BeltLine Etiquette: Being Polite Could Save Life & Limb

cyclists and pedestrians eastside trail

In the opening scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we learn something about trail etiquette from America’s most courteous and virtuous superhero. As a man is running on a trail around the National Mall we see the good Captain Steve Rogers suddenly blow past him at five times his pace. We watch him lap the man a total of three times, each time calling out “on your left!” as he zooms by at superhuman speeds. It’s something for those moving at the fastest speeds on the BeltLine to emulate.

Remember the days when the BeltLine was still a bit of a secret? Oh, the pleasure of riding my bike to my job at Trader Joe’s with the breeze in my face and the sun on my back. I had no worries – just the occasional skateboarder, jogger or dog walker. Life was simpler back then. But those days are over my, friend. The secret is out and there’s a whole lot of congestion as a result.

These days, at certain times of the day and certain days of the week, the BeltLine can be like a pedestrian obstacle course! Cycling to T.J.s isn’t as breezy as it used to be. Sometimes the trek almost seems daunting with small herds of pedestrians clumped together in the path, dogs on extendable leashes, children learning to ride their little bikes, and walkers/joggers wearing ear buds. What’s a cyclist to do? Here are some suggestions:

1. When we’re focused on our destination we really do tend to view pedestrians as “obstacles.” Before you enter the path prepare yourself mentally. It’s likely that there will be some congestion, especially on weekends. Remind yourself that these “obstacles” are people and just like any other place where people congregate; some of them won’t be courteous.

2.  In the same way downhill skiers are expected to anticipate and react to other skiers on the slope in front of them, it is the responsibility of the cyclist to avoid collisions and anticipate the actions of other trail users. In a nutshell, that just means we need to pay attention. A friendly “on your left!” will help you manage and protect the people in front of you.

On a sober note, a bike vs. pedestrian collision always causes injuries and can be fatal. Injuries to helmet-wearing cyclists tend to be non-life threatening: broken wrists, separated shoulders, broken jaws & noses, and road rash. But a pedestrian runs a high risk of a traumatic brain injury since (a) they are thrown to the ground with great force and (b) most pedestrians aren’t wearing helmets.

“BeltLine Etiquette” isn’t just about being polite. It’s about protecting people. So, BeltLine Cyclists, do the right thing and we can be heroes out there on the trail.


Image credits: Ryan Gravel and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

About Liana Sisco

Also known as The Soup Mama, Liana has been a happy resident of The Old Fourth Ward for four years. She is The Activities Coordinator for Lutheran Towers, a Senior Independent Living Community in Midtown, and loves to promote active living on The BeltLine.


  1. Mike Sheehan says

    Some cyclists have told me they don’t call out because they are in a hurry. This logic leaves me speechless, almost. Calling out “on your left” does not slow you down.

    Being part of the community on the beltline does not slow you down. As the beltline grows the connections get stronger and the access to the important things in our lives gets better.

    Be connected, share the path, call out to your fellow belt liners.

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