by Maureen Gaffney

You know how you can be walking along your favorite section of path, lost in thought about the beauty of the Valley, the birds, the trees, or about how much you’re going to donate to the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition this year when !WHoOSh-ZoOm! you are ejected from your reverie by a biker passing so fast your hair is sucked forward? You fight the urge (hopefully) to let fly a string of expletives, but your blood pressure is up, your fight-or-flight buttons have been pushed.

Contrast this with an alternate scenario. You are walking along, lost in thought—beauty, birds, trees, massive donation to the VINE TRAIL—when you hear a pleasant “ding!” and you know that another delightful human being is experiencing the joys of the Napa Valley, just like you. There’s something about the sound of a bike bell. It is elementally cheerful and somehow speaks to a childlike playfulness. What other safety device could engender such a response? Certainly not a car horn, a flashing red light.

And you can see and feel these variations in response from atop the bike as well. Lost in my own gliding, whooshing reverie, I will admit to occasionally having a lazy ding-finger and forgetting to call out when passing. If my poor manners induce a flinch or commentary, I am chastened and give myself a good talking to. When I do the ding—which is most of the time—people wave and/or call out a “Thank you!” Sometimes little heart emojis erupt from all around them, and all's right with the world. All that from the humble bike bell! Who knew?

Calling out when passing is just basic trail courtesy and it applies when you are a cyclist overtaking another cyclist as well. “On your left” (cause that’s the only side to pass on…) with or without the ding is the right approach here. And when you are pedestrianizing (new word), be a pal and stick to the right side of the trail, and keep those kids and pets in line.

And speaking of pets…of course please always use a leash that is connected to you, and does not obstruct the trail, and pick up yer poo. Some sections of the VINE TRAIL run adjacent to working vineyards—that’s part of the charm. AG RESPECT is an important aspect of the VINE TRAIL Vibe. Yes, that working vineyard is hella quaint and would make The. Best. Insta. Post. Ever., but please stick to the trail and refrain from trespassing. Wine is cool and glamorous, but farming really is hard and sometimes hazardous work so let’s all stay on this side of the fence and admire from a safe distance.

Armed with these few simple safety and etiquette tips, get thee onto the Napa Valley Vine Trail! Ding ding!