Tales of the Trail

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ryan Wright, Aug 15, 2002.

  1. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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    People suck.

    Yesterday, I escaped the madness of the automobile world for this very reason. Horrible drivers with horrible attitudes. Tired of it all, I bought a bike. A recumbent, to be exact, made by Burley and the most comfortable bike I've ever had the pleasure of riding. The idea was I'd ride this bike to work every day. Twelve miles of beautiful scenery, most of it on a bike path along the river. With very little street riding necessary, I figured I'd avoid the attitude of other drivers.

    This morning was my first big ride, and it started off great. I hopped on my new bike and started pedaling, taking in the world around me. The air was crisp and cool, and there was no where else I wanted to be. Vehicles gave me plenty of room, although it was a little disconcerting not being able to see them until they passed. I made a mental note to pick up some side mirrors on my way home.

    Let me say one thing: I don't like this "riding with traffic" business. As a pedestrian, I always walked against traffic. I could see approaching vehicles and move out of the way if I thought one might hit me. Having a couple tons of steel and plastic approach you from behind at 45 miles per hour while doing 15 on a thirty pound bike isn't much fun. Not that it's any better when they're coming towards me, mind you, but at least it's easier to keep an eye on them.

    After about fifteen minutes of riding, I passed a small zoo. Actually, it was a residential home, but the number of animals and the smell made me wonder what the code enforcement officers were doing this morning. Probably having a doughnut with the rest of the crew. Still, I marveled at the goats, and chuckled to myself as a chicken ran across the road in front of me. Just past the zoo, I moved onto a paved bike path and began climbing a hill towards the bridge that would take me across the Columbia River. The morning was going great.

    On the other side of the river, I began encountering pedestrians. Many were very friendly. I exchanged a few Good Mornings with my fellow path users, which made me feel that much better about humanity. Here were other people like me - out in the smooth morning air, smiling and getting some exercise. Well, not all of them were smiling. Some were quite unhappy. Others outright scowled. These scowlers, I'm sure, drove to the park for their morning run. Having just gotten out of a vehicle would explain their bad attitude. They, however, were easy to overlook: Within a few seconds I was past them, well on my way to meeting another person who might be smiling and, Lord willing, respond to my Good Morning with one of their own.

    Then it happened. What is "It", you ask? "It" is the event that ruins your day. We've all had dealings with "It". You're enjoying a great day when a large beast makes himself known. He announces himself as "It" and proceeds to destroy your wonderful attitude with a variety of torture devices. In my case, "It" was in the form of a vile, faceless woman with two large dogs. I was traveling on a relatively long, straight stretch of path, watching her. She was standing on the path, bent over, fooling with something in the grass along side the asphalt. Her two dogs were behind her, taking up the other side of the path and making passage near impossible for anyone else. To the left there was grass and a 10 foot drop to more grass. To the right, a two foot wide mess of dirt and gravel and a 10 foot drop to large rocks and the river.

    As I approached, I slowed down and attempted to pass. Surely, I thought, those dogs will stay put. I was, of course, mistaken: They stepped toward me at the last second, forcing me to the right and onto the gravel. As I attempted to steer back onto the path to avoid the ambulance ride that laid below, my bike began to fall. I applied the brakes and put my feet down, managing to save the finish on my new bike but ending up sideways in the path. I turned my head to see this evil woman running in the other direction. No apologies, no checking to see if I was OK, just the sound of footsteps fading into the distance. Yep: Another faceless automobile driver, this one was. It's all about me - who cares about others? Me, me, me, me me me me. Oh, don't I look beautiful applying makeup at 70 miles per hour? Ignore the honking; he's just jealous because he wants a cellular phone, too. Look, this accident is your fault. If you hadn't been driving such a small car, I would have been able to see you there.

    Somewhere in the process of saving my bike, I incurred a gash on my left leg. Not just any gash, mind you, but an inch and a half long, crescent shaped gash. Deep, bloody, and throbbing in pain. And I still had six miles left to go.

    The rest of the ride was a non issue. Well, other than the constant throbbing in my leg, which, two hours later, has still not subsided. Oh, and there was the guy in the Mustang who, doing at least 50 in a 25, swerved with the intent of running over a squirrel that had wandered into the road. Thankfully, he missed, but I had to wonder if he would eventually tire of killing small animals and move on to bigger and better targets. Bicyclists, perhaps. I did meet another cyclist who rode with me for about 10 minutes, asking questions about my recumbent and talking about bikes in general. I enjoyed his company and the conversation.

