Opening Letters

10 Hot Tips for Using Local Trails

pro suggestions on biker shorts, picking up after your dog, and ... unicycles?

Jim Jeffries, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

I have been biking and walking the Chippewa River Trail since before it was even created, which is some trick, let me tell you. In all of that time, I have witnessed several calamities that could have been easily avoided. Here are some suggestions to make your trail navigations a little more satisfying and less dangerous experience.

1. For competitive bikers.

I know you need to shave two seconds off of your time to justify your investment in those $75 biking shorts (and they look very good on you, by the way), but they are called “blind corners” for a reason. Make your presence known to other bikers or pedestrians so that they don’t wander into your path. Don’t say, “On your left,” because what my wife hears first is “left” and she zigs left, then she processes the words “On your” and desperately tries to zag right, until she looks like a scrambling squirrel in the headlights of a city bus. Handlebar bells are really effective. And really hip.

2. For bikers like me.

Runners, as you pass walkers, you do not need to smile and wave. You are in pain. That grimace that passes for a smile is really quite frightening.

There’s a lot to see along the trail. The fiery reds of maples in autumn. The lush greens of ferns in the spring. The blinding whites of tubers in the summer. But. Watch. Where. You. Are. Going. Bicycle tires don’t work for tubing down the river.

3. For runners.

If you are going to wear earbuds, running down the center of the trail may not be your best option. And really, as you pass walkers, you do not need to smile and wave. You are in pain. That grimace that passes for a smile is really quite frightening.

4. For daycare classes, family reunions, and groups fleeing the zombie apocalypse.

Please leave one lane open on the trail, about the width of one middle-aged man. With an inner tube around his waist. And carrying a flotation device.

5. For dog owners.

I know it goes against everything that you learned about the food chain in biology class, but pick up after your dog. You adopted the dog, so man up. Unless your wife adopted the dog, then man up and do what your wife says and pick up after the dog. Unless you are a woman walking a dog. Then pick up after the dog and tell my wife what a rewarding experience it is.

6. For rollerbladers.

Quit gliding effortlessly past us, like Super Premium Platinum Members in an airport boarding line. You are making everyone’s walking experience less satisfying.

7. For skateboarders.

We can only take so much casual coolness. Mess up and take a tumble every now and then. Be the exception that proves the rule.

8. For photographers.

Setting up expensive digital equipment in a high-traffic area is just asking for an insurance claim; just look at Suggestion 1. But I have to admit, some of those poses are quite fetching. When you capture the wind gently twirling her golden locks, with the swan made from garbage over her left shoulder … magic.

9. For deer.

Alright already. You have the right-of-way. You look a lot more intimidating when I’m holding handlebars instead of a steering wheel.

10. For unicyclists.

OK, it was only the one time. And I was the unicyclist. And I don’t want to talk about it.

Those are just my suggestions. If you have better ones, talk to me on the trail. I’m the poor slob struggling with the undisciplined rescue dog that my wife adopted. I’m carrying a blue poop bag.