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The 'politics' of bikers passing walkers on the trail

Melensdad

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2016 SJPdP to Santiago, Finisterre. Hadrian's Way, 2015. Sections of the AT + National & State Park trails.
#1
Found this article in Outside Magazine's online addition.

Found it very interesting, and somewhat non-traditional in its approach.

As a hiker I know that I've been scared many times by bikers. Personally I think bikers would do well to have a small bell on their bikes and I'd prefer that the bell start ringing a good distance back so that I can hear the bike getting closer. If the bell rings right before an impending collision then its too late. This is no different than a shout out from a biker saying "on your left" or "biker" just in time to scare me senseless. I want to know I'm being overtaken LONG BEFORE the actual event so I can get out of your way. I know you don't want to hit me, I know I don't want to get hit. But honestly I don't hear you coming up on me about 50% of the time.

https://www.outsideonline.com/22333...k&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost
 

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zrexer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15 & 16 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo (Sept.)
#2
The change I have seen over the last few years is that local Spanish or Italian bike clubs like the Camino trails for training. I have not really had any issues with actual pilgrims on bikes, it is more the young dudes in a pack of 10 to 15 bikes that go screaming by you. They are not pilgrims, they are simply using the trails for a challenging area to train. As a biker (at home, not on the Camino) I can admire their incredible fitness as the pace they maintain on steep trails is amazing, as a walker, I wish they would train elsewhere.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
2013, 2017 Camino Frances SJPP-Santiago
2015 St. Olav's Way Oslo-Trondheim
2017 VdlP Seville-Merida
#3
Good article @Melensdad. I don't mind "on your left". I like it better than a bell because I tend to zone out the tinkle of a bell. Where I walk near my home, the alert is often "Behind you" and that is good too. All I ask is that I be warned with enough lead time that I can recover from being startled and still have time to get out of the way.

The writer said it all when he said "it's about attitude". I will ALWAYS give the bicyclist trail preference if I have ample warning, even on those trails clearly marked that walkers have preference. If he/she suddenly appears with little or no warning, then my poles are likely to get tangled in the spokes. That's what happens when a little old lady is startled and given "attitude". :cool: (Still working on turning the other cheek...but not very diligently.)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Plan to walk The French route starting September 9, 2017
#4
We're walking the French Camino right now and I'm happy to report that all the bikers we've encountered have been very polite. The biggest issue I'm seeing is such an increase in Pilgrims wearing head phones who are oblivious to what is going on around them. Rather dangerous!
 
S

Solvita P

Guest
#5
I'm cycling Camino Frances now (somewhere after Leon).
I brought my own bell (not relying on renting company's one) - thank god I did that. I brought that old mechanic one with ring-ring-ring sound. It's certainly working on camino.
I met cyclists on Camino with new small bells, and they are too quiet for camino (this is feedback from walkers I talked with). My new found friend cyclist had a rented bike, and bell wasn't working at all.
So far I'm ringing the bell well in advance and saying every time Muchas Gracias (as i come closer) and Buen Camino (as I pass them). I have only received good feedback and thanks from walkers. They did mentioned that other cyclists are not as good in warning them in advance. Still long way to go to educating cyclists of etiquette of camino.
On the same note, bike rental companies should provide a leaflet (someone probably have created one but i haven't come across) with rental of every bike fir camino to educate all of bicigrinos.
Lady at Pilgrim office in St Jean did mention to me that walkers may not hear me even if I ring the bell. I kept that in mind. On odd occasions it's true for solo walkers with headphones on. I slow down if I see them not reacting to the bell - no problems as i wad able to cycle around or slow to walking pace.
So far I have had to shout out loud HOLA on 3 occasions after ringibg bell for 20mtrs and it was when people are talking in a group completely unaware of what's around and blocking road full width. On shout of HOLA they seemed to react and let me pass. All good so far.
Buen camino cycling! (I'm having time if my life).
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances , St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra May/ June 2017
Le Puy en Velay - Ales [2018]
#6
A bell seems to be multilingual , a universal warning that is recognised by almost everyone [ sans ear buds !].
My only close , near tragic ,encounter with a cyclist occurred without such a warning , if it wasn't for an alert young Frenchman dragging me back I would have been a bloody mess on the road .
My fault for not being more aware , but in mitigation I really didn't expect a bicycle to be travelling at 45km on the wrong side of a steep winding road .
Free drinks and dinner for that young man were gratefully provided , thank you again Romain !
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean 2017.
#7
Great article and great post. Also great that but groups are being respectful. As long time followers will know I cycled the Frances in 2015 and walked this year.
I chose my cycle routes more carefully (after making some real errors early on) but would always ring my bell (virtually the same as @Solvita P ), it does provide a warning to the walkers - provided they are not deep in conversation or have their earbuds 2 meters into their ears and the music so loud I can hear it as I pass.
This May/June I also had the problem of cyclist on sections of the Camino totally unsuitable for bikes and NO BELLS. But there was revenge (Karma?) as one rider lost control of his bike (why is it always the males who think they can ride up or down a sheer mountain?) and both he and it had a 20-30 meter slide down the rough gravel path.
 

