An Open Letter to People in my Park; or, Hell is Other People

This is what I’ve really wanted to talk about all summer, before the boob stuff took over.  Biking and/or basic decent human etiquette.  Things that people do that just annoy the ever living piss out of me. One of the biggest contributors to me becoming more and more of a shut-in is people just plain don’t know how to behave in public anymore.

As I’ve said before, biking is my happy place. It’s my exercise routine and how I clear my mind and relax and forget about crap.  And nothing kills my high faster than other people who act like they’re the only ones in the world.  In fact, if you don’t want to get into what might become a lengthy rant, the tl;dr version is simply: be aware of everyone else and stay out of their way if you can.

I’ve frankly been putting off writing this because I’m afraid of it being too angry, even unreasonable at times, but I have to get it off my (boobless (couldn’t resist)) chest. I’ll do my best to limit the F-bombs. But won’t it be a refreshing change from fifteen straight posts about nothing but my boobs?

Calm

STAY TO THE RIGHT

Such a simple rule. Not unreasonable.  The very same rule we obey in our cars, so people have heard of the concept. Yet you’d be astonished how few think to do this recreationally.  I’ll break it down even further.

Pedestrians and runners

Specifically, pedestrians and runners in the bike lane.  I’ll say that again. Bike. Lane. Sorry, but it’s our lane.  And while I appreciate that sometimes it’s the only option for non-motorized traffic, it still behooves you to share it with us.  In some cities (I forget where I found it on Google), by law if there’s a walking path available away from the bike lane/road, non-cyclists are required to use it, for glaringly obvious safety reasons. My park has such a path that runs alongside the road through about 70% of it. I used to use it, but kept getting the dirtiest looks from hikers. It’s very scenic and lovely, and really smooth on my tires. Yet runners and walkers insist on using the bike lane, getting all up on bikes and cars.  Why? I don’t understand it. But if you’re going to use my lane, and you see me coming, make some effort to slide over a step. I’m not asking you to vanish into the weeds. Just a token show of an attempt. Because it’s not fair that I have to swerve into traffic to avoid hitting you in my lane. And the people who actually do give me some room are so dishearteningly rare I literally want to leap off my bike and hug them for their thoughtfulness.

Pedestrians, runners and even bikers traveling 3+ abreast

GET OUT OF MY DAMN WAY

GET OUT OF MY DAMN WAY

The wider your party, the farther out into the road I have to swerve to get around your barely moving road block. Good for you and your friends for getting out in the fresh air, but honestly, if your primary focus is socializing, that’s literally why cafés and backyard grills were invented. Get out of my damn way.

(The group pictured happened to me recently (well, not this specific group).  Six people using the whole path.  One of them actually walking backwards talking to the other five, who presumably saw me coming and said nothing.  I said (as nicely as I could manage through a veil of rage), “On your left!” and they scattered like pigeons in all directions, still leaving me no clear path because it was utter chaos.  Same result when I came upon about fifteen bikers on some sort of church outing or something, spread out like a herd of cows.  Just STAY TO THE RIGHT ALWAYS.)

Awfully romantic. Who cares that no one can get by you?

Awfully romantic. Who cares that no one can get by you?

If you’re on bikes, I’m sorry, biking is a terrible social activity.  I know, I do it regularly with Gerry, but because I’m considerate enough to ride single file like you’re supposed to, it’s a lot of him talking with his back to me and me shouting, “What? Hang on,” followed by furiously peddling to get alongside him, answering him, then dropping back behind him. I constantly say we should get motorcycle helmets with FM systems but he never takes me seriously.  Probably because he’s not the one doing all the furious peddling.

Welcome to my nightmare

Welcome to my nightmare

Speaking of socializing, if you have to stop for any reason, get off the path completely.  Is that so much to ask? If moving coffee klatches irritate me, standing in the middle of the path chatting makes me want to full on run you over.

Single pedestrians, runners and bikers using the middle of the path/road

People aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. I realize this. People don’t pay attention most of the time. But I need you to. Stay to the right. It’s really not tricky or too much to ask. Just stay over there, so I don’t have to holler at you to give me room. Because what is tricky for me is hollering without sounding incredibly peeved and bitchy, and no one wants that. In my experience, most people when you shout at them so they know you’re coming will fly into a mini-panic and dash in every direction, not always the correct one. I don’t enjoy terrorizing people (most of the time), so do us both a favor and stay to the right.  Because you aren’t the only person in the park.  You aren’t even the fastest person in the park, and I’m not hanging out behind you forever.  Get out of my damn way.

girl-walking-along-path-27264967

(This is a bad example, but apparently photographers only like taking pictures of people walking down tranquil quiet paths.  Imagine this is a heavily-trafficked area with cyclists passing regularly.  The point is, what’s wrong with the ground over on the right side?  Why do you need the ENTIRE PATH, lady?  Wake up and move the hell over! (And if you say “There’s plenty of room to pass her, what’s your problem?” I’ll remind you that she could at any time in her daydreaming state wander back over to the right without warning.  Then BOOM!  And guess who would be at fault.))

On the road, this translates to cyclists who inexplicably ride just outside the bike lane (more later).  I never know if I should pass on the right and hope they don’t suddenly decide to come back over, or again do that swerving into traffic thing that I really hate.

