Advice From the Trenches

Outdoor Etiquette: With so many people taking to the great outdoors, manners are even more important

Dear C and Dr. B,

With the restriction of the coronavirus lockdown, the only fun thing left for people to do is get out and explore all the parks and conservation lands that have remained open. What I cannot understand is why people leave their garbage all over. The worst part is those dog poop bags. They are everywhere and people don’t dispose of them properly. Do they think the bags are going to decompose? I just don’t understand. How can someone be conscientious enough to bring a poop bag, but think nothing of littering the park’s paths with bags of dog shit? 

– Phil

Dr. B says: I’ve wondered the same thing, so I spoke with the director of a local nature preserve and conservation area. With the pandemic, traffic has really increased there. I told him I was glad people are getting out because it’s good for their mental health, but those poop bags really get under my skin. The director told me they had put out a survey on this question to their members. According to the survey, those dog poop bags are advertising they are biodegradable, so people believe they just dissolve. This is silly on so many levels. First, after 100 years (which is how long the bags probably do take to biodegrade), you would still end up with dog poop on the trail in the same spot. Does it make any sense to preserve it in a bag? Second, when plastic breaks down into micro plastic it can pollute the water supply and poison animals and people. It is linked to leukemia, autoimmune disorders and cancer. Please, people! Carry your garbage and poop bags out of the parks and dispose of them properly. If you really are determined to leave your dog’s shit on the ground, please have the courtesy to use a stick and throw it into the woods.

C says: A number of manufacturers make leashes that have little poop bag dispensers attached to them, along with a clip for the filled bags, so you can bring the poop with you until you find a can without having to carry the poop bag in your hand or in your pocket. Every dog walker should get one. In Rhode Island, there are fines for leaving pet poop lying around, and very specific directions on what to do with it: “proper disposal shall be accomplished by transporting such feces to a place suitable and regularly reserved for the disposal of human feces.” That is NOT our woodland paths and public parks, people!

Dear C and Dr. B;

Since the COVID thing, I’ve been going for walks on the East Bay bike path and it’s become a sometimes crowded place. My complaint isn’t about social distancing or masks, because people have been pretty good about that. What is driving me nuts are the bikers who drive up behind me and say “on your left!” It can scare the crap out of me if I don’t expect it, and I’m afraid some day, I’ll be so startled, I’ll jump in front of the bike by accident as I’m turning around. Why do they have to do this, when there’s plenty of room to go around me? It’s not like I’m stumbling all over the path or something, and have to be warned!

– Jumping Jack

C says: The reason this scares the crap out of you is the very reason bikers give warning – you had no idea they were there. If you did, it wouldn’t be such a shock. And keep in mind that the biker sees you long before you see them. You may be walking in a straight line, but if you haven’t turned and looked behind you the whole time, they know you aren’t aware of their presence. It’s for your safety as well as theirs that they “scare” you. I have seen walkers suddenly lunge across the path because they dropped a hat that was blowing away, and I’ve seen bikers hurt very badly because someone changed their direction. If you don’t ride a bike, you haven’t had the experience yet, but if you did, trust me, you’d be warning people too.

Dr. B says: I believe the rule of the bike path is that bikers stay on the right, just as cars would on a road. This means going around people when they are walking on the path. Just three hours ago, I warned a walker on a path with my bell, and just a few hours before that, I almost backed into a bike when they gave a verbal warning, as I didn’t hear what they actually said. I try to use my bell, but that doesn’t always work either. It seems like the best solution is to just be more aware.

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