Monday, May 10, 2010

Toot-Toot! Passing...

The days get longer and warmer. The grass and trees turn green. Traffic on bike/pedestrian paths always increases.

Especially early-on, until people get used to being out there again, it seems like a lot of "Zombie traffic" on our beloved Greenbelt. (Props to Danielo, who correctly described the Zombies!)

Us folks who use the facility - at least the convenient stretches - year-round, are suddenly confronted with fair-weather users who are out of practice. It seems like it takes 'em awhile to realize that the path is intended to accommodate multiple modes - pedestrians, cyclists of all ages and abilities, skaters, pedestrians with dogs on 20-foot spring-loaded leashes, pedestrians in herds, pedestrians stopped in the middle of the pathway, engaging in cackling hen-parties, etc.

There is a lot of Greenbelt info HERE, including a map, some history, and significantly some "Tips for Greenbelt Use," and "User Courtesies."

Among the User Courtesies:

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.). The person wishing to pass is responsible for passing freely and clearly around others, and not hindering approaching users.

Perhaps it stems from the fact that 95% of my miles are accumulated on public roadways - you know, the ones we share with cars and trucks - but I always have a little problem with that.

To me it seems like saying, "Anybody who's passing somebody else has to honk first."

Do we need that? Would we want motorists honking to warn one another of every move?

Might there be a better way?

Nowadays there are long stretches of the Greenbelt that are delineated with center stripes, just like 2-lane roads. (I will take some credit for that. Back when it was just black, bare asphalt, I used to call them regularly and ask them to lay down a stripe. I even volunteered to drive the stripe machine, if they would provide it.)

If the pathway is striped... and everybody KEEPS RIGHT... and everybody understands that there are multiple modes and speeds of traffic... there shouldn't be a problem, even without the "Honk! Honk! On your left!" warning.

Seems to me that the Greenbelt is the ideal place to introduce your kids to safe traffic guidelines. Keep to the right. Be predictable and defensive. Don't park in the middle of the traffic lane. (Duh!) Look before entering traffic, or crossing the street.

When I come up behind slower traffic, I generally slow down and observe. If the slower traffic is moving steadily and predictably, I'll pass at a reasonable speed without (gasp!) sounding the audible warning.

If I pass you without a warning... consider it a compliment! My conclusion, based on watching your behavior, is that you look like you know what you're doing.

If the slower traffic is darting around, squirrel-like... or moving 2 or 3 abreast and occupying the entire width of the pavement... or dog-in-tow... or any other scenario that looks like a pass could pose a risk to any of the involved parties, I'll sound a warning. Usually it's "Excuse Me," at what I feel is the proper sound pressure level. ("On your left!" seems to cause panic and confusion.) Sometimes it's a more urgent "Beep! Beep!" And I confess I've used a loud "MOOOooooo!" a time or two, when it seemed I was stuck behind a bunch of cows.

For those who would criticize my not following the proper published guidelines... here are a couple others for your consideration:

•Stay alert and tuned into your surroundings. Take off headphones and be aware of what's going on around you.
•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.

And finally,

•Bicyclists and in-line skaters are encouraged not to conduct serious training or to maintain fast speeds.

I think all of us are a little put off by Lance Armstrong Wannabe Poser-Boy, riding down the Greenbelt at 25mph! Take it out on the road, Mario!

(It's those guys, and rude/inconsiderate cyclists, who have caused the problem in Garden City which have resulted in a section of path being temporarily closed to cyclists.)


Scott said...

One more courtesy: Don't spit left!

Last summer I got stuck behind a jogger whose headphones drowned out my repeated calls of "On your left!". Eventually we came to a wide- and straight-enough stretch of trail that I began passing on the left just as he decided to clear his sinuses. his left.

I took a snot-rocket dead to the center of my chest. He appologized profusely and practically knocked me off my bike wiping off my jacket, but needless to say, he put a dark cloud over my afternoon ride.

bob t said...

Last year at a panel discussion I cringed when Kristin Armstrong mentioned that she sometimes trains on the Greenbelt due to unsafe roads.