rules along the bike path and life

Posted: June 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of my favorite pastimes in life is riding my bike. I’m not particularly brave, when it comes to traffic – I am too able to imagine that the car coming up behind me is operated by someone who is texting at the wheel. Thus far I have not been able to get over that concern, so I stick almost exclusively to bike paths. Here in Chicago, I am totally hooked Lake Michigan’s lake front path.

Here’s the thing about the bike path: it isn’t only for bikes. Along the path are walkers, joggers, runners, people pushing strollers (including some joggers pushing twin and even TRIPLET strollers – I bow before them – they far exceed me in the department of motivation), and roller bladers (from string-bikini clad lasses to guys who are way past retirement age.) The bikers aren’t even alike – some are just out for a leisurely ride, some are hustling a bit, and some are flat-out racing. Since this is Chicago, one of the great cities of the world, there are A LOT of bodies utilizing the path at any given time. It’s not like Rock Island, where I often felt I had the path 99% to myself. At some places, some times, the path is solid bodies-and-bikes, with mere inches between each.

But the path is enough space for all of us, provided everyone sticks to a few basic rules. The BIG one: slower-moving bodies stay to the right, and all passing occurs on the left. Roller bladers seem to be the biggest breakers of the “passing on the left” portion of this rule…they just duck in and out of traffic and I am a nervous wreck when I pass them, sure they are just about to fling a skate or an arm out into my path and send me flipping onto the asphalt.

Another very important rule: before you move left to pass, check over your left shoulder to make sure what’s happening back there. I have seen 4 bike/pedestrian accidents in my time here (3 on Memorial Day alone…WOW that was a crowded bike path day…and one this morning) and 3 of them were definitely because the pedestrians didn’t look before just stepping right into the path of bikes that were trying to go around them.

And a smaller rule, but very helpful, most especially when dealing with apparently oblivious people: when you are passing someone, call out “On your left!” as you approach. It just helps avoid someone stepping or swerving into your path at the last possible tragically unavoidable second. The accident I saw this morning was a runner plowing to the left into a passing bicycle – she should have looked first, but the cyclist could have avoided it too by calling out as she passed.

The vast majority of those on the path do a great job of abiding by these rules. Because of this, the path works out pretty well…I often see a stroller being passed by a walker being passed by a jogger being passed by a slow bike being passed by a fast bike, all meeting oncoming traffic from the other side and working it out seamlessly. I feel safer on the path than on the streets, simply because even if some idiot steps out in front of me and wipes me out, it’s probably not going to hurt me as much as getting run over by a texting-and-driving vehicle operator behind the wheel with the force of tons of gasoline-powered metal, ya know?

The ones who muck up the system are those who either don’t know or don’t care about the rules. People moving slowly, out the in the middle of the path. People coming to an actual complete stop right on the asphalt, rather than veering off onto the gravel or the grass before stopping. Large groups of walkers or joggers, bunched up and taking up both sides of the path – this morning I was trying to get around a slow-moving group like this, without slamming into the oncoming bike traffic that was already pushed to the far right side and let’s just say I was working hard to bless and not curse them.

When I walk/run, I do it on the gravel edge of the path, because I am by far the slowest-moving body out there, excepting the occasional senior citizen doing rehab work. Even when I bike, I stay all the way over on the far right white line except when passing pedestrians, because I am almost invariably the slowest bike out there.

Biking makes me think, pray, and listen. This morning left me pondering the value of rules. As long as we all stick to the rules on the bike path, we can all enjoy it and nobody has to get hurt. When even just a few people decide the rules don’t apply to them, they put themselves and everyone else in danger of frustration, collision, and harm. Isn’t life like that? I mean, not ALL rules are that helpful – some of them really do seem just to be made up to screw with people’s lives (and I get really grouchy really fast when I bump into those kinds of rules). But GOD’S rules, on the other hand…they are like the bike path rules, given to us to keep us from harming ourselves and others. Given to us so that there is room enough for all, and nobody has to be knocked down or bruised along the way.

I might be bordering on cheesy with this analogy. I don’t know. It just speaks to me this morning.

How about you?

much love,

k

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