Here in Columbus, Ohio, we are graced with miles of multi-use paths that wind through some of the most scenic acreage Columbus has to offer. I used to commute mostly on the road, sharing the asphalt with cars. But after a run in with a belligerent, horn-happy woman in a Prius, A PRIUS, I decided to ride on the path. The whole reason for riding a bike is to relax right? Since my mind is wandering while commuting, I tend to make observations. My ride takes me on the Olentangy Trail, which is currently the longest path in the city (until the Alum Creek trail is completed), and I am happy to share it with joggers, bike snobs, and patholes. Patholes? Let me explain after the break.
I’m a pretty friendly guy when it comes to using the multi-use path. Please read that again, multi-use. Apparently, users of the Olentangy Trail seem to forget that path. People tend to refer to the path by their preferred path-mode of transportation: walking path, bike path, jogging path, etc. Mostly though, you hear bike path which is the very incorrect name for it. I wave at everyone, or at least acknowledge with a bro-nod. I figure, we’re all out here enjoying the weather right?
But there are users who don’t follow the rules, or generally make using the path less fun, or even dangerous. I refer to these users as Patholes. Here’s a list:
- Cyclists on Time Trial Bikes – You’ve seen them. The speed the limit on the trail is 15 mph. I’ll admit, I break it all the time, when it is safe to do so. Which means I’m not lighting the (very small) afterburners when there are other users in sight. Seeing a cyclist on a time trial bike in the aero bars is crazy. First, your hands are far from your brakes. Second, you have very little control for emergency maneuvers. I was nearly rear ended by a cyclist on a TT bike when a woman decided to cross the path without looking and I had to brake hard. Why he was in his aero bars at 10 mph, I’ll never understand.
- Joggers Who Are Oblivious – I like jogging. I can’t jog due to gimpy knee. When I did jog or run, I listened to music too. However, I didn’t have it so loud that I couldn’t hear other things going on around me. Nor did I have it so loud that other users could tell what I was listening to from about 20 feet away. Be aware of your surroundings. Not only does it keep you safe when other trail users are around, but it keeps you safe in general. There have been muggings and even a stabbing on the trail (the stabbing was on another trail), so having one eye, er, ear, open is just being safe.
- Groups Taking up the Trail – This includes all users. When other users are approaching, another trail rule is to line up single file. Moms, with strollers, running groups, cyclists trying to hold conversations, this applies to you. Kudos to the bird watching group who was keeping an eye out for approaching users and moved off both sides of the trail to let users go on their merry way.
- Cyclists Using Other Users as Their Personal Slalom Course – Just stop it. Slow down. You are making it unsafe for the users around you as well as making a bad name for cyclists in general. You can take your Strava segment and shove it you know where.
- Stoppers – You know who you are. You just stop in the middle of the trail for any reason: to talk to someone, to open your backpack, to admire something shiny on the trail. Move off the trail. This also includes people who make u-turns in the middle of the trail without looking behind to see if someone is passing.
This list doesn’t include everyone who does something dangerous. But it seems like the users on the path aren’t enjoying themselves, or doing it at the cost of other users. Out of the 30 some-odd cyclists I passed and waved at yesterday, I got a couple smirks, a smile, several bro-nods, a lot of non-acknowledgement, and one who actually waved back. The guy who waved back? A senior gentleman with a larger toothless smile riding a Murray. Yes. This man was enjoying his ride on a bicycle. I responded with a smile as well because those tend to be infectious when enjoying the ride. I did a runner to smiled and waved back. Hooray! A runner who didn’t hate the fact I was a cyclist. If anything, I hate bike snobs. You guys suck.
So if you happen upon me on the trail, I try to wave when not exhausted to everyone who uses it. I was told that the Midwest was a friendly place, and for the most part it is, as long as you don’t judge it by the trail users and patholes.