Safety Mitigation and Trail Etiquette 

Physical activity inherently carries risks to your property, your body and the bodies of others. 

Here's a few ways to mitigate those risks.

Build up gradually to physical activity

If you're starting from a low base of fitness, skill or flexibility, build onto your physical activities slowly. For older trail users, being in too much of a rush to get fit, after years of being inactive, regularly leads to visits to the doctor or physiotherapist. 

Seek help from others to build a fitness and skills programme. This is particularly important for older people. Build up to longer distances and intensity over time.

If you have health issues, perhaps talk to your medical advisor first.

If possible, build a stretching regime into your day that has exercises appropriate to your particular activity. This will significantly aid in reducing the risk of injury.

The above applies equally well if you are a walker, hiker, runner, or cyclist. Be patient and build skills and strength over time.

Activity should start slowly, preferably with a warm-up of your muscles and exercise should best be concluded with a warm-down. It is surprising how often injury comes from fast finishes of exercise and the exerciser comes to a complete stop, resulting in muscles freezing up, cramps and spasms, and potential injury.

Have appropriate equipment

If you are riding a bike, ensure it is set up for your size and is in a serviceable condition.

Proper bike helmets for your brain’s protection are essential when riding a bike.

A bell is a necessary piece of safety equipment on bikes to alert others on the road or trails that you are approaching. You do not want to startle or hit fellow trail users by just hurtling past them. This is extremely dangerous and discourteous.

Having good footwear for walking, hiking or running can protect you from injury.

Brightly coloured clothing helps bike riders on roads being seen by other road users. Having flashing lights on front and back also means that other road users are aware of you on the road.

Lights front and back are essential if you are riding in dim light conditions or at night.  

If you are going on a longer trail experience on a bike, carry a spare tube, puncture repair kit, bike pump, and tyre levers. Punctures are common and can make for a long day if you puncture a long way from help. Practise how to repair a puncture, it helps to know what to do to refit a tyre or put the chain back on.

Carrying a cell phone can be useful if you need help. Having off-line maps loaded on a phone can serve as a guide map if you get lost. If you are bike packing or hiking and are far from help, many trail users carry personal locator beacons to gain help in an emergency.

Cyclists are recommended to wear gloves to protect their hands if they fall. It also cushions hands and reduces nerve pressures in the hands and arms when riding bikes. Regularly changing hand positions helps prevent nerve problems on longer rides.  

Be courteous when overtaking (and approaching) 

It is good etiquette, when riding on a trail, to ring your bell when approaching from behind indicating you wish to overtake. Be courteous and slow down. Ensure the person in front of you is aware you are overtaking. If safe, overtake at a gentle pace.

Similarly, if you are approaching someone on a trail head on, slow your speed down and move to the left and try to make eye contact with them so you know they are aware you are coming towards them. Be particularly aware of young children who are still developing their own spatial awareness and are not as aware as older children of the dangers around them on trails and roads.

A smile and some conversation help create a friendly environment on our trails when overtaking or passing head on. A smile and a polite "hello" or "good morning" type comment goes a long way.

Below is an excellent YouTube video we recommend to young bike riders talking about basic cycle safety.

Obey road rules, be defensive 

Intersections are particularly dangerous for all trail or road users. Cross only when safe. Best practice is to stop and cross only when clear. 

Exercise caution at all times in traffic. Signal clearly in traffic.

Keep fed and watered

An often-overlooked factor in injury is the part hydration and nutrition play. If the exercise period is prolonged, regularly hydrating before you are thirsty will ensure muscles function correctly. Similarly, regular small intakes of food will ensure you do not run out of energy. “Bonking" or physically suddenly running out of energy, is not uncommon for people who have not eaten enough food or failed to hydrate during exercise. A dehydrated runner, rider or hiker can make bad decisions that can lead to injury or other consequences like getting lost or making mistakes in traffic. 

If you are travelling in remote areas and travelling long distances, consider carrying a small portable water purifier system. This is useful, especially in hot weather, to ensure you have the means to obtain clean drinking water. 

Keep an eye on weather 

Wear and carry appropriate clothing for the weather conditions and if the period of exercise is long, carry a raincoat or jacket. Sunglasses for eye protection if sunny. Apply sunscreen if out in wind or sun and a hat if walking for periods in the sun. If cold, ensure you have warm socks, under-clothing and headgear. Head and neck scarves are important to keep warm. Merino-based clothing is often good for dealing with cool and wet conditions. Hypothermia is a real risk in cold, wet conditions. To protect vital organs, the brain starts to shut down when one is suffering from hypothermia. Be aware that people can make poor decisions when suffering from hypothermia. Conditions can quickly change at altitude so be prepared by carrying the appropriate protective gear and clothes.

If conditions are unfavourable, decrease your speed and beware that trail conditions can become hazardous. In the cyclone-torn east coast, many roads and trails are still in poor condition. Slumping, dropouts and potholes are common. Ensure you can see a safe distant in front of you especially on corners and steep descents. If the trail is closed, do not use. Check out your route conditions with district councils before travelling. 

Give help to injured

If you do come across people in trouble, do the right thing and offer your help, food and medicines if required. If you are travelling on long routes, carry an emergency first aid kit for treating injuries to yourself or others.

If you come across someone needing medical treatment, ensure you keep calm. Check for hazards and make sure you are safe, otherwise a problem can compound. Do your best to make the injured person as comfortable and stable as your medical abilities allow. If you know first aid, this is the time to bring that practice to life. The photos below deal with adult CPR from St John resources for CPR and some common accident injury treatments for the like of sprains and bruises. Many more resources are online if internet is available.

If you try to seek outside assistance, remember to record your current positions, names, ages of injured and extent of those injuries, so you can give emergency services clear messages with accurate information.  

If you carry a personal locator beacon, ensure you have read instructions before activating and don’t be afraid to activate. Better to be safe than sorry. 



Stay alert 

Exercise, drugs and alcohol don’t mix well. Like a car driver, a cyclist or hiker under the influence is a danger to themselves and others. Reflexes are diminished and poor decisions are made.

If you have prescription medicines or allergic conditions that may need urgent drug treatment, remember to carry the appropriate drugs with you and advise any companions of your condition and where you are carrying the drug treatment (for example, an EpiPen - it is more common than you may think). Don’t be shy, it’s your life.

Be wary of wild animals

Be careful of wild animals like wild dogs or wild pigs. Try to be calm and exercise discretion where possible. If among cattle, be patient and listen to drovers if they are around.

Ride with a friend 

Best practice is that if you are riding long trails in remote areas, is to ride with companions. It is far safer travelling with someone else and generally a lot more fun and time goes quicker. If you do travel alone, carry a personal locator beacon and tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. 


Helpful tips from ACC NZ on active recreation

Mountain Biking