The path of most resistance

The streets are safer, even with a light coating of leaves.

The streets are safer, even with a light coating of leaves.

If you ever wonder why so many Americans have so much trouble making their government function, just watch them making a shambles of another shared space — the infinitely simpler bike path.

I nearly got crashed twice yesterday — first by a pair of knucklehead roadies in team kit who cut across my bow in Goose Gossage Park, exiting the bike path for the street without bothering to check for oncoming traffic, and a few minutes later by some helmetless dipshit on a beater road bike careening down the wrong side of a sketchy slope coated with sand and pea gravel.

Mind you, these incidents constituted the cherries atop a turd-cake that included the usual ingredients — oblivious strollers three abreast, untrained dogs sans leash, and fleawits wandering across the path without checking to see whether they might be about to violate the laws of physics by trying to occupy the same space at the same time as a 180-pound Irish-American on a 30-pound touring bike traveling at 15 mph.

The offenders invariably wear the blank, bovine gaze of a feedlot cow doomed to wear a soggy bun, a slice of pickle and some processed cheese “food” in the afterlife. And yet some of us we marvel at the popularity of Rupert Murdoch’s various entertainment outlets, which shove a similarly toxic product at the feeble-minded through the flat-panel windows in their living rooms.

How hard can it be to walk, run and ride to the right, pass left, and keep your fucking eyes open?

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47 Responses to “The path of most resistance”

  1. Steve O Says:


  2. Derek Says:

    Here is a funny. Look at how many riders at the World MTB Championships are injured on the bike path in the week leading up to the event. I think in Vail ’94 we lost Thomas F and someone else in the same collision. Not to defend the idiots here in CS, different breed of cat. The reason it happens as I understand it is that some of the world rides and drives on the right the rest of them drive and ride on the left. If you meet on a narrow bike path with a closure speed approaching 50 mph and each of you go instinctively to your native side bad things occur.

  3. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    There’s a chunk of red meat for the Mad Dog fan base to tear into.

  4. Stan Thomas Says:

    I have been given to venting my spleen on this same subject. In particular, dogs on those long spooling leashes that stretch an invisible trip wire across the road. But I was hauled up by a friend who’s given more to walking than me, making the the point that if I have to slow down then accelerate again it’s all good training, which is why I’m out there anyway. Hmmm. A hard sell when you’re bowling along at a good pace but he might have a point. Maybe.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I don’t object to slowing down and then speeding back up — but I do object to getting crashed. There are a couple blind spots on this path where the right dummy at the wrong time can award you a first-class ticket to the ER. I may have to get back on the road.

  5. karen Says:

    Here, now in autumn, it is the squirrels darting or pausing with full cheeks on the path that make for lively reaction times.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The squirrels are fun, aren’t they? I chatter at them in squirrel — nyik nyik nyik nyik nyik — and they usually hightail it into the weeds. But nothing will get the attention of a shambling dummy with the iPod on, digging Arcade Fire at 11.

  6. Sharon Says:

    Ditto what PO, Stan and Karen said – – those are some of my biggest obstacles. But I’ll also add acorns and pecans that have actually fallen in the road and trying to dart around them this time of year. These reasons and more add to why I can’t entice my friends to participate in road riding.

    The more I read about old age and memory loss seems to indicate we’ll all be fine (that is if we don’t get hit). Having to multitask by watching out and reacting to all of these obstacles, including cars that aren’t watching for us keeps our brain and reflexes sharp as a razor.

    Trying to take some positive from it all.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      A buddy of mine once slid out in a 90-degree corner full of autumn leaves. Happily, we weren’t going any too fast and no harm was done.

      Now, as regards memory loss … what were we talking about again? Nurse! Who ate my Jell-O? And someone peed in my pants!

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today, but I can tell you all about those nasty ass grits with over easy eggs I had in Macon, Georgia 42 years ago. Shit, used to think I would never get to be 42 years old.

  7. Ira Says:

    There’s a National Park just north of where I live, with 15K of bike lane that runs along the beach. There’s no way I’m riding on it though, it’s always full of walkers, sometimes 4 wide, and canines with and without leashes. It’s flatter than piss on a plate, so 40-50KMH is not out of the question with a hint of tail wind. So I go on the road next to it, which has a 50K speed limit, and get cursed at by drivers for “holding them up”, which I prefer to endure over discovering an invisible dog leash a millisecond before contact.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      At least you can generally sense the cars coming. Those invisible leashes and the iPlodders with all the nifty voices in their head are tough to track.

      • Derek Says:

        The moment you sense the car, bunnyhop. You might get knocked a mile, you might stay up, you might go down but at least you are not under the car.