    Still, people suck. I had thought that getting out of the confines of a car and onto the intimacy of a trail would put a face on the people I meet. Without a bubble around you, things get personal. It was my hope that this would result in better behavior. I was wrong. The trail still has it's fair share of nasty people - just like the road. Although, so far, I prefer the trail: I relieve stress, save money, and get exercise. The road can't do any of these things.



    I wrote this when I got to work this morning. Does anyone else have bike riding tales? Post 'em here if you do! I'd love to hear them.

    Also, what do you do when you encounter small groups of people (or people with dogs) who are taking up the entire trail? If I come up behind them a quick "excuse me" works fine, but when they're heading towards you and still don't get out of the way, then what? Do you yell out "excuse me" (which seems rude when you're approaching one another), or just stop, or what? I'll tell you one thing, this is the last time *I* get off the trail in this situation. I'm not playing that game anymore. But, I don't want to run anyone over, either... Any thoughts? Perhaps I'll just come to a complete stop on the trail and wait for them to pass. Then they can come as close to me as they want and I won't have to worry about falling again.
     
  2. Dave_P

    Dave_P Stunt Coordinator

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    On the public bike trails where I live, the ones that are paved have a dashed line painted down the middle like a road. This implies for people to stay to the right as if in a car. I've never had any unforunate incidents while riding. I'm sorry to hear that your travel into the biking world was perceived as a stress reliever only to result in a different form of tension with people walking instead of people driving. Let's face the facts that there are A$$holes everwhere we look. I hope your leg heals quickly.
     
  3. Mary M S

    Mary M S Screenwriter

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    Ryan,

    Sorry for your bad first, I hope you have many pleasant ones ahead to balance today. I’m sure the drivers were just as infuriating when you used horse instead of pedal power to commute. At least now you have the comfort of fresh air, some nature, and producing endorphins to help calm those, “I can’t believe they just did that” moments.

    I live next to a lake where the bike traffic is extremely heavy, from parents with children on tricycles, to packs of up to 50 serious racers training everyday. Here the edict for a bicyclist when approaching other walkers, bikers’ etc especially when overtaking from behind, is to yell, “RIGHT”. That let’s the obstacle up ahead know you’re about to pass them on your right side of the path.
    It works very well around here most of the time with some exceptions.
    The bicyclist can not assume that the other person is aware of that courtesy or common practice (in our town) and may never have been exposed to it before. The smart riders yell it in plenty of time to stop and/or avoid if they are just confusing the person ahead.

    My husband and son used to race bikes so I’ve seen plenty of situations at the lake over the years. Always assume particularly if there are children or dogs (or chickens) involved they might dart the wrong direction at the last second, just have your foot on the brake so to speak when coming near these. I hope you wear a helmet… Over the years we’ve had a few fatalities here. Most of the serious bikers use certain sections of very busy roads around the lake, (even though there is a path all the way around) and the worst sometimes happens and far as I can remember,..never the riders fault.

    The woman, she should know better….till the day I die, I will never understand why some people don’t get the same ‘high’ I do out of simply avoiding been rude. Hold the door for the person behind, step out of the way with a smile…..it’s really so easy and feels so good.
     
  4. Jim_F

    Jim_F Screenwriter

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    I like to keep in mind, if I'm traveling at 20MPH and they're traveling at 40MPH, they approach at 20MPH riding with traffic and at 60MPH riding against traffic. A mirror helps.

    You've already discovered the downside to paved trails. I try to stick to low-traffic roadways. Don't be shy about letting somebody know you're coming through, whether it's an inline skater or dog walker or somebody backing out of the driveway. Anything from a polite "On your left." to a forceful "Hold your line!" or just plain "Yo! Yo! Yo!"

    My worst bike ride:

    I had bought a used touring tandem from a friend. It was a $3000 bike originally and he had meticulously maintained it in like-new condition. Neither of us could have known about its invisible manufacturing flaw which would cause much pain.

