“On Your Left!” – Good Bike Trail Etiquette and Keeps Running Safe!

"On Your Left"


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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  • Chantal says:
    May 25, 2012 10:38 AM

    Ok, my problem is that I say “on your left” when I pass others and 9/10 they hop to the left right in front of me!!??
    I think they only hear the word “left” and zone out.
    Now I either say, “Runner coming through” or “Make a hole”.

  • Chris Bielinski says:
    May 25, 2012 2:10 PM

    I find the majority of runners observer proper etiquette concerning trail usage and letting others know when you are passing. The problem is many of the cyclists don’t feel the need to say anything as they go flying by inches from your left shoulder or you have two cyclists riding side by side coming towards you and they expect you to jump to your right. No matter if I am out running, walking my dog or biking myself the majority of cyclists have very little trail etiquette. It seems the more “geared up” cyclists (with matching jersey, shorts, shoes, hat, helmet) the worse they are.

    • Jim Lynch says:
      May 26, 2012 5:50 AM

      I certainly have found this to be true Chris and you are correct, the more “geared up” cyclists are the word they are. I know the bike path is for everyone to enjoy but there are certain cyclist that seem to think safety rules do not apply to them. I will say though, the majority are courteous.

  • Nic says:
    May 26, 2012 11:11 AM

    Thanks for this. Recently, on the Charles River path in Boston, I’ve seen a lot of runners who are running on the LEFT side of the path, as if the bike path was a road. So, they’re basically running at other runners. I was wondering if the rules had changed recently 🙂

    I’ve found the worst offenders of trail etiquette are usually the “walkers”. Every morning I see a group of 3 women who will walk next each other and take up the entire path. I’m surprised they haven’t been involved with a collision yet.

  • DAVID LYNCH says:
    May 27, 2012 9:21 AM

    Good post, Jim. As a long time biker, I find that walkers,dog walkers and a few runners are oblivious to the rules. They seem to forget that bikers can approach them from behind and they only see those coming at them. A good bike horn works well and its fun to watch their reactions! How’s Maui so far?

  • tom snider says:
    April 22, 2014 4:22 AM

    In most states the law states that runners are to be going against the flow of traffic. The cyclist approaching a runner should be approaching that runner head on and not from behind. This gives the runner and a cyclist both an opportunity to communicate where they’re going to go in an unspoken way.if there is a problem or a mishap between a pedestrian / runner and a cyclist the runner will be found at fault because it is a practicing and promoting this at a kids will avoid many mishaps and or frustrations between both the cyclist and running community.

    • Jim Lynch says:
      May 14, 2014 3:03 PM

      I agree with you Tom. Myself and those I run with always run against traffic and adhere to cyclists by moving to the side. Its the right thing to do. Thanks for your comment.

  • Wallis says:
    April 16, 2017 9:59 AM

    Hi! I just recently started walking and jogging on a trail in Orange County, NY. Many cyclists use the trail as well. What is the proper “etiquette”? Where do I run/jogg/walk, on the right or left side of the trail? Thanks!

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