rappahannock_rev

Anglican Catholic Priest
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes, Burgos & SdeC 77 (by train); Frances 12, 15 & 17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes, Aragones 18
#8
Found this article in Outside Magazine's online addition.

Found it very interesting, and somewhat non-traditional in its approach.

As a hiker I know that I've been scared many times by bikers. Personally I think bikers would do well to have a small bell on their bikes and I'd prefer that the bell start ringing a good distance back so that I can hear the bike getting closer. If the bell rings right before an impending collision then its too late. This is no different than a shout out from a biker saying "on your left" or "biker" just in time to scare me senseless. I want to know I'm being overtaken LONG BEFORE the actual event so I can get out of your way. I know you don't want to hit me, I know I don't want to get hit. But honestly I don't hear you coming up on me about 50% of the time.

https://www.outsideonline.com/22333...k&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost
Long ago, when I was young and living aboard a US Navy warship, I learned to "express myself" rather dramatically. In 2012, on my first Camino, halfway between Linzoain and the Alto de Erro, a bell-less cyclist crashed directly into me. Sent me flying -- (no broken bones, thank God!) -- and I used Navy language on him that would have made even my old shipmates blush....

I confess that I have feared Camino bikers a little bit ever since.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#9
My favourite interaction with a cyclist on the camino was on a steep narrow uphill path with a stealth cyclist coming up behind me and only warning me by surprise in a soft voice at the very last minute. I ended up falling into a bush by the side of the path and the sweet cyclist ended up falling after me as he tried to catch me. I was NOT wearing ear plugs. Bells please!!!
 

stgcph

Camino tortuga
Camino(s) past & future
CF (Aug/Sep 2017)
#10
I am happy to report that on my recent camino (Frances) I had absolutely no issues with cyclists. They would generally ring their bell or shout “permiso” well in advance or I would hear them, and I would step aside and they would pass with a friendly “gracias” or “hola” or “buen camino”.

Others may have had less pleasant experiences. There are all kinds of people on the Camino. As long as we behave with mutual respect there should be room for all of us.
 
S

Satírico

Guest
#11
My favourite interaction with a cyclist on the camino was on a steep narrow uphill path with a stealth cyclist coming up behind me and only warning me by surprise in a soft voice at the very last minute. I ended up falling into a bush by the side of the path and the sweet cyclist ended up falling after me as he tried to catch me. I was NOT wearing ear plugs. Bells please!!!
Reader, I married him? ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
September 2017
#12
Finished bike ride from Leon to Santiago on 18/09/17. Didn't have problems with walkers but I had a loud bell, which I used, and greeted them as per what everyone mentioned above.

Have to say that cyclists need to be careful on off-road steep, rocky climbs as walkers tend to stop frequently and without warning. It's only natural. I saw walkers helped a lady pushed her bike with panniers up one of these rocky trails so goodwill goes both ways.