  8. Larry T. Says:

    Reminds me of back-in-the-day at the SoCal bikeshop. We’d sell a new bike to someone who would then tell us “I’m not going to ride this on the STREETS, those are too dangerous! I’ll be riding on the nice, safe bike path along the beach.”
    Countless times they’d come back in with a busted bike and a cast or on crutches…with tales of the leashed or unleashed dogs, roller skaters, a-holes with surfboards or other clueless idiots who caused them to crash.
    There’s something about taking away the mortal danger of intimate contact with motor vehicles that allows too many to switch their brains into that carefree, clueless idiot mode.

  9. veloben Says:

    The bike ridden in town, on bike lanes, has the front brakes deliberately adjusted to emit the most awful squeal. Nothing, nothing get the complete (if at times unpredictable) attention of a bipedal bike lane zombie than that particular note from those front brake pads. I consider it a form of operant conditioning.

    Effective and satisfying.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Nothing quite like that fingernails-on-the-blackboard squeak, is there? By comparison, a bell — even a big hammer-strike model like mine — is only about 50 percent effective, based on a scientific study that I just made up.

      • Patrick O'Brien Says:

        At least my bell, and I assume yours, usually brings a smile from the walker. A “good morning” completes the ding ding to make sure I don’t get the walking stick in the spokes routine. By the way, for some reason “on your left” doesn’t work with the walkers around here; I assume most are not cyclists. My kitchen window looks out on a multi-use path across the road. Good entertainment whilst doing the breakfast dishes.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        My bell is a tad loud, so I tend to hit it hard from about 100 meters out, then give it a second light flick while closing in. I too also say something pleasant to the people as I pass.

        And yeah, “on your left” is almost guaranteed to get the person(s) moving left instead of right.

  10. khal spencer Says:

    Word, Patrick.

    Someone freshly out of the Cornell Univ. public design school has just proposed that the NPS build a bike path that will run alongside New Mexico State Rt. 4 all along the Bandelier Loop so we roadies can “safely” get the f**k off the road. She was a bit taken aback when we went into a litany of all the same reasons you mention why no one who rides the Bandelier Loop would want anything to do with a bike path. Especially sailing down towards the national park in excess of 30 mph on the drops.

    There is too much of a tendency for all the rules of common sense, not to mention traffic law, to stop applying on bike/ped paths. A good example here is the sinuous Canyon Rim Trail near the east end of Bombtown. It was built by our parks dept as a scenic multiuse path, not as a high speed bicycle route. Our transportation folks (and yours truly, who wrote the county bike plan) were not even consulted on design. Apparently the caveat to mind one’s speed did not occur to the dingleberry who had to ride his nice plastic bike into the gravel a few weeks ago when he took a sharp blind curve at roadie speed and was faced with us out for a Saturday morning walk with our breakfast burritos and dogs in tow. Not even an “excuse me”.

    No thanks. At least on the roads, you can assert, sometimes unwisely, that the rules of the road DO apply.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      A Bandelier bike path? Lovely. That would keep the ER docs a-hoppin’, no?

      I normally use this stretch through Gossage to dodge a couple of stoplights. But I think I’d prefer waiting for a green light to waiting for a trauma surgeon.

      • khal spencer Says:

        I sometimes use the Canyon Rim Trail when I ride my bike to the food co-op, since the state road East out of town is not for the faint of heart cyclist–or even me. But I take it slow on the sharp curves. Nothing quite like nearly giving a 70 year old couple out for a stroll a near heart attack by bombing around a curve full tilt on a steel bike full of groceries. You just can’t expect strollers to be acting like motor vehicle operators, nor should one. That’s the huge bone I have to pick with the non-cyclist designers of these things who say its “safer” for cyclists to use bike paths and then build them without the faintest clue to how we ride. Sure, I’d be better off hitting granny than being hit by an F350. Would suck to be granny though.

  11. James Says:

    Amen POG! Here in the great city of SacTown we have a wonderful 32 mile ‘bike trail’ which is usually a nice place to ride. Until the zombies show up and make it one of Dante’s gates of hell. The squeaky brake trick has worked beautifully for me as it a) gets the desired results, and b) speed checks any wanna be TdF rider in training.

    Another trail ‘up the hill’ in Hangtown actually has stencils painted at each junction showing a painting of feet on the left, and a bike on the right. Thus one would walk FACING the bike traffic. Incidentally this is the law in the CVC when pedestrians are walking along a roadway without a sidewalk. Sadly, the first time I rode this trail I had to yell out “on your left” more than I had hoped.

  12. Charley Says:

    I can’t resist, another damn Irish immigrant screwing up A merica!

