Last week I was in a bit of a foul mood and sent and wrote An open letter to walkers and joggers on the trail. I have dealt with more than my fair share of oblivious pedos over the years and it was time to let them have it. Every cyclist on the road has been annoyed by those stumbling, bumbling absent minded cattle herding their way down the trail. Their innate ability to be an obstruction on the multi-use trail is uncanny. Dishing out a little hate after years of frustration is good therapy. It helps me be more patient and understanding on the trail. If any pedos (pedestrians not pedophiles) out there read my open letter, maybe they will understand my frustration. I have gotten a lot off of my chest, but I am by no means finished. There is still plenty of hate to spread around. This time I turn the tables. This time I write ‘An open letter to cyclists on the trail.’
An open letter to cyclists on the trail.
You have found the multi-use trail. It is a wonderful place to ride. It is quiet, there is plenty of room to ride and you don’t have to spend every moment fearing the four wheel menaces that clog the public streets. It is a multi-use trail, but in reality this is the land of the bike. Trails can be over 20 miles in length and pedestrians mostly populate certain portions of the trail. You can go miles without seeing a pedestrian. Fantastic! You might be tiny riding a 20lb bike on the open road with cars, but here on the multi-use trail you are the biggest baddest and fastest thing on the road! Don’t let that power go to you head big fella. If you do not reel in that ego of yours on the trail, you will be no better than your road hogging, douche bag, car driving, road brethren. A little attention to the rules of the trail, consideration and understanding will go a long way towards keeping the trail a nice place for all users.
Being in Seattle, I know this is a difficult concept for you to grasp, but on the road the SLOWER traffic is supposed to stay right! The left lanes are for passing. Let me repeat this! SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT! This same basic rule applies to the multi-use trail! Unless you have a reason to be on the left side of the trail, stay right! This system is predictable, easy to understand and it works. Do it! I understand when you are riding with buddies you may want to ride two abreast to talk. Keep in mind when you do this, keep in mind that you need to pay special attention ahead and behind you for trail traffic. Pull into single file when there are approaching cyclists or pedos. I hate being squeezed off the trail by a pair of cyclists who feel the need to take up the whole trail. It is rude! Move your ass over!
Speaking of moving your ass over. I should not have to explain this. If anyone should understand, ‘on your left.’ It should be a fellow cyclist. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Still a few of you will mindlessly wander left when I make this announcement. Then there are cyclists who do not hear my, ‘on your left.’ Why? Because you are wearing earbuds! Are you stupid?! PULL THE STUPID EAR BUDS OUT OF YOUR EARS AND PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS! Grrr!
If you read my open letter to runners and pedestrians, you will think this a bit hypocritical… However, when passing pedestrians and slower trail users, you need to announce yourself. I know that often you are wasting your time. Pedos are unpredictable and stupid, but do it anyway. The trail rules say use a bell or your voice when passing. If you think yelling, ‘on your left’ is a waste of time a bell is even worse. The trail is usually quiet, but it is not silent. A little ding is unexpected and can easily be lost in casual trail conversation. Usually when I hear one, my first reaction is, to wonder what the hell that noise is. Announcing yourself when you pass is part of being a polite, responsible, safe trail user. Just be patient.
While we are speaking of responsibility realize that there are some crowded portions of the trail. These are not the places to be cranking out your personal best Strava segment. Take it easy and pay attention. If you crash into a hapless pedestrian, it will hurt and may possibly affect other cyclists. A couple years ago there was a tragic accident involving an elderly woman on a trail. Apparently she cut across the path of an oncoming cyclist. The accident was fatal the woman and the cyclists received injuries as well. Even though the cyclist was not found at fault, the local city council felt inclined to react. In their infinite ‘wisdom,’ they unanimously enacted knee-jerk, short sided idiotic legislation. Now all of the City of Renton’s multi-use trails feature a 10 mph speed limit. This limit comes complete with speed limit signs threatening a $101 fine for speeders. Fortunately this new rule is unenforceable and mostly ignored, but keep in mind your mistakes can affect other cyclists.
You are not the only cyclist on the trail. Taking the time to signal and check for oncoming traffic could save you some headaches. Years ago, I was riding along a trail through Marymoore park north of Seattle. It was on a very long ride and I was cruising along with a father and son on a tandem. I did not know them but we paced off of each other for miles each of us taking turns at the lead. We were holding steady at 20 mph. Ahead on the trail we saw a teenager on a BMX bike. He was a couple feet off the trail and riding quite steadily. Suddenly, out of the blue, he decided to cross the trail. The father on the tandem had no time to swerve, or stop his giant bike. All he could do is drop a shoulder. He damn near knocked that kid out of his shoes. It was one of the funniest things I have ever seen! It was funny because amazingly the tandem stayed upright and other than bumps and bruises the teenager on the BMX was uninjured, but wiser for the experience. Any time I stop or change direction while on the trail, I think of that kid. I then signal and check for traffic before I change direction.
Strava users. I am very impressed with your speed and competitive nature. However, if using a Strava means being an unsafe asshole on crowded trails… Perhaps you should not be using Strava. Find another more appropriate segment jackass!
I enjoy riding multi-use trails and I am sure my fellow cyclists do as well. It will continue to be a great place to ride, if we can take a moment to follow this advice.