Have always given walkers a wide berth where possible and on rainy days especially, I did this 100% of the time, always slow down when passing walkers. No point spewing mud, rain, grits of sand and pebbles at walkers on the downhill.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF-Fisterra-Muxia (Sept/Oct 2017)
#13
No issue at current doing the CF with bikes passing *me*. They seem courteous and respectful. As a "spirited" (fast) walker, I employ a loud rescue whistle when *I* pass bikes pushing their way up a hill. Has come in handy three times thus far. They are usually startled to have someone behind them. I have gotten a "bravo", a thumbs up, and a "what is powering you, I need some"-lol.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Plan to walk The French route starting September 9, 2017
#14
We are currently on the Camino Frances and I wish every biker had a bell!!!!!! Many whiz by us with no audible means of warning which has been a little scary at times. If I ruled the world ALL folks on bikes would have to have bells AND use them!!!!
 

Older Guy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis -May 2016 by bike---Loved it
#15
A word from a polite biker who always used his bell. Sometimes hikers will walk 3 abreast, have sharp treking poles strapped horizontally to their packs making them twice as wide, and sometime, they will move right-stop-then move left confounding even even the most polite biker. In all these situations one needs to just smile and go with the flow.

I also agree that I saw a lot of fit local's doing fast bike training rides. A pilgrim biker is typically loaded down and not sprinting. I also think that the locals on fast training ride are the ones giving the pilgrim bikers the bad name, in my opinon.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF, August- September (2015)
El Norte, August-September (2017)
#16
I just finished the Norte and did the Frances 2 yrs. ago. After this last Camino and having to walk on highways a lot more this time, I finally figured out, in part, why my dislike of cyclists on the Camino is so strong by comparing them with the motorists.

The cars tended to move over a safe distance away and would even slow down and stop if necessary. They SHARED the road. I've rarely felt like the bicyclists do. With them, "Buen Camino," translates to, "Get out of my way because I'm coming through." I've rarely seen them stop to let a pilgrim walker finish passing through a narrow area. It's always the walker who must give way.

Just two days ago, after moving aside and pressing myself as flat as I could against a narrow, muddy incline area, I still was almost hit as the cyclists refused to dismount and walk their bikes. Instead, they kept trying to zig zag, quite unsuccessfully, up the path and really came close to still hitting me.

If bicyclists want walkers to respect them and really want to SHARE the road, then they should:

1. Yes, alert walkers to their presence with bells far in advance.
2. Go around walkers as much as possible giving them a wide berth as cars do.
3. When the way is too narrow to do anything but go single file, they should wait their turn, and go in their order of arrival rather than demanding walkers to wait and give them preference.
4. When the incline is too narrow and steep, consider dismounting and walking their bikes up rather than risking hitting pilgrims.

The Camino is not a timed, athletic competition. It's an increasingly busy, heavily trafficked way that needs to be shared by all. If they want to do a race, they need to pick a different "course."

If the bikers really are pilgrims who have chosen an alternate means of transport to get to Santiago and are not just sports enthusiasts taking advantage of the roads and hiking trails, then it would help if they treated their fellow walker pilgrims with respect and tried harder to SHARE rather than dominate the road. If they got down off their bikes and occasionally walked and talked with walker pilgrims, it would go a long way to increasing goodwill between the two groups.
 

