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As Ohio trail construction continues, bikeways are beginning to pervade more areas across Ohio. This means more urban and rural trails, along with more public exposure. In other words, more people are becoming aware of trails every day. In my view, that's a good thing. More folks are using trails not only for recreation and health, but to commute to school or work or to the store. In a world that's dominated by the automobile and caught in the clutches of rising energy costs, that's a godsend.

Stay alert for safety's sake!

Criminal Activity

But as with other public areas there is also a downside, namely, criminal activity. Let's face it -- it's there, always has been. Vandalism, muggings... you know the players. The scary element that doesn't just come around once a year on Halloween. Crimes have affected parks and other public places at one time or another. Unfortunately criminal activity also thrives in some areas. So with all this trail building isn't it likely that we're building some scary trails as well? Trails that might become lairs for evil-doers?

And what about existing trails with spooky sections? You may have seen the fearful faces and heard their whispers: "I won't ride to the north end of that trail. Oh no, never." Or perhaps you're familiar with the scowls of disgust at the sight of broken glass on a trail or nearby graffiti. Trail users can be a particular bunch. Many have high standards. They want their trail experience to be a good one, with no unpleasant surprises worse than the occasional flat tire. In my view, that's also a good thing. But what about those scary trails?

Reality Check

Well, for anyone out there who may be living in a fantasy bubble, it may be time to take out a pin. Public places are not perfect; there are some criminals at work there. Trails or linear parks are public places and therefore are not immune to this type of activity. Though you may believe that your bikeway (or trail section) is a safe place -- here comes the pin -- it can never be perfectly safe. That's reality.

The Good News

However, studies have shown that for the most part bikeways have a lower incidence of crime compared to other public places such as traditional parks and residential neighborhoods. This explains why most of us get that warm fuzzy feeling when we hop onto our favorite trail. Chances are we haven't experienced or witnessed a crime there despite our innumerable visits over the years, so we feel safe and secure.

And there are good reasons why trails are generally safer places. For one thing, many are planned, built and nurtured by their local communities. Some of the people that helped to build your local trail often use it, as do their families. They often form citizen groups that volunteer to help maintain it as well. Thereby they have more of a vested interest in their linear parks. So when problems arise, they are more likely to work to find solutions to help solve them, rather than saying it's not their problem and turning their backs. When this approach is put into practice, a trail is more likely to become an asset to its community, rather than a scary liability.

Also, trail users are generally pretty nice folks. They tend to help you if you're in distress or have a problem. You could say they watch out for each other to a large extent. And this breeds a type of cooperation that helps everyone to be a bit safer on the trails.

Stay Alert!

But one should never become too complacent as crimes do occur on bikeways. Be aware of that fact and use it to make yourself safer and more prepared for the scary stuff by following these safety tips. Stay safe and get some trail riding tips as well. If we're all better prepared, we're less likely to be victims of crimes while on the trail.

"Fine," you say, but "WHO'S GONNA' RIDE THE SCARY TRAILS?" Fair question. It's time for the answer: No one. Just as we may avoid certain areas we think are unsafe while driving our car, I believe we do much the same when cycling trails. So, you may ride a trail that I find intimidating and shy away from. It's a subjective thing where most people remain in their comfort zones. We won't ride the scary trails, but someone will. Who? Why, someone who doesn't find them all that scary, of course.

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