Pedestrians (and even bikers) with dogs

wpid-ckeufarucaayciq.jpgGood for you for giving your dog some exercise.  But you aren’t out on some isolated trail or in a meadow, so please don’t let your dog take the opposite side of the path and stretch the leash between you so no one can get by. And where’s the logic in making your poor dog walk to the left in harm’s way?  When I come through you have to yank him off to the side quickly.  Wouldn’t it be easier to keep him to the right (ideally off the path completely, since dogs aren’t as averse to walking on dirt and grass as humans)?  Wouldn’t it be nice if common sense was common?

(Mind you, a leash is preferable to no leash, which I’ve also seen. So basically there’s nothing stopping your dog from darting under my wheels except the hope he’s trained well enough to obey your commands without hesitation.  Clever. You don’t deserve a dog.  And I don’t even like dogs.)

Same goes for your precious offspring on training wheels. Start them early on the right side of the path, you (who hopefully are less prone to zigzagging and swerving unpredictably) can shield their little bodies on the left. Common sense?

You’ll notice I’m not picking on new, inexperienced cyclists.  That’s because we all have to start somewhere.  As long as you stay to the right and realize there are other people around you, we’re good.

I think that covers non-motorists. But you car owners aren’t getting off so easy. Ho, not by a long shot.

IF YOU WEIGH MORE THAN 1000 POUNDS, STAY TO THE LEFT

Most drivers hate cyclists. I get it. Cyclists that ride like jackasses piss me off too (have you noticed?), and give us all a bad rap. Not that all car owners are angels. In fact, you all are significantly more dangerous than we are, and often guilty of equal or worse levels of dumbassery even when there isn’t a bicycle involved.

I have more than once been strafed by a car, even when I was in the bike lane behaving and minding my own business. But some drivers feel the need to remind us who really owns the road. I’ve had cars pass me close enough to feel the exhaust from their engine, even when the rest of the road was free and clear (more legal lessons: if there are no oncoming vehicles, you’re permitted to cross the center lane if necessary to get around bikes. Which usually is only needed when passing those coffee klatches I mentioned above, not a lone cyclist doing nothing wrong).

You hate us, but we have as much right to the road as you do. And since fossil fuels are a finite resource, your time is running out.  I consider myself in training for a world not ruled by cars.

But please don’t strafe us. You never know when we might need to avoid an obstacle in the bike lane, and you’re blocking us in. Because sometimes things ain’t pretty over here.  All the debris you kick off ends up over here.  There’s treacherous loose gravel and potholes and puddles that might be hiding other hazards. One year the park repaved a small section of the road with nice smooth new tarmac–that literally ended at the bike lane. This year flood waters took out a section of bike lane over a bridge.  They put up warning barriers and it seems like there’s no intention (or room in this year’s budget) to do any more. Keeping the bike lane nice (or even useable) isn’t high in their priorities, so forgive us if we sometimes edge into your road because ours has eroded away or is too hazardous for our flimsy tires that can be deflated by a tiny thorn no bigger than your pinky nail (pulled one out last week). And sometimes we have selfish runners coming towards us who won’t share. I’d just as soon stay out of your way, but it isn’t always possible.

(As for those clowns who ride in the road despite there being perfectly good bike lane, I’m as baffled as you. Let’s hate them together.)

You probably don’t realize the lengths I go to avoid inconveniencing you. If I’m crossing a busy intersection, I prefer doing it with other crossing cars rather than hitting the crosswalk button; because I only need five seconds, and I’m sure sitting through the remaining fifteen while I’m long gone feels like waiting fifteen minutes to you.  And if the intersection is less busy, I’ll sometimes “jaywalk” (very cautiously) rather than use the crosswalk signal. You’re welcome.

To be honest, car owners do dumb, thoughtless things a lot. I once got caught behind a big ugly RV that stopped (in my lane, forcing me into traffic; have I mentioned how much I hate that??) about every three miles hoping to see some wildlife.  There’s lots of it in my park.  I’ve seen more deer and prairie dogs and rabbits than I can count. I’ve seen bull snakes and even a rattler or two cross my path.  I’ve seen coyotes (and, gruesomely, a coyote with a prairie dog in its jaws; it’s the circle of life) and, on one thrilling occasion, a low-flying hawk that lazily skimmed the ground about ten feet away alongside me for about half a mile before we separated. But you aren’t going to see any of this driving around in a smelly loud RV. Get your ass on a bike, that’s where shit gets real.

GIVE A HOOT

I think that covers most of the thorns in my side. Except polluters. Mind you, I don’t like polluters anywhere, but I can’t wrap my mind around people going to a park, presumably to enjoy the beautiful outdoors, and leaving their trash everywhere. And just like how the park employees aren’t in a hurry to fix that washed out bridge, there isn’t much of a budget for picking up garbage either. So that Coke can or empty pack of Marlboros you toss out your window becomes my eyesore probably into next season.  Nothing I love more than looking out on an expanse of dried grass and scrub bushes and seeing a plastic grocery bag hopelessly entangled in one of their branches.  Makes me wish the crying Native American would toughen up, come back and scalp you.

So why do I keep biking if so many things piss me off? Well, because the stretches in between, when I don’t see anyone, make it more than worth it. And because Winter is Coming™, which means biking opportunities will be ending all too soon.

I think that went pretty well.  Not a single F-bomb!  Now GET OUT OF MY DAMN WAY.

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