Letter To The Editor: Just How Far Is 6 Feet, Anyway?

Bruce Warren
Los Alamos

The recent article in the Post regarding trail etiquette, (link), was timely, but could use some reinforcement.

I use the local trails most every day, and have seen a sizable increase in trail usage since the lock-down. Most of the hikers I meet on the trail try to observe social distancing. Many bicyclists and runners, not so much.

Just because you are moving faster than others does not mean you own the trail. Quite the contrary. To reiterate the trail right-of-way rules: bikers yield to everyone, hikers yield to equestrians.

Most bikers and some runners I’ve met on the trail recently hold to the center of the trail and expect others to move out of their way. Perhaps you think passing someone rapidly is a substitute for social distancing; in fact, the harder you are exercising, the larger the trail of micro-droplets you leave behind you.

I know the governor has not required masks if you are exercising, and they are a problem with restricted breathing, but it would be a good idea to have one available to pull up if you must interact with others on the trail.

If you are meeting someone on the trail, you share responsibility for making sure to keep a 6 foot distance. If you are overtaking someone, you have total responsibility to make sure you can pass them at the required distance. This can be facilitated if those overtaking would give a friendly greeting to those they intend to pass about 10-15 yards before reaching them.

Most trail users are happy to move aside to make passing possible. If they don’t move aside for any reason (they don’t hear you, the trail is too narrow) then you need to slow down or stop if necessary until the situation allows safe passing. Even if you are training for the Olympics, you can afford to slow down for other’s safety. Bicycling around blind corners at full speed is never a good idea, pandemic or not. You should always be able to see the trail clearly for at least double your braking distance.

If someone does move off the trail for you, they are doing you a courtesy and that deserves a “thank you” from you, something I’ve rarely gotten.

Maybe you are one of those who think this whole mask/social distancing thing is silly. Or perhaps you believe you have a constitutional right to risk your life by ignoring sound scientific health procedures. You can let us know how that worked out for you when you are in a hospital bed on a ventilator (if they can find one for you). We can already see how that’s working out for Texas, Florida and others. What you don’t have is a right to risk other people’s health by your foolish behavior.

Which brings up the question: Just how far is 6 feet, anyway. Well, it isn’t a single arm’s length. It certainly isn’t brushing someone when you pass them (which has happened to me at Smiths). Think of a reasonably tall person lying full-length between you and others and now you’ve got an idea of what it takes. And by the way, according to the CDC, wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

If you’re thinking that I’m just a grumpy hiker who doesn’t like bicyclists, I also ride my bike on the local trails, and follow the guidelines above. I know we’d all like this to be over, but it isn’t and a little friendliness, courtesy, and consideration for other’s well-being can go a long way toward making a tough time easier for everyone, whether on the trails, on the streets, or in the grocery store.


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