After Jefferson County Open Space officials posted signs asking bikers to exercise caution, a vigilante trail user posted more etiquette signs — for everyone. And it was glorious.
“Cyclists, are you prepared to stop?” The red-and-white caution sign popped up earlier this summer at the top of Enchanted Forest/Apex trail near Denver, Colorado, warning mountain bikers the shared-use path was “not a downhill course.”
“I believe they thought this was a fun way of telling people to slow down and use caution,” said Chris Schieffer, a trail user who posted images of the signs to Facebook. “However, inside of that message they created this sort of ‘us versus them’ mentality —bikers versus hikers — and the whole tone and feel of the multiuse trail started to shift to ‘we should not like bikers, they are dangerous, they are discourteous.'”
But Schieffer didn’t chronicle the new sign because of its message. No, she was more interested in the other signs that began popping up next to the first. They looked almost identical but carried very different messages.
“Runners and hikers, are you paying attention to the world around you?” read one. “Dog walkers, are you prepared to carry that dog poo all way back to your car?” another asked. It turns out, someone wanted to make sure all trail users practice good etiquette — not just cyclists.
Jeffco Trail Signs
The Jefferson County Open Space (Jeffco) comprises 56,000 acres and 244 miles of trail, including Apex Park. Cyclists can only access certain downhill portions of the park, like Enchanted Forest, on even calendar days. On those days, these sections of the trail become mixed-use.
“Over the summer, we get multiple reports a week in this particular park of people not using good trail etiquette — particularly on trails where mountain bikers want to go on a higher rate of speed,” Jefferson County Open Space community connections manager Matt Robbins said. “So for the month of June, we had rangers on the ground and a pop-up tent to engage parks users — stopping riders and hikers.”
Despite the rogue signmaker’s suggestion, Robbins said they weren’t targeting cyclists specifically. The month-long trail education campaign involved connecting with all trail users. But while rangers cited issues like inattentive dog walkers and ear-budded hikers, speedy cyclists remained an especially popular complaint. So, up went the sign.
But someone — dubbing themselves the Jefferson Airplane Fan Club — decided everyone could use a reminder in etiquette.
“This is not a concert venue,” one of the mock signs proclaimed to hikers and trail runners. “Take out your headphones out and pay attention to everyone else on the trail.”
While Robbins noted Jeffco rangers took the signs down “within a couple of hours,” they remained long enough for Schieffer to applaud them on Facebook.
Despite the apparent divisive nature of all the signs, both Schieffer and Robbins agreed most trail users enjoy Jeffco responsibly.
“I hike and walk my dog too,” Schieffer said. “My attitude is no different when I’m doing one of those activities than I am when I’m biking.”