The Lakewalk is busy this time of year. To the tune of 1,786 users per day.
That's the June and July average this year according to data collected by the Duluth-Superior Metropolitan Interstate Council. Broken down, that's 1,235 walkers and 511 cyclists per day.
With the annual rush of users, compounded with several sections of the boardwalk destroyed by waves in October and April, walkers and cyclists alike are hoping everyone knows proper trail etiquette.
"Because it's so crowded with so many people using the trail, we really have to make sure people are following shared-use trail etiquette so that it's safe and enjoyable for everyone," Shawna Mullen, active transportation coordinator at Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community, said.
Both Mullen and city of Duluth senior parks planner Lisa Luokkala urged users to understand the basics of trail etiquette: move off the trail if you need to stop; travel on the right side of the trail and pass on the left - just like a car; when passing someone, announce it by ringing a bell or saying "on your left!" (Mullen also recommended not wearing headphones as it prevents users from hearing these cues).
Julia Berquist, a professional dog trainer from Bloomington, Minn., in town for the dog show, was walking her dog Vesta along the boardwalk. She said those warnings are helpful for dogs and dog walkers, too.
"It's nice because some dogs spook quite hard actually when a bike comes up behind," Berquist said. "So when they let you know they're coming, it's so nice for us to be able to reel the dog in and help them through it."
Mullen said the most important thing for users is to move in a predictable way.
"That's a huge thing that I see all the time," Mullen said. "People just don't pay attention and step off the boardwalk literally three feet in front of an oncoming cyclist."
The city of Duluth encourages walkers to remain on the boardwalk while faster traffic, like runners, cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders, take the paved trail.
On a recent afternoon, Kurt and Marjorie Andersen, Twin Cities residents who visit Duluth once a year, walked down the Lakewalk between the row of hotels in Canal Park and the battered boardwalk.
They hadn't experienced any trouble sharing the trail with other users, but having just returned from a trip to the Netherlands, where cycling is a popular method of commuting, the couple said symbols painted on the ground depicting cyclists and walkers worked well to keep each group on their respective trail - even if those trails ran parallel and separated only by paint.
"Everyone respects that space," Marjorie said.
Kristi Layon, a radiation therapist at Essentia Health, walks along the Lakewalk during her lunch break 3 to 4 days per week and said most people are following that rule.
"It's a little different right now just because some of the boardwalk is washed away, but I feel like everyone is pretty respectful of each other," Layon said.
That might account for what bicyclist Shawn Fechner has noticed lately. According to Fechner, it seems like walkers have been avoiding the boardwalk and opting for the pavement instead.
"On days where it's most congested ... both (trails) are filled up and I'll just stop and walk my bike because it's just safer that way,"
The trail is busiest from Canal Park to the Fitger's Complex, according to Luokkala. After that, the parallel boardwalk ends and users heading north must share the paved trail.
Up to that point, trail users stay relatively separate as walkers opt for the boardwalk when it's available, according to Don Sipola, who owns Duluth Glide Segway Tours with his wife JoAnn, and regularly leads tours along the Lakewalk.
"Unless there is no boardwalk," Sipola said, referring to the damaged sections and where the boardwalk ends, leaving only the paved Lakewalk.
But even then, he said, "we do mesh really well."
Basic mixed-use trail etiquette
- Move in a predictable manner
- Treat it like a road - stay on the right side of the trail while moving and pass on the left
- Announce passing by ringing a bell or saying "on your left!"
- Move off the trail if you need to stop
- Don't wear headphones - it prevents you from hearing anyone passing you
- Keep dogs on leashes