The following reports of incidents involving cyclists have been shared in letters to the Parks Director. The draft master plan recommends a major change to our parks - overturning a decades old park policy by allowing cycling on trails. The plan ignores citizens' concerns about safety. There is not a single mention of safety in the draft plan in regards to cycling - hiking concerns.
Several times in the past year, I have been walking with my dog on county park trails and have been nearly run over by aggressive cyclists. After speeding over a rise, one yelled back: "Hey, get the F*** out of the way." As if I were the one in the wrong. The cyclist, in riding his bike on the trail at all, was clearly in violation of current park regulations. The idea of officially approving this behavior is appalling.
I use the Ellison park trails often. There are already some mountain bikers who come racing along these narrow trails. In some areas of the trail there is no place to go but up the side of the hill when the bikes come along.
This concerns me greatly as I live adjacent to a well traveled walking trail on which I have on at least two occasions, actually observed an occasional bicyclist colliding with a pedestrian. I, myself, while walking my dog on a leash, have had the shock of having a cyclist pass between me and the dog, fortunately no collision with either myself or my canine companion.
My biggest surprise was how unnerving it was to be constantly on alert for a bike around every bush. The mountain bikers were courteous and usually were aware of the hikers and stopped. But it didn't prevent regular bumping into each other due to the narrow trail and the inability for a bicycle to step to the side. My experience has taught me that I should avoid any wilderness trail with bikes on them for two reasons. 1.) A collision with a bicycle is highly likely and will definitely be more hazardous than with another hiker. 2.) The outdoor experience has been lost since the hiker now has to concern themselves with a danger that didn't exist before.
When I lived in San Francisco, I had a room mate who grew up without a father because one Sunday afternoon in Golden Gate Park the father was hit by a bike and because of the unique way that he hit his head, it killed him. The worst part of that story is that it was just a family picnic on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the park and it ended in horrible tragedy. If you allow bikes on these narrow paths, the times that I can hike with my wife and 4 kids in the parks will be over. It's that simple. Bikes and people do not belong on the same narrow paths.
I would like to caution Monroe County that, as a hiker, it is not a pleasant nor safe feeling experience to have to (try to) jump out of the way of mountain bikes that have suddenly appeared on the same trail.
I have had just 2 or 3 encounters with mountain bikers when hiking on the Finger Lakes Trail in Ontario County Park. Each time I was forced to move to the side of the trail as groups of bikers drove by me or toward me. The experience of hiking with even more bikers raises my shackles. The trails do not safely accommodate both activities and I am sure that bikers trump hikers just by their speed and power. Instead of fearing a biker coming up behind me or appearing without warning on the next hill, I will avoid parks that allow mountain biking. It reduces a peaceful, joyous experience to one that lacks serenity.
I've taken [my young son] out--notably in the northern sections of Ellison Park and in the summer at Irondequoit's East Bay (our favorite picnic spot for sunsets)--and been run down by mountain bikers. My boy deserves a chance to explore in the woods without being threatened!
Most often I go to a park for quiet time and time to listen to the birds and try to see wildlife in it's normal functioning. That to me is resting and something my soul needs. Last year while I was walking on one of the trails in Irondequoit Bay area, two mountain bikers were on their way down the steep slope. I had to step off the trail because it was just a foot path to allow them to pass by. It was disruptive to say the least and then I thought that I had to watch for others....how safe would I be?
I recall one specific hike at Durand. We were up on a narrow winding trail when out of the blue two mountain bikes came out of no where at an amazing speed. Luck we were all "fit " enough to get off the trail to safety, even with the heavy ground cover. I was so shocked and knew they were not allowed in the Park. It could have been a big messy accident involving the bikers and hikers.
A few years ago I was on a trail in Durand Eastman Park. The trail was fairly steep and I was near the bottom, going up. I heard a shout and looked up to see a man on a bike heading right at me, coming fast downhill.
I jumped sideways and landed in a thorny bush, which tore at at my skin and clothing. I got out of the way just in time as he came barreling past me, and he came very close to hitting me even though I was a little off the trail. He did not say anything as he passed me, but just kept going and disappeared from sight. If I had not moved he definitely would have hit me hard, because he was going fast. I was very shaken by the close call and kept looking around fearfully, apprehensive that more bikes would appear. I was not able to relax and enjoy the beautiful natural setting.
I have had limited experiences with bikes on trails. The couple times Ken & I encountered them on the Finger Lakes Trail in Letchworth, where they are legal, the people were courteous, but we still had to yield. The rules say they are supposed to dismount to pass, but that didn't happen (and frankly it sounds like a royal pain). We've encountered them more in the county parks. In every case we had to yield to the bike by stepping off the path when it was too narrow to comfortably pass us. As the paths usually have a luscious crop of poison ivy by them in the summer, this is less than delightful. Even on a Sunday hike with a pretty large group in Ellison we were the ones that had to make way for the bikers. I do not inform them that they are doing something illegal, as it is just too darn dangerous these days, and there almost never any signs anywhere to back up what you are saying.