  13. Charley Says:

    Patrick, we just got to Mc Dowell park, looking good. It’s still 80-94 degrees though. Check out the website for races though, there are more every year. Hope to get to see you.

  14. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Well, here’s my two cents. First penny, a street two blocks from my house has a signed BIKE ONLY lane in the road, then the curb and a SIDEWALK. But, damn near every time I ride it, I have to go into traffic when the idiot with the baby carriage in is the bike lane so she can walk next to her friend on the sidewalk. Second penny, is the wannabe time trialer riding on a multi-user path going 25 mph. Now, what part of you have to mix with 3 mph traffic don’t they get? To top it off, there is a signed BIKE ONLY lane on the road next to the path. Assholes. Sorry for yelling, but I feel better. Good enough to go for a ride tomorrow on the SAGA.

  15. John Dallager Says:

    Aaaaah…..road cycling and someone else gets to kill you! MTB’ing and you get to kill yourself! Choose your poison!

  16. Ryan Surface Says:

    it cam to this for me about a decade ago- I would rather ride on the road and take my chances with cars than ride on a bike path- for all the reasons you noted. I especially love it when there are separate bike and walking paths with 10 foot tall symbols about who should be where and inevitably the 3 ladies with strollers walking abreast and talking about their relationships are in the #$%( bike lane! I’ll take my chances with the 2 tons of metal thank you very much.


  17. Patrick O'Brien Says:

    Just got back from a ride. Heading out I looked in rear view mirror and saw it coming. Large SUV with right turn signal on going near the 50 mph limit. We were approaching the intersection. Told Sandy to get ready; she had already anticipated what was going to happen. She saw it in her mirror too. You guessed it. She pulled even with us then turned right in front of us. We turned with her, then she stopped in the middle of the road. Dumber than a rubber brick. It was tempting, but the sign language I gave her was “watch where you are going.”

    • Khal Spencer Says:

      Sounds like you and I had similar rides today, Patrick.

      • Sharon Says:

        oh my…that’s a particular nasty shoulder.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        Hah. I encountered two salmon on my ride yesterday. Not cyclists, but people riding bicycles (as we know, but many others don’t, there is a difference). Both in civvies, helmetless, riding against traffic on a narrow, twisty lane en route to Manitou Springs, just past the entrance to the Garden of the Gods.

        “Sorry,” they said as I moved left into traffic to slip around them. Why do these miscreants always say that? They aren’t, y’know. Like me, they knew it was wrong but they did it anyway.

      • Khal Spencer Says:

        That’s so typical in these parts, Sharon. Or worse, a shoulder with a pavement ridge down the middle courtesy of our NMDoT, which seems to think killing cyclists is a good way to save money via partial paving.

        If there is an advantage to having no shoulder at all, its that even the worst slack-jawed yokel can’t expect me to ride on it if it ain’t there.

      • John in GJ Says:

        Hey Khal, you’ll like this: along on a stretch of suburban Grand Junction highway, CDOT thought they were being clever a few years back and instead of using gravel on the shoulder they used millings. This is ground up, gravel sized pieces of old asphalt. The result was that from a cyclists perspective, especially on a road bike, the shoulder was completely unridable; but from the comforts of a laz-e-boy recliner with a steering wheel, the shoulder looked just as paved as anywhere else. The result was many close calls and honked horns, as well as the creation a quite a few new four letter words. Total fuck up on CDOT’s part, they never considered the effect on cyclists for a second. CDOT hasn’t repeated that mistake, but they haven’t fixed that road either.

  18. Patrick24 Says:

    How about the bikers/joggers at night without reflective gear? Talk about endangering others.

    • James Says:

      Ah, but you fail to understand their thinking: “they can’t hit what they can’t see.” Or at least that was the ‘rationale’ for a former customer who refused to ride with reflectors or lights. Certain amount of logic involved in that thinking….might not be correct logic but there is some logic!

      • Larry T. Says:

        Really? The guy had never heard the infamous “but officer, I never saw him” excuse? Amazing.

      • John in GJ Says:

        Larry, I could be dressed up in fluorescent and yellow with reflectors everywhere, including all over my ass, and they’d still successfully use the ol’ “I didn’t see him” excuse. That, or they’d say they were blinded.

        But there is a certain logic, and paranoia, in assuming that drivers are aiming for us. Would explain a lot.

  19. Jon Paulos Says:

    Eh, been reading about the Citibike program in the Big Apple? Turns out it’s pretty popular but now they have a problem with Citibike-riding morons riding on the sidewalks. Like the Spider Robinson pun, you can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think. Years ago I took the Forester Effective Cycling class and haven’t looked back since. I’ll choose the road most days.

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