I come in peace, I really do. I am a horse rider, not so much a bike rider. I'm a Board Member of the Proud Lake Trail Riders. One of the few that tirelessly do our best to keep the trails up and usable for all. I have been horse riding these trails for over 35 years.
I felt it was important to touch base with anyone that can be reached through a site like this one who spends time on Proud Lakes trails on their mountain bikes. Or other multi use trails in Michigan, I don't think there are many parks with multi use trails.
Those of us who ride horses out there, most of us anyway, would far rather, for safety reasons not share the trails with mountain bikes. As I am sure most of you would like having your own trails as well. But the state has deemed it ok for us to share and has so far been unwilling to allow more trails to be cut to be designated as Mountain Bike Trails. So we have to find a way to co exist allowing us all to enjoy the multi-use trails and still remain safe from accidents.
Over the years we have found that we didn't run into a lot of bikes. Just some here and there and for the most part the encounters were friendly and respectful. However, this year we are finding there are a lot more bikes than in years past. We are ourselves from our barn crossing paths with far more bikes than ever. And are also receiving word from other horse riders in the area that they also are meeting up with more bikes. Just in 1 week we have received over 4 reports of near accidents due to horse and bike encounters. All have been due to speeding bikes.
We realize that we all enjoy the trails for different reasons. Some hike, some ride a bike, some like to walk their dogs. And some like to ride their horses. Unfortunately very few seems to understand trail etiquette. This is not set up by some mutual understanding, but by the laws in the state of Michigan. Horses carrying a rider are by law a pedestrian. Therefore giving a horse and rider the right-of-way on any road way or trail. However, those of us on the horses, also need to be careful of the hikers who are also pedestrians.
Last Saturday morning, An experienced rider was riding the trails near Child's Lake and Dawson.
There were 4 riders and their horses from the same barn. They were lesiurely walking the trails near the old staging area when a bike came very fast up behind them, literally putting his tire into the tail of the read horse. Fortunately this is a steady horse. He did however lurch jump forward and this commotion upset all of the horses. The biker then "told" the riders to move aside to let him pass. Which they did. The horses were all startled by this and within a few minutes after the bike passed, one of the horses who was continuing to be worried, bolted. The rider was thrown from the horse at a full run. The rider cracked her safety helmet in the back and was unconscious for several minutes. Was then transported by ambulance to the hospital where she stayed under observation for 3 days due to a concussion and nicked artery causing internal bleeding in her thigh.This could have been a deadly accident. Caused by carelessness. This accident was reported to the DNR and the DNR was present when the rider was taken into the ambulance. This was not only bad for the horses, that biker is lucky he was not kicked.
We see bikes flying through the trails regularly now. Some are actually wearing ear buds and jamming to their music. Please, please, be more careful. Not just for the horse and riders sake, but for hikers, boy scouts and your own safety as well. You need to slow down on these trails. Pay attention and when encountering a horse and rider, please, speak to the horse. Let them know you are not a predator. And slow down. But remember, the horse and rider do have the right of way.
We would like to petition the state to reconsider seperating these trails for the safety of all that use them. Besides, what horse people like in trails is not always what bikers like on trails. We like the jumps over fallen trees.
Please, help the people riding these trails to learn proper trail etiquette. Not only is it common sense to be watchful for that 1,000+ lb trail user who could kick your brains out if you ride up behind them and scare them, but also the polite thing to do. AND Michigan requires right of way be given to Pedestrians.
Lets all be safe and considerate. Slow down, look and listen. Horses and bikes don't mix. But so long as the state will not allow us more trails, let's try to avoid anymore accidents, please.