“On your left,” I have heard it thousands and probably said it hundreds of times in my 23 years of serious running. Mostly I hear this phrase on bike trails as bikes pass which is common courtesy and good trail etiquette since they are usually going 100 MPH. Then you get that occasional bike that blows by you, never giving you any warning and missing you by inches, just about giving you a heart attack.
Denver (and I’m sure other cities) has done a great job of designing its bike trails and for a runner these trails are a godsend since you can run just about any distance you desire with minimal street crossings. Some trails are made of asphalt, some cement and even some with crusher fine but all, at least in Denver, are in great condition and a pleasure to run. On any given day you will see an abundance of runners, walkers and bike riders.
On weekends, trails seem to be extremely crowded and runners need to be aware of what is going on for personal safety reasons. For example, if I’m passing another runner or walker I will announce, “on your left” but first will look over my shoulder to be sure there is not a bike rider flying up behind me. I will be sure to acknowledge another runner or walker as I pass. If I hear “on your left” I will acknowledge the bike rider or runner by raising my left hand and verbally thank them for warning me.
It is also good etiquette for a runner to stay as far right on the trail as possible so traffic has adequate room to pass and gives runners more safety assurance. If you are running with other people and depending on the width of the trail, two wide is usually the standard. However, if you hear “on your left” it is good etiquette to fall in single file to let the bike pass.
Our running group in Denver, Runners Edge of the Rockies is large and breaks into different pace groups. Our coach constantly reminds the pace group leaders to keep their pace group two wide for safety reasons. Pace group leaders are also responsible to be aware of what is going on. For example, if a bike or runner is heading towards us, they will yell out, “bike up” or “runner up” and the pace group then tightens up so they can safely pass.
If you run bike trails at night, be sure you are visible by wearing a headlamp, flashing safety light and reflective running gear. Bike riders approaching both in front or behind you will appreciate it as you appreciate it when they are visible.
So while on the trails, use and be aware of “on your left,” its just good etiquette and will keep your running safe! Happy trails to you!
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