Mode of Experience on a Recreational Trail: An Examination of How Hikers and Mountain Bikers Focus Their Attention


  • Jamie Rae Walker
  • C. Scott Shafer


Mode of experience, conflict, multi-use trails, hikers, mountain bikers, Visitor Employed Photography


Recreational conflict is based on the idea that differences among user groups can negatively influence experience(s). In the context of outdoor recreation conflict has been more specifically defined as “goal interference attributed to another’s behavior” (Jacob & Schreyer, 1980, p. 369). To assist in explaining factors that underlie conflict, Jacob and Schreyer developed a theoretical framework, which incorporated the concept of mode of experience, which addresses how recreational users focus their attention on the environment. However, there has been little empirical investigation of different modes of experience during recreational activities including trail use. Understanding participants’ modes of experience is likely to provide insights into the perceptual and environmental parameters that underlie mode-based conflicts. Methods from environmental perception literature including modified Visitor Employed Photography (VEP) and follow-up interviews were administered in-situ to explore mountain bikers’ and hikers’ perceptions during their trail experiences. Data suggest that both mountain bikers and hikers experience variations in modes that range from concentrating on specific elements to experiencing the environment much more broadly. Results suggested bikers and hikers exhibited both similarities and differences in mode of experience. Conflict appeared to be dependent on how types of focus interfered with each other and not simply what type of recreation a participant was engaged in. The discussion presents hypotheses intended to direct future research on modes in specific settings. The value of using a triangulated approach is also discussed. Managerial implications are suggested and include developing a more in-depth understanding of users’ experiences from an in-situ perspective; understanding trail design suggestions which support user preferences and that might alleviate conflicts; and optimizing trail layouts by utilizing designs based on perception.





Regular Papers