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Statewide Sports 0

Walk this Way: Safety and Courtesy on Arkansas Roads

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There are innumerable right ways and great reasons to get outdoors and move. In our second month of pandemic-related directives and guidelines, regions across the nation and communities here in Arkansas have seen a lot of people do just that. Many of us are working at home alongside children and spouses doing the same. Sheltering in place brings us all a unique set of doldrums and, desperate for fresh air and a sense of freedom, we have moved more of our recreational activity outdoors.

As it turns out, there are also plenty of wrong ways to go about going for a walk or a bike ride. With more people outside, the rules and courtesy involved in sharing the walkways and roads with our community tend to get overlooked.

Lowell resident Stephna Masters takes to the roads in Northwest Arkansas, the Razorback Greenway and its connecting trails almost every day as part of her preparation for the next marathon or Half Ironman competition. A nationally-certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, she has logged thousands of miles in Arkansas in the service of her clients and preparing for events. Masters has long been a persistent advocate for people of all ages to be physically active and is glad to see more of us outside. But with the influx of crowds, she has witnessed disregard for the rules of walking and biking.

“Many people using the paths and walkways don’t follow the rules printed on big signs, or on the small reminder signs all throughout the trail system.”

Masters has recently had to ask people in groups on the trails not to block the path by walking side-by-side with three or four people across. Cyclists need to obey the trail speed limits and give a verbal indication when they are about to pass others. Bikers on the road should use hand signals to indicate to drivers when they are about to turn. Dogs should always be on a leash.

Kara King is the trails coordinator for the City of Rogers Parks and Recreation Department. When it comes to etiquette guidelines, she says there is no difference between walking and running on trails and walking and running on sidewalks.

“Bikers and pedestrians should move to the right when stopping. Whether you are waiting for someone to catch up to you or checking your phone, please remember to move to the side of the path to allow others to pass.”

King also urges everyone to use caution when crossing streets and passing other people by giving a warning when passing and yielding to oncoming bikers and pedestrians.

Masters and King encourage all of us to do what we can to appropriately let others know of our presence with reflective or bright-colored clothing and proper tools like bike reflectors and bells. They both emphasize the importance of maintaining an awareness of our surroundings.

The hope is that we’ll all continue these good habits by staying active even when our community is back to our new normal and that we will all follow the rules when we do.

 

General Safety Rules, Courtesy and Recommendations

Walkers and Runners

  • Where there’s a line on a trail, stay on the right side of it. Where there’s not, keep to the right as much as possible and remain aware of people behind and oncoming.
  • When walking or running with others, do not spread out three and four people wide. It obstructs the trail. Move to single file when cyclists, other runners and faster walkers are about to pass.
  • Use crosswalks and signals at intersections with main roads.
  • On trails and walking paths, move to the left to pass those who are going slower.
  • On roads, pedestrians should walk or run on the left side, facing traffic.
  • During this time, maintain social distancing rules. This means giving at least six feet of space between you and others. If a park area or trail is crowded, it might be best to try someplace else or come back at a low-traffic time.
    Photo courtesy of Stephna Masters

Bikers

  • On trails and biking paths, let pedestrians know you’re passing by saying, “on your left.”
  • Wear helmets.
  • Since rules vary in cities across Arkansas, check requirements where you are. Some cities do not allow bikes on the sidewalks. Some trails have speed limits for cyclists.
  • When others are around on the trail, cyclists should ride single file.
  • Bikers on the road generally have the rights and duties applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. Do not ride on freeways and other highways with controlled access. In 2019, Gov. Hutchinson signed a law allowing cyclists to yield at stop signs and treat red lights as stop signs under certain circumstances.
  • Ride on the right side of the road and obey traffic signals.
  • Yield to traffic that is crossing on a larger road than the one you’re on.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.

More Road Rules

  • Drivers of motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, slowing down or stopping if needed.
  • Pedestrians should cross at crosswalks. If not, they should yield the right-of-way to vehicles.
  • Drivers should exercise caution around pedestrians, regardless of where pedestrians are, especially with children and any “confused or incapacitated person.”
  • Drivers of motor vehicles need to give bicycles at least three feet when passing and not resume back to the right until they’ve safely overtaken the bicycle.

Resources for best practices and state rules involving pedestrians, bicycles and motor vehicles include the Arkansas State Police, the Code of Arkansas of Public Access through LexisNexis, BikeNWA.org, and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

List of Rules

No triple wide across the trail
Dogs on a leash
Hand signals, verbal signals

Resources

 

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Rhonda is a writer and editor who creates content and rights the wrongs of misspelled words and grammar gone awry. A born city girl, she raises three lively boys with her husband in the rural woods outside of Springdale. She loves sharing other people’s stories with the written (and edited) word via her freelance work at RhondaFranz.com. She holds Arkansas teacher licensure and offers advice, tips, education, and humor while telling true tales of parenthood and the pilot wife life at CaptainMom.net. She schleps her children all over Northwest Arkansas and occasionally works on freelance projects in parking lots from the back of her minivan.

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