Tim’s Tips: Safely using Tahoe’s paved trails

Palisades Tahoe

The Lake Tahoe region is blessed with an extensive and elaborate system of multiuse trails providing access to great views of the lake, the Truckee River and the peaks of the Sierra. But those trails are narrow and, during the busy summer, can be packed with every form of trail user imaginable.

Imagine, slow cruising bikers, fast road bikers, mountain bikers, e-bikers, fat-tire bikers, runners, walkers, fishers, rafters and families with a passel of kids, strollers and dogs in tow.

So, how do all these groups enjoy the trails peacefully whilst staying out of the hospital? I’ve been riding these trails (and at busy times avoiding these trails) for decades, and I’ve got a few ideas.

Hikers, walkers & runners
Understand that bikes will be coming by swiftly and you might not see or hear them coming. Assume that they can be passing you at any time, which means stay to the right and never occupy more than half of the trail —the less the better. If there are four of you, use only half the trail; don’t walk abreast.

Keep control of dogs and kids at all times. Many bikers have been injured by running into an out-of-control dog. Dogs need to be on a leash. While the trail may be quiet when you start walking, always expect the unexpected. As a bike rider I continue to be amazed at the shocked faces I sometimes see on walkers as I ride by. It’s as if they can’t believe there would be a biker on a multiuse trail.

When you hear a bike rider ringing a bell or calling out, “On your left.” Don’t move to the left. Stay to the right.

Bike riders
While you might be comfortable smoothly riding along at 20 mph, understand these trails can be crowded, so slow down and ride defensively. Warn folks that you are coming with a bell and/or a verbal alert: “On your left.” Ride on the right, pass on the left. Be sure and give plenty of distance between you and pedestrians as you pass.

While perhaps your goal is to chalk up miles, remember that many trail users are there to enjoy the views. They could quickly dash across the trail to capture an image of that flower that really needs to be on their Instagram page. So be alert and always be prepared.

Be sure to wear a helmet, have a flashing light on the back of your bike and wear bright clothing — anything that will allow other trail users to notice you.

E-bikers
There have been lots of complaints about high-speed e-bike users on the trail system, as well as several injuries caused by e-bikers. They seem to be especially popular with teens who seem to believe they have magical powers of invincibility as they simultaneously text on their phones while riding way too fast without a helmet. But adults also seem to go pretty dang fast when they don’t have to pedal as hard. This is especially noticeable on fat-tire bikes, which are not only fast, but occupy more space.

California law requires everyone younger than age 18 to wear a helmet. If riding a Class 3 e-bike, the fastest model that zips along at up to 28 mph, all people regardless of age are required to wear a helmet. Aside from the rules, every rider who wishes to use their brains after a crash should wear a helmet.

E-bike riders, please, slow down and be aware that our narrow trails are not designed for bikes rolling. As well, most multiuse paths in the region have a 15 mph speed limit.

Truckee River rafters
Don’t plop your raft down onto the trail or rush across it in your frenzied effort to get to the Porta Potty while balancing two drinks in your hands. Think of the trail as a small road with fast-moving vehicles that will hit you if you don’t give them time to stop, even if you are carrying a large rubber object for protection.

Trail expansion
One way to reduce conflicts on the trail is to spread out users by creating more trails. In Truckee, efforts are being made to expand the Legacy Trail and work is underway this summer to connect South River Street and Riverside Drive with a pedestrian bridge recently installed over the Truckee River. The bridge is not yet open.

Around the lake, completing a paved trail around Lake Tahoe is on the drawing board. Key sections in the planning stage include an extension of the East Shore trail at Sand Harbor to Spooner Summit and the completion of the North Shore trail from its current terminus east of Dollar Hill to the North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista.

Bike Month
June is Bike Month and Lake Tahoe Bicycle Coalition and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are hosting a friendly competition to encourage teams, families and businesses to ride bikes in June. Register online to participate. | tahoebike.org



Walkers

  • Stay on the right.
  • Never walk more than 2 abreast.
  • Look both ways before crossing the trail.
  • Pedestrians must yield to bikers.
  • Don’t stop on the trail. Step off the trail if stopped.
  • Keep dogs on leash.
  • Pick up all trash include dog waste & take to a trash can.
  • Carry your own doggie bags.

Bikers

  • Pass on the left.
  • Ring a bell or call out “On Your Left” when passing.
  • Slow down when passing to not startle pedestrians.
  • Watch out for children & dogs.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Consider wearing a bright vest & installing a flashing light on your bike.
  • Pick up all trash including dog waste & take to a trash can.
  • Carry your own doggie bags.
  • It is illegal to ride bikes on sidewalks.

E-bikers

  • Most areas have a 15 mph speed limit for e-bikes.
  • Most areas prohibit the use of Class 3 bikes on multiuse trails.

Children

  • Helmets required for kids 17 & younger on bikes, scooters, skateboards & other equipment motorized and non-motorized in California.

Dogs

  • All counties around Lake Tahoe require dogs to be on leash when off private property.
  • Town of Truckee requires dogs to be under voice command or on leash at all times.
  • Dog waste is considered litter and must be picked up and taken to a trash can.

Bike Month

tahoebike.org

June 12 | Bike Kitchen, Alibi Ale Works, Truckee

June 14 | Breakfast Burrito & Biking, Tahoe City Visitor Center

June 21 | Bike snacks, Tahoe City Lakeside Trail

June 22 & 23 | Tahoe Mountain Bike Festival

June 26 | Bike & breakfast, Lakeview Commons, South Shore

June 27 | Bike Kitchen, The Hanger, South Shore

June 28 | Critical Mass Ride, South Shore

June 29 | Lake Tahoe Pride Ride, South Shore

Find a list of local paved paths to explore