The trails near Golden, Colorado, are very popular. Casual hikers, hardcore hikers, runners, cyclists, horses, dogs, lizards, rodents, bugs—you name it. There is traffic on the trails. Occasionally, trail use conflicts flare up, as they do in many areas where trails see high use. Jefferson County, Colorado, is actually experimenting with bike-only trails to try to ease some of that conflict, thanks to work by the bike advocacy group, the Colorowdies.
But Jefferson County authorities tried a different tactic last month when they put up signs along the Enchanted Forest Trail, a popular bit of singletrack, that read: “Cyclists, are you prepared to stop? This is not a downhill course. Expect to see hikers, dogs, or wildlife.”
Looking like warning signs, some local mountain bikers took umbrage, feeling singled out as the causes of trail conflict. So one cyclist decided to fight back, in that time-honored way of leaving a passive-aggressive note. In the form of signs that looked exactly like the ones admonishing cyclists. These signs called out bad behavior among hikers, runners, and dog walkers. ‘
“Dog walkers, are you prepared to carry that bag of poo all the way back to your car?”
“Runners and hikers, are you paying any attention to the world around you? This is not a concert venue. Take your headphones out and pay attention to everyone else on the trail.”
Photos of them created quite a stir when Chris Le Schieffer, a local who mountain bikes, hikes, and runs the Enchanted Forest trail often, posted them to her Facebook page.
“That original sign about cyclists needing to stop appeared a few months ago after the county decided that the primary trail user conflict was mountain bikers,” Le Schieffer told AJ. For some reason, this changed the dynamics of the trail. It made hikers and runners feel as though they NEEDED to be scared of mountain bikers. It made them feel as though mountain bikers were inherently doing something wrong, which is not the case. Generally, it feels very antagonistic to the mountain bike community (which does a majority of the trail work on all trails in Jeffco, and this one in particular).
“The next 3 signs were created by a passive-aggressive sign vigilante (Read: my hero. Who still remains unknown, though I have my guesses…) and honestly, they are so close to the original sign that it took me a few hours of thinking about them and looking back on the photos to realize they were mockups of the original. At first I thought, wow, Jeffco really went nuts with signs, but I can appreciate them because they actually call out other trail problems that no one talks about, yet still exist. Then I thought, those are way too sarcastic for a government agency, and then I noticed the fake phone number (303) 123 – 4567 and the signature on the bottom, “Jefferson Airplane Fan Club,” and it clicked – genius.”
The signs have since been removed, but perhaps the conversation they’ve caused will be of help.
Le Schieffer points out that that section of trail is only open to mountain bikers on even days anyway, but maybe this will advance an initiative to make the trail directional to help aid congestion. “We should be concerned about simply having common courtesy and trail etiquette while we’re all out there for the same reason,” Le Schieffer says. “To enjoy the outdoors.”
Photos: Le Schieffer