I really believe that patiently explaining what people should do when they’re using the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT) and providing examples of courteous, safe, behavior is the best way to encourage that kind of behavior.
Sometimes, though, I have to wonder.
Several weeks ago, in the space of less than a half-mile’s ride on the ODT, I encountered a veritable “perfect storm” of … well, let’s be generous and call them “thoughtless” acts:
• Several different walkers (with and without dogs) taking up the whole width of the trail and, because they were deeply engaged in conversation with each other or immersed in whatever they were listening to on their ear buds, didn’t respond to multiple signals and calls of “Rider back!”
• A large group of pedestrians blocking nearly the entire trail, leaving only a narrow way through for anyone else and, again, heedless of multiple warnings of “Rider!” and “Bike!”
• Multiple piles of horse poop on the paved part of the trail.
Now I’m calling them “thoughtless” acts because I don’t think those involved were intentionally, deliberately being rude. The circumstances also suggested that these were not instances indicative of ignorance of trail rules so much as just not giving any thought to others.
And, lest you think I’m excluding cyclists because I’m one: no. It just happens that on that particular day I didn’t come across any thoughtless people on bikes. On plenty of other occasions I’ve witnessed cyclists who displayed the same thoughtlessness — lack of attention to or concern for other trail users.
And, as I’m well aware (preaching this very point repeatedly as a cyclist), when a cyclist is thoughtless it almost always entails a greater risk of injury to others and to themselves.
If anything, I’m even less patient with the thoughtless cyclist for exactly this reason.
‘Share the Trail’
Generally I’m of the view that if your thoughtlessness is only going to affect you, that’s entirely your business. But in reality that’s rarely the case and as the number of people using the Olympic Discovery Trail continues to grow, the room (both literally and figuratively) for being thoughtless narrows considerably and the excuses for that kind of attitude are less and less defensible … if they ever were to begin with.
So here are some guidelines to being thoughtful when you’re out using the ODT or any other multi-use trail system in the area such as Dungeness Trails or the Olympic Adventure Trail or those in Miller Peninsula State Park.
“Share the trail,” means you recognize and appreciate that others have the same right to be there as you—and deserve the same kind of thoughtfulness as you expect from them. Expressed differently — in a less patient but apparently sometimes necessary fashion:
• It does not mean you grudgingly cede temporarily that small area of trail you aren’t, at that moment, occupying.
• It does not mean you leave your trash or your dog or horse poop for someone else to step in or clean up.
• It does not mean that everyone else has to be mindful of you but you can blithely pretend you’re the only one using the trail.
• It does not mean you’re entitled to act thoughtlessly, or discourteously, or unsafely (even if others do).
By now you may be thinking, “Wow, Ken sure is in ‘rant’ mode this time!’ … guilty as charged. Chalk it up to my finite patience being taxed by that “perfect storm” a few weeks back.
So let’s end up on a positive note.
Preserve the jewel
As I’ve said before, the kinds of behavior noted above are the exceptions that prove the rule: the vast majority of people you’ll encounter on the ODT are courteous, thoughtful folks who act safely and responsibly. We really do “share the trail” in the best sense of the phrase.
The Olympic Discovery Trail is a more than just a gem of a place to walk, bike, jog, run, observe nature and enjoy vistas of awe-inspiring beauty. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Peninsula Trails Coalition (PTC), it’s a crown jewel among the singular attractions of the Olympic Peninsula, It’s no wonder at all that more people who live here are using it and that more visitors to the area are drawn by what the ODT offers.
For all of us who enjoy the ODT, who love it, who take great pride in it and pleasure in using it, it’s up to us to be good stewards of this incredible treasure. And a core aspect of good stewardship is treating the trail itself and all other users with respect.
See you down the ride. Be safe (and respectful) out there!
Ken Stringer is President of the Olympic Peninsula Bicycle Alliance. Cycling Around is a monthly column focused on cycling in Sequim and the surrounding area. For more information, go to or contact the author at email@example.com.