Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Your Left!

Bike back!
Get out of my way!!!

These are all things you might hear when a cyclist is about to pass you on a multi-use trail. Or you might hear silence and then see a blur pass you almost clipping your arm off your body as a cyclist flies by you unannounced. I'm a runner, swimmer and cyclist and I'll tell you what, nothing frustrates me more than a cyclist who has bad manners on the multi-use trails, or anywhere for that matter.

We all need to take responsibility for our safety and look out for those around us. Oh, and guess what? Sometimes we also have to admit when we are wrong.

I am a woman of many distractions. Ask me about a plant and you will get a story about a tree and the bushes around the tree before I even mention the plant originally in question. Many years ago I lived in Hallowell, Maine and I worked across the river in Augusta. The only reasonable way to get to work was by driving through two traffic circles that intimidated the heck out of me. When I first moved to Hallowell I remember often driving out of my way to cross the river at another location simply to miss out on the hazard of the traffic circle. For those of you who don't know, the inside lane has the right of way in a traffic circle. Anyway, as I was gaining confidence in the traffic circle my route to work began to shift to the more reasonable route that took me 8 minutes instead of the 28 it took me to cross the river way out of town. On one particular day I was seemingly very distracted behind the wheel. I was distracted by the music, the trees, the cyclists on the road and probably even my cell phone. I told myself out loud that I needed to stop being distracted otherwise I was going to get in a car accident. Well I didn't listen and the next day an accident is what happened. I hit this dude in the traffic circle because he slammed on his breaks even though we had the right of way and I didn't slam on mine, well, at all.

Next thing I know an ambulance is coming to the scene of the accident and I was sitting there more annoyed because I didn't hear the warning that I gave to myself just the day before. The guy I hit wasn't permitted to be driving because he had significant back surgery the week prior to the accident and so he needed an ambulance to check him out. I walked away without a ticket, he did not. I walked away uninjured, he did not. I walked away with a very damaged car though!

At this point, the only route I had to work was my bicycle. I happily took my bike across the river every day for about three weeks until my car was in working order again.

Fast forward many years and I found myself supporting my friends during their relay around Columbus on my bicycle and I again found myself distracted. This time it was a distraction because of a boy and my cell phone. We were newly communicating, it was the middle of the night, my friend was walking and I was trying to text and ride. I was there to support her, not the other way around! Next thing I know I face planted into the tree. Was the distraction worth the encounter with the tree? Well if you asked me at the time my answer would have been absolutely! Would I say that today? Nope! Let me say that he was worth the energy and the risk at the time, but I can't say a long term injury would have been worth it in the long term. I was lucky and walked away with a scratch on my face!

So fast forward about 10 months and yesterday I was riding up an down the local trail in Columbus screaming "ON YOUR LEFT" every time I passed someone in the hopes that they would move to the right of the trail. Most people obliged. I was also in a situation where I was passed by many cyclists who wouldn't take the second to alert me of their passing. This about drove me insane! Now as I said, I get distracted easily and yesterday was one of those days where my mind weaved from topic to topic and then circled back to three topics prior. I found myself almost crashing into a tree (again), almost riding off the trail and so on. I was wrong in being distracted but the cyclists who kept flying by with no alert could have been putting themselves in harms way! Me being the harm.

I again want to acknowledge that I was fully wrong by riding on the trail totally distracted but I also want to acknowledge that passing people, especially at high rates of speed, is equally as dangerous! It was so worrisome to me that I took note of the team jerseys that kept passing me because I figured I could write a letter to those teams to ask them to remind their riders to be more courteous on the trail. Rather than do that right now, I need to acknowledge that I too was wrong yesterday, but at least I let everyone know I was passing them by.


  1. I think I learn something new about you with every post. I didn't think that was possible! I am glad you didn't get hurt more! BTW, writing down the name of the jerseys is a great idea - us MIT people get all the blame for hogging the trail so much that it's nice to see someone else get it too! Oh, I am bad!

  2. I am very glad you walked away from the uninjured!

    Good idea on writing down the jerseys. That is very dangerous, and could result in some serious injuries!