Trail to Olney five miles away, helping the environment by supporting bike transportation instead of driving. But a group of neighbors who live adjacent to Lake Frank is vociferously opposing the trail based on its proximity to their homes, a problem we face all too often when new trails are built. To stop the trail they are attempting to take away its state funding.

What You Can Do

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