Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bike path etiquette

We have a lot of bike paths in my city, many of them quite close to my home. Some of them are underwater at the moment, but that's another story, and in the vast majority of years the design of these bikeways has proved elevated enough to keep them out of rivers and creeks. I often walk and bike on these splendid paths, but I do tend to try and avoid them during hours of peak traffic.

It's not that I don't love mankind (in the words of the great Linus Van Pelt "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand"), but more that I have a real taste for keeping a breeze friendly distance between me and all but one of the species. So on lovely weekend days and pleasant early evenings I tend to stick more to my city's lightly populated and plentiful sidewalks. Nevertheless the bike paths are a good way to get around and often enough I am on them with a fair share of other people.

Some of them pass me.

When they are on bikes and I am on foot or when I am also on a bike but they are still passing me they are supposed to announce their passing. The serious bikers generally call out "On your left". This is the safe thing to do.

Except, unfortunately, it's not. Not having grown up in a soothing environment and being of an, at times, deeply inward nature, has left me easily startleable. So when people call out briskly to me "On your left" I tend to jolt. When I'm on a bike I swerve across the width of the bike path, make a sort of S-curve across both lanes, and then wrestle control back of my bike and move demurely to the right side of the path, but only long after I have already been passed. When I hear the warning while on foot I stagger like a drunk person who has been buffeted by a strong wind.

So sadly this "On your left" business isn't really working out for us. I actually do best with children who are obsessed with their bells so that I can hear the tinkling sound of it gently rising. For adults I would probably do best if at 200 feet away they started softly saying "On your left, on your left, on your left..." but I suppose this would make them seem a little crazy. Perhaps they could sing a song?  I sometimes sing songs, but I don't really pass anybody. Maybe, in the end, the best thing for them to do is just silently avoid me. As they pass I'll probably startle and stagger, but at least by then it will probably be too late for us to crash into each other. Just, they should give me a very wide berth. I think that would be the best, all around.


  1. Yes!!! I have been very startled by this custom on many occasions.

  2. I have been startled, and I've also been the startlee. I have a bell on my bike and I like it. But I once rang it to warn a walker ahead of me on a trail from St. Paul to Stillwater, and she stopped in her tracks to study the ground. She thought the jingle of the bell was her keys falling. [No, we did not collide. And I no longer ride my bike, but not because of this incident.]

  3. I think these prove my point. Perhaps the official rule for bikers should be to actually sneak past others so stealthily that they aren't even noticed.

    1. Fairly speaking though, my weaving and oblivious, desperate panting will make that difficult for other passing bicyclists.

      Still, we must address the passive aggressiveness of bikers, which perhaps I will do in an upcoming post!


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