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Open Space re-examines rules of the trail

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Yielding rules reviewed as complaints about safety reach a peak

By Vicky Gits

Open Space authorities are taking another look at yielding rules among bikers, hikers and horseback riders after complaints about safety and conflicts on Jeffco trails reached a peak in 2008.

Yielding rules govern the behavior of trail users when they approach one another on a trail. Some bike riders have argued the rules are outdated and enforcement is too strict.

A memo published by the Jeffco Open Space Department says there was a large increase in citations written to mountain bikers in 2008 for “failing to yield properly.”

As a result, open space received feedback that the “yielding regulations and visitor expectations were vague and unclear.”

Due to the level of conflict, Open Space decided to separate bikers from hikers on weekends at Centennial Cone Open Space Park, for example. Trails are open to both on weekdays, but on weekends users have to alternate days, according to the schedule posted on the website.

In general, the response to the alternating format has been positive.

Open Space staff crafted a revised proposed regulation that refers to the same priority scheme that was established in 1996, but also stipulates: “All users on natural surface trails need to communicate and slow to a walking pace by the time they are no less than 10 feet from each other.”

As before, all users are obliged to yield to equestrians, and bikes are expected to yield to both pedestrians and horseback riders.

The proposed yielding regulation and background information is available at the Open Space website, www.co.jefferson.co.us/openspace. Click on “News” and then “06/05/09.” 

Draft regulations

The proposed regulations stipulate that all users must yield to equestrians and bicycles must yield to pedestrians. There is no distinction between uphill and downhill traffic.

Natural surface trails: Anyone on a bike or on foot must pass at no more than 5 mph and stop when necessary to allow passing.

Concrete and asphalt trails: All trail users are required to stay right, pass single file on the left and, when passing from behind, communicate and gain the attention of the users being passed.

Submitting comments: The public is invited to send comments addressing the following question either individually or as a user group: “Does the updated regulation reasonably address user safety, yielding expectations and understanding of protocols for you or your user group as an equestrian, pedestrian or bicyclist?”

Hard-copy replies can be mailed to Jeffco Open Space, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Suite 100, Golden, CO 80401. Or by e-mail with the subject line, “Yielding regulation” addressed to cgadd@jeffco.us. The deadline is July 6.

Comments will be reviewed, and the topic will be placed on the agenda for the Aug. 6 Open Space Advisory Committee meeting. The committee will consider recommending new regulations to the Board of County Commissioners, which makes the final decision.

Contact Vicky Gits at 303-350-1042 or vicky@evergreenco.com

BREAKOUT

Colorado Mountain Bikers Association

Recommendations for Improved Policy

(Source: Letter of May 6, 2009, to Ralph Schell, director of Open Space)

Summary: COMBA objects to the current regulations on the following grounds:

• Bikers are required to “establish (two-way) communication,” which they say is “unrealistic.”

• The use of the phrase “on your right/left” is forbidden although it is a standard in other places in Jeffco.

• Rangers are “heavy-handed and obtrusive,” and “strictly enforcing regulations for minor infractions.”

• Regulations require bicyclists to yield right of way to all other trail users regardless of trail width and condition.

• User groups have no responsibility to grant right-of-way to others.”