As It Happens

Duelling signs pit cyclists against hikers on a crowded Colorado trail

Tensions are brewing between hikers and mountain bikers on a popular Colorado trail — and they're manifesting in the form of passive aggressive signs.

'Why can't we all just get along?' says woman who uses the trails for both walking and mountain biking

Jeffco Open Space posted these signs warning cyclists to slow down on hills on an Apex Park walking trail in Colorado. (Submitted by Chris Schieffer)
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Tensions are brewing between hikers and mountain bikers on a popular Colorado trail — and they're manifesting in the form of passive aggressive signs.

First came the official signs, erected by Jefferson County officials on the Enchanted Forest trail in Apex Park outside Denver, telling cyclists: "This is not a downhill course. Expect to see hikers, dogs or wildlife."

Then came the unofficial signs, mimicking the county's font and language, but instead targeting hikers and joggers.

"Runners and hikers, are you paying attention to the world around you? This is not a concert venue. Take out your headphones and pay attention to everyone else on the trail," reads one.

"Dog walkers, are you prepared to carry that bag of dog poo all the way back to your car?" asks another. 

'A little too sarcastic'

Chris Schieffer, a Golden, Colo., woman who uses the trails for both cycling and walking, came across the guerilla signs last month and posted images of them on Facebook.

"I thought, wow, you know, that's crazy that they're announcing all of the problems, and I was actually almost proud of that because it felt like they were finally kind of equalling the playing field," Schieffer told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"But then the more I thought about them, they seem really sarcastic — a little too sarcastic for a government organization, to be quite honest."

The other clue the new signs are not official? The words "Jeffco Open Space" have been replaced by "Jefferson Airplane Fan Club," a reference to the psychedelic rock band.

Someone installed these signs addressing runners and hikers on a Colorado trail after the county put up official signs targetting mountain bikers. (Submitted by Chris Schieffer)

It's not clear who put up the unofficial signs, but Schieffer says it makes sense that mountain bikers would have a grudge to bear about the original ones. 

"I think it gave mountain bikers this feeling that they were being singled out," she said. 

That's exacerbated, she said, by the fact that cyclists are only allowed to use the trails on even days of the week, and they're expected to yield to hikers and runners. 

"We're at the bottom of that yield triangle because we have to be overly courteous so that we're not seen as, you know, complete a-holes," she said.

'Why can't we all just get along?'

The county, meanwhile, has removed the fake signs and is standing by the ones that exclusively target cyclists.

"When you're traveling down I-70 and you're heading into those tight turns, what does the sign say? 'Truckers, slow down, use low gear.' It's a very specific message to a very specific safety concern," Mary Ann Bonnell, visitor services manager for Jeffco Open Space, told the Denver Post. 

"We put those signs up in that same spirit … hearing from visitors that the downhill riding is dangerous. We've had people hit, we've had people nearly hit, we've had people approach a ranger and shout expletives expecting them to get out of the way."

Chris Schieffer says she uses the trails for both walking and mountain biking. (Submitted by Chris Schieffer)

Whatever the intention of the signs, they're definitely stirring up more conflict regarding how to share the trails.

Since Schieffer posted the pictures Facebook, she's received hundreds of comments from people with strong opinions on both sides of the debate. 

And while she understands the cyclists' plight, she also knows what it's like to be out there on foot. The whole thing can be solved if everyone applies common courtesy, she said. 

"I don't see it as an us versus them, of mountain bikers versus foot traffic," she said. "Why can't we all just get along?"

But she does have a theory as to why so many walkers and joggers have been complaining about the bikes.

"Quite honestly, we're always having a lot of fun out there and it's very visible that we're having fun. So sometimes I think other groups are in a little pain cave of their own," she said. 

"If you're running for a long time, you know, you're kind of in the zone and it doesn't seem like you're having as much fun, so to see a mountain biker come by joyful, it might jade you."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Chris Schieffer produced by Jeanne Armstrong. 

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