SeaHorse

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
(May-June 2015)
#17
That shouting "on your left" assuming I would have understood which language I have to get ready to understand would be confusing anyway: should I jump to my left or are they passing on my left? Not to mention that I have an apparently widespread enough problem - I mix sides. Well, still better warning than nothing at all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
VdlP 2010, Frances 2010
Via Francigena 2014 bicigrino
Way of St. Francis 2017 bicigrino
#19
Travelingmerci
As a long distance biker(1000km+ dirt and 4000km+ road with at least 3000km with bags) I would like to make a few points that you may not be aware of.
1 If a biker with bags is stopped on a loose surfaced(dirt/grave) trail with a good incline they will most likely have to walk the rest of the way up. Most want to avoid pushing up hill if they can ride.
2 I would like to be going down a hill in front of walkers if possible so that if I fall, I am not then taking out you too. Second the balance of riding on dirt downhill with bags is hard making a crash more likely.
3 After living for years in China my bikes have no bell and I pay zero attention to bells.
4 Calling out on the left or other words has a 50% chance of having the person step right in front of the bike.
5 Most sane bikers have been watching you for about 20-40 meters before pass, if you are walking in a straight line pass you is simple and safe assuming that nothing such as calling out causes you is step right in front of the bike.

 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#20
5 Most sane bikers have been watching you for about 20-40 meters before pass, if you are walking in a straight line pass you is simple and safe assuming that nothing such as calling out causes you is step right in front of the bike.
The flaw in this theory is that cyclists and motorists look over their shoulder before moving left or right (with or without indicating). Pedestrians on a path or track do neither and may veer at any time without warning, rhyme or any particular reason beyond a loose rock in the path, following the part of the track with the least gravel, a nice wild flower on the opposite side of the path, spotting somewhere to sit the shade, seeing a good sized rock to rest a pack on while taking a drink, day dreaming, etc. etc. Assuming a pedestrian will continue walking in a straight line on a walking track is relying on odds and IMO that’s how accidents happen.
 

Older Guy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis -May 2016 by bike---Loved it
#23
I remember where I came up on a church congregation carrying a cross on one segment of the Camino F. While they blocked the entire trail, I didn't really care, so I dismounted and walked behind them in their procession and listened to their singing. That was inspirational and added to the pilgrim experience.

One of the things that seems to be missing from the discussion is that some pilgrim bicyclists aren't in as much of a hurry as they know they can make up lost time by popping on a road and sprinting into the next town just about any time they want.

I also think that hiking pilgrims who are pressed for time also create their own problems by leaving very very early in the morning, waking everyone else and by hiking at first light or before. Perhaps Camino guides and forums like this should urge pilgrims of all flavors to schedule a little more time.

The exception to courtesy is the bike club riders with no heavy panniers (loaded with gear) who are out for training rides sprinting up and down the trails and roads of the Camino. Again, I saw a number of them and wondered where they were coming from with no gear and where they were headed. Of course I also have read stories on this forum of biking pilgrims who want to do the CF in 5 to 6 days.
 

MartinPE

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Done : Le Puy to Saint Jean ( June 2017)
Planning: Saint Jean to Santiago (June 2018)
#24
I'm cycling Camino Frances now (somewhere after Leon).
I brought my own bell (not relying on renting company's one) - thank god I did that. I brought that old mechanic one with ring-ring-ring sound. It's certainly working on camino.
I met cyclists on Camino with new small bells, and they are too quiet for camino (this is feedback from walkers I talked with). My new found friend cyclist had a rented bike, and bell wasn't working at all.
So far I'm ringing the bell well in advance and saying every time Muchas Gracias (as i come closer) and Buen Camino (as I pass them). I have only received good feedback and thanks from walkers. They did mentioned that other cyclists are not as good in warning them in advance. Still long way to go to educating cyclists of etiquette of camino.
On the same note, bike rental companies should provide a leaflet (someone probably have created one but i haven't come across) with rental of every bike fir camino to educate all of bicigrinos.
Lady at Pilgrim office in St Jean did mention to me that walkers may not hear me even if I ring the bell. I kept that in mind. On odd occasions it's true for solo walkers with headphones on. I slow down if I see them not reacting to the bell - no problems as i wad able to cycle around or slow to walking pace.
So far I have had to shout out loud HOLA on 3 occasions after ringibg bell for 20mtrs and it was when people are talking in a group completely unaware of what's around and blocking road full width. On shout of HOLA they seemed to react and let me pass. All good so far.
Buen camino cycling! (I'm having time if my life).
Are you following the “walkers route” or the “cycle route “ ?
 