    My GF and I set out for just the second time I had the bike out ever. After about a mile, I felt a little wobble for a moment, but it went away as fast as it started. A few blocks later, I felt it again. I'd guessed it was because we weren't used to riding together and our respective cadences were slightly out of synch, but if it continued I'd pull over and check it out. After a few more blocks, the front of the bike dropped like I'd run into an unseen open manhole. We went down hard-faces first. I was stunned for a moment. By the time I knew we'd crashed, a passerby was warning us not to move. I could see the head tube of the bike from where I lay. The fork had snapped completely off of the bike. My face had split open like a piece of ripe fruit.
    Strapped to board/ambulance ride/long day in ER with horrific wound scrubbing/OR/plastic surgeon/oral surgeon/home. Plastic surgeon/oral surgeon/plastic surgeon/oral surgeon/plastic surgeon/prosthodontist/plastic surgeon/dentist/dentist/dentist/dentist. The last of the dental work concluded this spring. The accident happened in the spring of 1995. A little faint road grime tattooing remains (talk about adding asphalt to injury!) It's OK, I wasn't that cute to begin with. The abrasion on my arm was deep enough that there are still no freckles there. My stoker had a small skin graft which healed nicely, but she pretty much gave up riding after that. The fact that she was hurt was definitely the very worst part of the whole ordeal.
    I showed the broken fork to a frame builder, who, as soon as he saw the fork crown, immediately said "Somebody messed up!" Still the manufacturer denied responsibilty (I think he was more in denial than he was dishonest) and it took 3 years to work out something with which everybody could live.

    The good news: Don't worry, because nobody builds tandem forks like that anymore, and while a few single bikes sport similar forks, they aren't subjected to the kinds of forces that occur with tandems.

    The moral of the story: Always wear a helmet! I doubt we would have survived our low speed crash without our helmets. At the very least, we're talking severe traumatic brain injuries.

    I resumed riding, but not quite as enthusiastically as before. I didn't have quite the same unabashed (no pun intended) joy. I've had some really good years riding since then. I just don't take the kinds of risks I used to-things can go wrong even if I do everything right. There's no point in stretching my odds even further.

    I hope my little tale didn't bother anybody too much. Just wear your helmet everybody, or I'll email you a scan of my preop photos!
     
  5. Mario Bartel

    Mario Bartel Stunt Coordinator

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    Congrats on rejoining the cycling world, Ryan. Sorry to hear you had some bad encounters on your first day, but as you've already observed, our "me first" world has little patience or tolerance for anything or anyone that might be perceived as an impedement to getting to the Starbucks drive-thru as quickly as possible.
    Some tips:
    •ride defensively; always assume motorists are clueless
    •ride predictibly; motorists hate surprises, so ride as you would drive, obey the traffic signs and lights, make turns from the proper lanes, don't streak up along the curb past stopped cars just because you can fit (my rule of thumb is I'll reclaim my place in traffic according to where I was about 20 meters from the last stopped car)
    •get a little bell, to alert those wandering peds on the trail; if you're approaching from behind, give a ring and then, as you get closer, tell them on which side you'll be passing them, "on your left," or "on your right."
    I recently rescued my road bike from the wind trainer, and, after two years of riding mountain and cross country trails almost exclusively, it's been a bit of a jolt getting used to the traffic again. But keeping all your senses sharp is part of the fun, and the adrenaline rush from an occasional road rage encounter car really improve your times[​IMG]
     
  6. Michael*K

    Michael*K Screenwriter

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    So was the trip home any better?

    I occasionally ride a trail similar to yours. Crushed gravel about 12-15 feet wide. On one side is a steep embankment down to the Des Plaines River. On the other, a steep embankment down to the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The crushed gravel doesn't provide a hell of a lot of friction if I need to stop in an emergency. I often encounter dog walkers and I sometimes think what I'd do if some owner let his Great Dane suddenly jump out at me as I was coming up on them...which is the lesser of two evils? Hopefully I never need to find out.
     
  7. CameronJ

    CameronJ Stunt Coordinator

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  8. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Haaaaaaaaaaaa, hey Ryan, do you have a flag on your 'bent? Every 'bent rider that I've seen around here usually has a flag, because they are so low and sleek.

    Every now and then I get a close call with a rider from behind but you do realize that the vast majority of bike accidents on the road is not from drivers behind its from drivers on side streets and drivers cutting cycists off when turning. It has happen to me before but I was going slow enough that all I had to do was feather my brakes and just put my left hand on the idiot's door and push myself from the car. Didn't even have to stop or put my foot down...

    But anyway, I typically yell a "on your left" for people blocking the path, with enough time for me to slow down for people who don't understand. But if they're not taking up th path, I'll simply try to bike around, slowly.

    But like Jim_F says, I don't ride on bike paths that much, not just because they're not too many of them in NJ, because I do prefer the uninterrupted freedom of speed and dealing with less hassles cause joggers and cyclists on the road, have to deal with the cagers and drivers, so they typically tend to be more aware and more attune to each other. I have never had a real problem with joggers on the road and even dog walkers are more attentive, lest little fido runs out onto the path of a Chevy pickup truck.

    jay

    P.S. Had an awesome time hiking the Chilkoot trail and backpacking in Denali.. about 150 pictures are going to up sometime in the future... Now to catch up on some other business!!!
     
