Happy Trails - A safe, respectful shared trail system for bikes and pedestrians!

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I'm looking to create change around how trail users share the trails here in St. John's. I believe this process can happen if we work patiently and respectfully with everyone involved - the City of St. John's, St. John's Cycling Advisory Committee, The Grand Concourse Authority, and trail users of all sorts.

I'm 39 years old and commute on my fatbike from my home to MUN every weekday in every type of weather - rain/snow/sun/wind. I'm saving on gas and reducing emissions, traffic, and even wear on municipal roads. This works out to 10km and 40min of exercise every day. Which is a HUGE benefit to my family's lifestyle as a Dad I don't have to schedule physical activity into my evenings, I can simply enjoy my family's time and all the evening adventures that come with a 2- and 6-year old. In the 1.5 years that I've been doing this, I've rode just under 2,000km (I'm at 527km so far since January).

The issue is the route I take - I ride most of Kent's Pond and most of Long Pond on the Grand Concourse. There are 2 reasons I do this - (#1) most important is safety because drivers and roads make road cyling a life-risk; (#2) I am a passionate lover of nature (worked 10+ years on nature conservation initiatives in NL and around the world (Antarctica and the Arctic included!)) and I love being on the trails every morning and evening.

I use these trails knowing the signs say "no bikes" and I also understand that some people race their bikes on the trails and are not respectful of walkers. But for me, someone who's actual job title is Social Innovation Changemaker and is a trained community engagement facilitator in social change, this is an opportunity to show HOW we can safely and respectfully share these beautiful spaces.

- I ride very slow, about as fast as someone jogging, and I am at a walking speed when I can't see around a corner
- I get off my bike and walk it on boardwalks because they are narrower and I want to leave walkers enough space
- I get off and walk my bike anytime I am near someone walking their dog, and well in advance of them, just to be sure I don't frighten the dog
- If I am coming up on someone from behind I say, "Good morning" so that they won't be surprised when I'm moving past them. I actually greet everyone I see like this.

And for the most part, after ALL these days of riding, I experience smiling, friendly people mutually enjoying the trails and our surroundings. But there are times when very irate, mean, and disrespectful comments are made. Even in the face of these disrespectful behaviours I respond with "I am just trying to share this space safely with my community". Sadly, it's actually the nice weather when ppl who don't normally walk are now out and it's those days that these people nearly ruin the sunny days for me.

I'm working so hard, exaggeratedly so, to ensure I'm demonstrating respect to every single trail user I meet. I'm thinking of them and ensuring that I'm serving our mutual ability to enjoy our trails. It's very challenging to continue being an example of how I believe we could all happily share these trails when I'm being met with such heartless and even cruel disrespect.

Even still, I get the bigger picture, I get why some walkers have a right to be upset - but this has to change so that we can all be happy on the trails. I'm raising my son to share the trails safely and model my behaviour - and I believe all users can share this behaviour.

PLEASE HELP ME realize my dream of a day when the "NO BIKES" signs read: "Happy Trails" (and then list the major rules like walk bikes near dogs, no speeding/skidding, yield to all pedestrians, keep to the right, etc)"

Every city I've lived in has extensive shared trail systems throughout the entire city - some portions of the Grand Concourse are shared but no where near enough to make it viable to commute.

We need to meet the needs, accessibility and happiness of all trail users.  I believe there is openness for this change, we just need to work together to make it happen.

Sincerely,

Justin Dearing



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