geertvds

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances from Burgos (2009)
Camino Frances from SJPP (2017)
#25
I did the camino from SJPDP to Santiago last October by bike, some of my learnings:
- I always rang my bell 3-4 times when 40-50 meters in advance, and then again at about 10 meters when the walkers didn't hear the first one. The reaction of most people is surprise, they do not really expect any cyclists on the path.
- Some people just don't hear well. I've had 10-15 instances where I was cycling 1 meter behind a walker (same speed) on a small trail, ringing my bell... and no response ! Some people are really sunken in their thoughts, or listening to their headphones :-\
- When I had enough open road to pass, I slowed down to half speed, gave a quick ring before passing, but you have to watch out with this. Some people will jump around when hearing a cyclist. The passage you are planning to go through may suddenly be blocked. Walkers need time to process how fast you are going, and on which path/direction. They will not be able to respond quickly.
- Some pathways are very tricky. Some paths are thick layers of loose stones, with only a small eroded footpath left and right where the walkers also walk. They will NOT move out of the way for a cyclist there, so the bicycles are forced onto the loose stones. With 2 paniers full of luggage, it can be extremely tricky to keep control of your bike.
- My most dangerous moments were at the beginning of the days. Most walkers in my albergues would wake me up at 6AM, so I was also kind of forced to leave early in the morning, cycling the first 1,5 hours in the dark. In europe, on public roads, walkers should always WALK LEFT when there is no sidewalk !!!!! I came fully equiped as far as lights go, including a powerful headlamp, but cycling at 20-30 kms/hr, it was impossible for me to spot walkers without any form of lights or reflectors AND walking on the wrong side of the road (right). I definitely had some near misses there :-((( Walkers, please use lights during the dark hours !!
- some walkers do underestimate the lower manouverability you have due to the paniers. I was a bit heavy loaded (12kgs divided between 2 paniers) and some weight on the steering wheel). It makes it quite tricky sometimes, especially on unpaved paths.
- overall I had very nice interactions with the walkers. I also regularly stopped when I saw a group of walkers taking a break, just to have a chat. They are always very surprised on the progress cyclists make (I did the route SJPDP->SDC in 9 days).
 

Kurt5280

Crazy Enough To Try It Again!
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances SJPDP & Finisterre & Muxia 9/15 - Future: Camino del Norte 8/18 (All Mountain Bike)
#26
I live in Colorado and I am use to sharing the trail with hikers...the real problem is just rudeness...first...the problem starts with the mountain bike clubs using the hiking trails for competition timing...they race up unannonced and then pass by way to close...my best story was I was parked reading a Camino alternate direction sign in the middle of nowhere when I heard yelling in Spanish thinking that someone was injured and needed help...I turned to see a Spanish mountain biker racing past at 40+ miles/hour complaining that I was blocking half of the dirt road...second...the Pilgrim hiker problem is Walkmans (with ear plugs) and walking sticks that cross the entire trail or even dirt road if they are walking in the middle...I have bear bells on my mountain bike and I would stop behind these "Camino Zombies" and repeatedly ask to pass for minutes without any response...most of the time I would have to get off my mountain bike and walk off the trail to get around these "Camino Zombies"...and finally...just rudeness...I would pass Pilgrim hikers at a reasonable hiking speed with plenty of space and I would get comments yelled like "Get a bell!", "Get off the trail!", or "Slow down!"...my best story is when I was pushing my mountain bike uphill on the hiking trail to the Cruz de Ferro and a Spanish Pilgrim started yelling at me to push my mountain bike on the road...so I pointed at the road responded "Camino Morte (Camino Death)" and he finally stopped yelling but instead started complained to another Spanish Pilgrim hiker...but really what did he have to complain about...other than I was having trouble pushing my mountain bike up a step incline...it wasn't like I had a WALKMAN WITH EARPLUGS AND WALKING STICKS...please remember that for some Pilgrims like me this is a "Religious Journey" and we would like to keep it polite!
 


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