Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Greenbelt Lore #2

Greenbelt courtesy... particularly "passing" courtesy.

Way back in early April, I made some comments about Boise's Greenbelt. (Click HERE to review.) Traffic is getting heavy on the Greenbelt, what with the nice weather, so I thought I'd comment once again.

The City's official Greenbelt page can be viewed HERE.

They've got some "courtesies" listed. Among them:
- All Greenbelt users should stay to the right and use caution under bridges and at blind corners where vision could be impaired.
- Pedestrians should not walk more then two abreast.
- Dogs are allowed only if on a leash - leash not to exceed eight (8) feet.
- Bicyclists and skaters who wish to pass other users along the Greenbelt must notify others that they are passing, either verbally (example: "passing on your left") or by other audible means (bell, horn, etc.).

Seems to me, the Greenbelt is an ideal location for parents and guardians to teach their young'uns about traffic. Particularly where stripes are painted. (For those of you not familiar, much of the Greenbelt has a center-stripe painted, and it's like the stripe on a 2-lane highway... broken white stripe where passing is acceptable, solid yellow where you should stay in your own lane, etc.) Could there be a better place than that, to ride alongside, or just behind, your child and teach him to keep to the right, ride predictably, beware of blind spots, watch out for other users, etc.?

I wish to comment on that part about notifying others of intent to pass.

Perhaps it springs from the fact that most of my riding is on the road... but I've always had a problem with "signaling when passing" in all instances. (I've been scolded before, for not sounding the warning.)

If I'm overtaking a Greenbelt pedestrian who's walking a straight, steady line, and paying attention, and obviously going someplace, and I have plenty of passing room, I'll sometimes go on by (at a reasonable pace) without the "On Your Left" that has become a Greenbelt tradition.

Frequently, a warning startles the person being overtaken and they'll jump right into my path, when if I go right by (at a reasonable pace) without the warning, we all proceed uninterrupted.

To me, it seems a universal warning would be like honking your horn at every person you're going by on the roadway. Who needs the noise? Doesn't that detract from the serenity that should prevail on the Greenbelt?

So, if I pass you without the warning, consider it a compliment. You appear to me to know what you're doing.

If, on the other hand, I'm overtaking a gaggle of pedestrians wandering bovine-like (like a herd of cattle) on and off the path, or a walking "hen party," or somebody with an unleashed dog (review the "courtesies" above, if necessary), or punks who are all-over-the-path on their bikes, or boards, or rollerblades, or a group that includes young, inexperienced children... then absolutely, I'll give the verbal warning. (And I won't pass around blind corners, etc., either.)

And how about my Greenbelt brothers-and-sisters - and there are a lot of 'em these days - whose hearing is iPod-impaired? The courteous warning could be screamed at full lung capacity directly behind some of 'em, without it being noticed. (You will notice that one of the safety tips is "take off the headphones.")

When I'm on the Greenbelt... I promise you I will ride predictably as close to the right edge as is "practicable" (that's the word they use in the book of laws). I won't jeopardize your safety with a passing maneuver. (I've never had an accident, or even a close call, when passing on the Greenbelt.) If you want to pass me in the customary manner - on the left in a place with sight-distance - you go right ahead, without warning. (I've almost certainly noticed you in my rearview mirror anyway.) I won't scold you for breaking the rules.


db said...

I almost always announce my passes, as I've been fooled before by people who seemed alert to me. The best are the pathway users who look so focused, and yet don't hear me when I do announce my pass because they have the ear-buds in.

I passed one young woman a month ago after saying "on your left", and she let out a gasp when I passed. It was when I looked back and saw the ear-buds that had been concealed by her hair from behind... I couldn't even manage a smile as I told her that if she didn't have the music cranked up, she would've easily heard me.

I have a couple MP3 players, and I love music -- I own hundreds of CDs and several hundred more MP3 files. But I will not use a player while biking or running on public streets or pathways. I cannot accept that inhibiting one of your senses when traveling fast enough to get into trouble is responsible behavior.

(Getting off my soapbox and cycling into the hills.)

Anonymous said...

I am completely in agreement with you here, BikeBoy. I call out when it seems like I need to, which is in cases where others are NOT following the courtesy rules. There should be no NEED to signal, just as on a roadway, because everyone SHOULD stay in their lane.

I am planning on getting a bell, because I think I'm more likely to ring-ring one of those than call out verbally every time.

One thing I should probably do is help educate the idiots more. Just yesterday, there was an older couple who stopped their bicycles, two abreast, in the lane to have a chat. I should have stopped and explained to them that just like on a road, they should be courteous and move to the side, then thank them, smile, and ride away.

My problem is that I'm a prick, and it's very likely that were I to stop, I'd simply berate them, and not help them be wiser cyclists in any way.

It's hard work NOT being nice.