  9. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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  10. eric holm

    eric holm Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey Ryan,

    Glad to hear that your return ride was more pleasant.

    Before getting a helmet from Costco, go to a bike shop and try some on. While all of them are equally safe (or close to it) some are lighter or have better ventilation. A nice light-weight helmet is worth its weight in gold!

    One online place that has great deals on helmets is universalcycles. Not saying you should go to a local bike shop and then buy off the internet but it will give you a point of reference on price.

    Another thing that is important that you may not of thought of are gloves. Lots of folks think that if their hands don't get sore, they don't need them. IMO, that's not their purpose anyway. They are great at preventing pot-hole type gashes in your palms.

    My bike stories....

    During the summer of '87, I rode my bike from PDX to NYC. Lots of stories. Worst crash and most Darwin moment... A buddy and I were using an innertube as a rubber band. We each had an end and he would ride past me, stretching the tube which would slingshot me past him and vice versa. The scary thing was that this actually worked! We were doing about 26mph up a hill and then physics took over. He yanked the tube to pull me up and instead of holding my line, I rode too close and the left handlebar hit his backside. You can imagine what happened. (I wasn't wearing gloves because my hands didn't hurt!)

    Inconsiderate moments... One of the girls in my group had her buttocks slapped by a passenger in a car - she literally had bruise the shape of a hand there for about 4 days. Riding (very quickly) through south-side chicage (staying at loyola U for the night) had plenty of people throw glass bottles at us. Nothing better than a car taking a right turn and taking you with it (even though you thought you wanted to go straight.) I guess this is why I'm strictly a mountain biker now.
     
  11. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Ryan, get a bell for your bike, or a horn, and use it frequently. That's what I do, and it works, people get out of the way whether they want to or not (getting hit by a bike HURTS, even though it might not seem like it would).

    Keep riding, bikes are still a great way of transportation and exercise!


    /Mike
     
  12. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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    In general, bike trails are a bad idea. They enforce the thinking in motorists that bicycles do not belong on the road.

    They are multi-purpose, so as you have noted, you encounter dog walkers, joggers, children on bikes riding eratically and who knows what else all moving at different speeds.

    Bike trails are almost never marked correctly, so people have no idea where they belong. They commonly have a white center stripe which denotes separate lanes of traffic travelling in the SAME direction. (fast lane, slow lane) (Traffic going the other way should be on a path on the other side of the road?) Who knows???

    You also have to put up with frequent stops on every cross street or intersection.

    It's much better to take a defensive cycling course, get a mirror and helmet and ride on the road where you are legally entitled to be.
     
  13. Steve Peterson

    Steve Peterson Stunt Coordinator

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    When I was a youth, I had a cheap Huffy 10 speed with the crankiest front derailer that I've every encountered. The adjustments could only be accessed with the bike was in the normal upright position, so it was either a 2 person job to adjust the derailer or you did it while you rode the bike. One summer afternoon, I was fed up with the derailer either doing its job when I didn't want it to, or vice versa, so I decided to fix it. Got my handy-dandy screwdriver and started pedalling. So here I am, with my heading pointing down at the derailer, pedalling at a medium speed down a neighborhood street. That's when I notice out of the corner of my eye a shadow, look up just in time to see the bumper of a parked pickup truck and then the next thing I see is sky. The bike threw me over the handle bars and into the bed of the pickup. Luckily it didn't have a tailgate or I would have been hurting alot more than I was. I learned the hard way that, yes indeed, objects in motion want to stay in motion.
    Steve "Bent the front wheel, but I did get the derailer fixed[​IMG]" Peterson
     
  14. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

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  15. Ryan Wright

    Ryan Wright Screenwriter

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    Ron,

    It's not that driving causes me stress. It's more that biking along a trail, through a lush green park with birds and squirrels and a big blue river and the sky over my head, etc, relieves it.
     
  16. Michael*K

    Michael*K Screenwriter

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    I can't recommend a helmet and gloves highly enough. I'm not the sole breadwinner of my family, but I don't want to put anyone in the position of having to make decisions for me if I'm in a serious accident. Best thing to do as noted above is go to a bicycle dealer and try on several models. Some are lighter than others and some provide more ventilation. All should provide a unique fit individul to the user. Mine came with various foam rubber inserts to help make sure it was snug. And gloves are a huge help if you ever fall off your bike. Even if you never do though, they are worth it for providing a better grip when your palms are sweaty and they help prevent blisters.
     

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