Weekend on the Multi-Use Trail

This weekend K and I tried something different. We woke up at 5:30, packed up the road bikes, and drove over to the longest of the local multi-use trails.

It was a terrible idea.

I’ve ridden this trail before, while we were still thinking about moving here. I found it a little frustrating, because the path can be herky-jerky. Random, short, steep hills, and at almost every intersection you need to make an unrideable (for me) corner. Between those things, though, it was decent pavement, and I’m starting to feel really bike deprived. The trail was just as I remembered it. We beat the heat. It was really pleasant just to be out.

You’re waiting for the “terrible idea” part, right?

We live in, I’m guessing, one of the country’s least bikeable cities. While I can piece together an awkward kind of route as a transportation cyclist, sport cyclists are, as far as I can tell, out of luck. To compound the inherent problems of doing “real” road riding in an urban area, this city has a huge footprint. Even if you recognize that you need to get out of town to find smooth, low-traffic roads, it can be a 45 minute drive or more.

Add all these things together and you get some phenomenally inappropriate bike behavior. Things like fast group rides on the multi-use trail on a busy Sunday. I understand the thrill of going fast on the trail–I’ve done it. On quiet days, when I’m not going to run over anyone. On crowded days, I chill out. I enjoy riding my bicycle. I go 12 mph, or even less. I call out when I need to pass someone, even when there’s a 97% chance that they won’t hear me over their headphones.

The first sign that we were out of our element was a crash. Mr. Roadie, one of the group riders going 20 mph on the multi-use trail, was a fair distance back. I was in front, K was behind. K says, “Mr. Roadie is coming up, he’ll pass in a minute.” I looked over, saw how far away he was, and passed a jogger. K passed the jogger. We get on a bit, and I hear a terrible noise. Mr. Roadie was off the pavement, wheels up. I don’t think this was from anything we did, given both how far in front of the crash we were and how far ahead of Mr. Roadie I was when I passed the jogger, but I do wonder if Mr. Roadie somehow did this trying to cut us off. (Later, Mr. Roadie passed us again, without calling out. Next time we saw him, he had pulled off the trail. He re-entered right in front of me without looking.) After that we started to notice things like cyclists in full team kits passing between pedestrians while still riding two abreast. I called the ride off early, because it was getting dangerous out there.

The last straw was that someone yelled at me. The exit to the park was at a very acute angle to the trail, and going up a hill. I was in the wrong gear to both turn and climb, so I went past, changed gears, and turned around. To execute this turn, I pulled off the path to the right. I looked carefully, both ways, and then quickly turned across the path. As I was straightening back up, an oncoming cyclist, whom I was absolutely not putting in danger or even inconveniencing, yelled at me for being in the middle of the path. I could see him calling out if I had been, you know, actually stopped, or if he had been within six bike lengths, which he wasn’t.

Apparently, in the eyes of the most aggressive and unpleasant riders, the bike path is for “real” road cyclists, and everyone else is just an inconvenience.

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