A woman we talked to Nov 19 who lived on Tryon Rd said that a female neighbor walks her dog in Tryon Park every day. One day the neighbor came running out of the park and came to her house scared out of her mind because a couple of men with bikes had been shooting at her and her dog with BB guns. I don't know how long ago this happened. From what we understood the men weren't actually on bikes, but had bikes with them.
Jim Kester, who hikes on Sundays and is on the trail crew relayed an experience he had in a county park. He couldn't remember which one, and didn't remember exactly when, but he encountered a biker and he had to step off the path down a very steep embankment to get out of the way, as the biker was not in control of his bike.
Irene Szabo, the queen bee of trail maintenance of the FLT (she maintains something like 20 miles of trail on her own). past president and current VP of Trails has told me that she no longer will hike on the Letchworth branch on the weekends because of the bikers. I'm including part of her e-mail to me on the subject.
"L'worth has changed so much since I first hiked there in the mid-eighties! heavily used packed (and sometimes rutted) path is now wider in spots, badly eroded in many, with braided multiple tracks when bikers didn't like the wiggle put into the route by walkers. I personally find it completely upsetting to have mechanical thingums come along in the otherwise peaceful woods, and no matter what the rules of the road are, I always have to step aside since a bike cannot navigate bushes. On my own section, from hogsback overlook through dam area down to greenway, which does not get nearly as much biking as the rest of the trail south of the hog, I still had to build a reroute to eliminate a short sharp climb up to a view of the dam because in the trail's first few years the erosion was getting bad.
Ignorant bikers were going back down that slightly sandy trail with their brakes on, creating a sharp V in the tread. I built waterbars, but bikers actually got off their steeds to remove them. This process was repeated over and over again, until I gave up the view and made a switchback in the other direction. They hate that, too, but with enough crap piled in their way, only a few cut across the switchback route.
I was forced to step off the trail to accommodate the mountain bikes. Both the speed and the proximity of the bikes scares me. I hike in the county parks about 4 - 5 times a week. I treasure the quiet, the unencumbered experience of walking in the woods alone and meeting only a few other hikers. I would avoid parks where mountain bikers ride because I would have trepidation over their coming up behind me or sailing over a narrow trail ahead. I love the hills and always choose the parks where I can climb up and down - the same terrain that mountain bikers like. I do not believe that shared trails is feasible. Hikers will always need to defer to bikers and the quality of the hike in the park will be alerted.
In my experiences with bicyclists, I was caught off guard several times by riders who came up quickly enough to surprise me. It was enough of a jolt to cause an adrenaline rush which left me unable to focus for another 20 minutes or so. I also spent that time looking over my shoulder for other riders during that time. I'm not sure I completely relaxed again on those outings.
I was not worried for my physical safety on those encounters, however my own experience was completely altered. I will not bird or hike on trails where I know bicyclists are allowed.
Last year I witnessed Mountain bikers using one of the hiking trails at the rifle range park. When they were told that it was illegal to use county park trails there remarks were not friendly. Last month we did trail work at Bay Park East. On the trail parallel to the bay I observed severe erosion on a non trail hill caused by mountain bikes, in other words the bikers created there own trail.
About a month ago, I was hiking with a friend on the trail that cuts through Washington Grove in Cobbs Hill Park. As we headed down a slight incline in the trail, my friend shouted, "Dave! Look out!" As I turned my head, I caught a glimpse of a mountain biker coming up behind me. I quickly jumped out the way and avoided a collision. Why my friend heard (or saw) the bike and I did not is unclear. I can only say that I'm glad that he did. Even though the biker was not moving particularly fast, I would have taken a nasty spill if we had collided.
Two additional points are worth noting: The hiking trail on which we were walking was V-shaped, i.e., much lower in the center than at the sides—a clear sign of erosion caused by numerous bikers making grooves in the center of the trail, leading to erosion during rainy weather. Also, in the place where the mountain biker attempted to stop to avoid hitting me, he left large skid marks and loose soil on the trail.
My wife and I are senior citizens. We were hiking up a badly eroded steep trail on the eastside of Durand Eastman Park. This particular hiking path winds sharply up and around S-curves that are nearly invisible in summer. By great good luck I managed to catch a glimpse of a couple of mountain bike riders starting to race down the steep curves at breakneck speed. I barely had time to scream a warning for my wife to leap off the trail before a gang of three testosterone-driven men missed us by inches. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t shouted a warning we both would have been badly injured. But this is not the only reason I oppose the idea of Monroe County opening our parks to mountain bike use, but it is an example of how so-called “multi-use” or “shared use” trails for bikers and walkers do not work.