A while back I read an open letter to cyclists from a runner. It was short, sweet and to the point, unlike my lengthy posts. 🙂 However, as a cyclist, I am inclined to disagree with some of the finer points. I supposed it is against the rules of an open letter to respond to an open letter, but I could not help myself. Perhaps we can foster a bit of communication between cyclists and runners and expand the dialog to other groups as well. Here is the letter to cyclists:
I am lucky to live within 1/2 of a mile from a major cycling trail south of Seattle. (Actually it is a multi-use trail, but the majority of users are on two wheels.) From this trail, I can access hundreds of miles of bike routes and trails, most of which avoids vehicular traffic. It is fantastic. The trails are quiet and smooth, if a bit flat and uninteresting. As one would expect the trail network is not complete and has a number of challenges. In some places the multi-use trails become sidewalks. (Note: Riding on the sidewalk is legal in Seattle so long as you yield pedestrian traffic. These same rules apply to multi-use ‘bike’ trails.) In other locations, the trail is so crowded, it is best to avoid the trail traffic and take my place on the road. This open letter joggers and walkers on the trail! Later letters, will focus on cyclists, roller bladers and skate boarders, vehicles, fisherman, smokers and finally trail designers.
An open letter to walkers and joggers on the trail.
Hi trail users,
Welcome to the bike trail runners and walkers. I call it the bike trail, but it is actually a multi-use trail. All non-motorized vehicles are welcome. Please take a moment and recognize the people who are using the trail with you. This list includes people getting their exercise on. In this time when obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing, you should be commended. You cyclists, joggers, walkers, roller bladers, skate boarders and those taking you dogs out for a walk are all awesome. There are also a few people who use the bike (multi-use) trail who do not use it for exercise which includes: smokers, fisherman and the multitude of vehicles who have to cross the trail. I will address each of you in turn.
Yes, I group all you ‘pedos’ (pedestrians not pedophiles) together. I suspect that the runners will get all indignant, but you share a lot of trends with your less bouncy brethren with only a few differences. I used to run, but sadly my knees did not approve. I wore cotton gym shorts. What is with the silky short-shorts? It is the universal ‘serious runner’ attire for both male and female runners. The risk for the female runner is minimal, but there seems to be a genuine risk of gentlemen runners dropping their coin purse out of their shorts, causing a scene. It is disgusting and it needs to stop! I also wonder when it was decided that you all wear fluorescent shoes. They look silly. Also for the love of god, put on some socks! Yuk! As I understand it, runners will put band aids on your nipples for marathons and other uber endurance runs. That’s it! You are not allowed to make fun of what cyclists wear. Yes I admit it looks silly, but you and your bandaged nipples have lost all credibility. The nicest thing about joggers, is that you tend to run alone and stay right. Sometimes you even run in the gravel to the right of the trail! However, on the rare occasions when you run in packs, do you have to take up the entire trail? I hate to break it to you runners, but cycling is also demanding sport. I am very impressed that you can run 10, 15, 20 miles or more. Those distances are a warm up on my bike. I have broken long-distance runners on long bike rides. They thought it would be easy to, it is just riding a bike. I don’t expect to keep up with serious distance runners. Your form of conditioning is not superior to cycling or strength training. It is just different. Show some respect and I will try to do the same.
I am required to yield to all pedos (pedestrians) and I do. I am not interested in running anyone down. The concept of crashing is not a pleasant one. The possibility of hurting someone else is even more concerning. I am also encouraged to use my voice when I pass. In an ideal world, this is what I do. However, the reaction to this is an exercise in chaos theory. I never know what will happen. Often when I announce, ‘on your left’ you look back over their left shoulder and for some reason wander towards the left. What in the hell are you thinking? Do you have a brain in that head of yours? Do I really need to announce, ‘I am a bike. I will be passing on your left. Please move to the right.’ I don’t have the time to yell all of that clearly. I am sure you are not capable of processing that vast amount of information! Another common reaction to, ‘On your left.’ Is no reaction. You don’t acknowledge the announcement, or move from your path in any way. I assume this is because you are listening to your favorite tunes. Let me say this loud and clear so you can hear this even with your earbuds. TAKE OUT YOUR EARBUDS! I have lost track of how many people I frighten when I pass because they have no idea I am there until they see me. It is dangerous! Another reaction to, ‘on your left.’ is akin to what cockroaches do when someone turns on the light. SCATTER! This reaction seems to be most common when larger groups of people or children are involved. Of course those who hear, understand and heed the, ‘on your left.’ announcement are fantastic! You are the majority! THANK YOU!
All trail users, including cyclists, should pay attention to your surroundings! Watch for oncoming traffic. Move to the right as it approaches. The trail is like a road. Do not obstruct oncoming traffic. It is rude and it is dangerous. When you travel in groups you love to take up as much room on the trail as possible. Three of you can take up the entire trail width. Then you get all annoyed with me when I want to get by?! If you move over, you will get a thank you from me as I pass.
What is the best approach for me when passing a pedo? Well it really depends. Sometimes I announce when I pass. But if the group appears particularly oblivious and less predictable, I will slow down so I can react, ride as far away from the pedos as possible and pass silently. If I spot the obligatory white cord dangling from your ear buds, I will shoot you dirty look as I roll by. Dog walkers always get an, ‘On your left.’ Dogs are scary. They like to chase cyclists. If they do, they might bite. It is more likely a chasing dog will cause a crash. Even worse than the dog is the leash. Getting caught up in a leash and we will all likely all be on the ground! Luckily, you dog owners understand this. Given ample warning, you will take control of your curious canine and allow me to pass. Children are treated like dogs, without leashes. Instead of chasing you, their natural course of action is to dart in front of you. My approach is the same either way. I call out, make sure the parents are aware and pass slowly and cautiously. Children are far worse behaved and less predictable than dogs. Nothing can be done about children. They really are dumb unpredictable little creatures that have made me grab the brakes for an emergency stop more times than I can count. Luckily, these sugar covered beasts only occur on highly populated trails. Your precious, precocious loin fruit are a major reason to avoid crowded trails.
The bike lane at Alki is an excellent example of such a crowded multi-use trail. There are separate bike and pedo lanes. They mean nothing with a myriad of people darting every which way paying no attention to which lane is which. They include every type of pedos, the children being the least predictable. Frankly it is safer for me as a cyclist and for you if I take my bike elsewhere. Keep this in mind when you pack up the dog, kids, roller blades, your friends, spouse, frisbee and picnic basket up into your SUV to drive home. We are all safer staying if I stay off of the Alki trail so please give me some room on the road. I will get back on the trail in a couple miles when it is less crowded. I prefer it there. On this particular road, I am actually likely riding faster than the flow of traffic anyway. Traffic can be a real mess!
Please keep these ideas in mind when using the multi-use trail and we will all be happier.