Path Etiquette

Part of the Liberty Trail path, near NSU

We have a wonderful set of paths out here in Tulsa and surrounding communities. These paths are multi-use – biking, jogging, walking, roller blades, etc.  But by far, the highest usage is from cyclists and walkers/joggers. These two sets of people don’t always play nice with each other, and it’s usually because neither follow basic etiquette.

So, here’s some things to remember that will make life easier for everyone.

First, the cyclists.  One of the most important things to remember is you’re traveling anywhere from 2-5 times faster than pedestrians. On the street, do you like it when a big-ass Mack truck doing 50 mph flies by you about 3 ft away? No? Well, that’s what it’s like for pedestrians when we fly by them 1 ft away at 20+ mph and they’re walking at 3. So give them as much room as possible. Don’t just go to the center-line, or the middle of the oncoming lane, go to the outside of the oncoming lane – you’ll both be happier for it.

This leads to the second thing: calling out. I don’t mean yelling “GET OUT OF THE WAY, DUMBASS!”, even though it’s VERY hard to resist sometimes. If you have to pass someone, call out “PASSING”. Now, this is a little tricky. You want to be as loud as possible so they hear you, but I’ve found it’s hard to yell loudly and not sound rude. You know what? Better to sound rude than to plow through them. To add to the problem, the Doppler effect, wind speed, and iPods are working against you. Only thing you can do is say it as loud as you can, multiple times, and hope they hear.

If they don’t hear, well, you tried. But if they’re blocking the entire path (such as a group) don’t plow through, and don’t start yelling stupidly. Just stop as safely as you can (often enough to get people’s attention), say excuse me so that they hear it, and they should make room for you.

Next for cyclists, don’t take up the whole path. Yeah, it’s nice to talk to your fellow rider, but two riders riding side-by-side don’t really fit in one lane well, and usually straddle the center. This kinda gets back to the first point of passing room. This isn’t just a problem for pedestrians, but cyclists in the oncoming lane as well. If you see a pedestrian or cyclist in the oncoming lane, drop back into a drafting position to give them room. You won’t lose much speed, and you’ll make them a lot more comfortable.

So, now that I’ve hopefully demonstrated a little balance, time to talk about walkers/joggers.

First pet peeve is literally about that – pets. I love dogs, and I think it’s awesome that people walk and jog with their dogs on the path. But if you don’t leash your dog, you’re just asking for trouble. Dogs don’t care if you yell “PASSING”, and they can’t tell that you’re traveling as far as a car. Yeah, it’s possible he’ll come to you if you call, but it’s more likely they’ll head right for the 200lb fast moving object. With a leash, you can pull them back away out of danger. Also makes the cyclist less skittish, since we’ve all been chased by a dog or three on the hunt for some fast food.

Continuing with dogs, when they’ve gotta go, they’ve gotta go. I don’t blame the dog for taking a dump on the path, I blame the owner. If you think stepping in dog shit sucks, imagine rolling through it with fast-moving tires. It doesn’t just get stuck to the tire – it gets sprayed back onto the bike frame, components, etc. Is it really that hard to pull the dog to the side of the path? Well, without a leash, I guess it would be. Let’s also remember there’s other dogs that might not be as friendly as yours. No leash on that one might mean nastiness all around.

Next up: be aware of your surroundings. This actually applies to cyclists, too. For cyclists, if you’re gonna pass someone, check behind you to make sure another bike hasn’t already made a move to pass you. Anyway, back to the foot-people. When you’re walking or jogging or pushing your stroller on a path, take a look around once in a while. That includes a glance behind you. Not constantly like you’re afraid of stalkers, just once every few minutes, ESPECIALLY if you’re wearing headphones. Headphones are great, but also cut down on your ability to hear cyclists yelling warnings to you. As I said above, because of the velocity, it’s already hard to hear a cyclist – headphones can make it just that much worse.

Lastly, just like pedestrians don’t like a bike whizzing by them, cyclists don’t like having to squeeze by pedestrians. If you’re with more than one person, try to stick to taking up only one lane. Yeah, a third person might have to walk behind the two in front, but it’s better than a fast moving bike rounding a corner only to find there’s nowhere to go. Even by yourself, if you stay close to the outside of the lane, you’ll give cyclists more room to pass you comfortably.

The weather’s starting to get warm people, and we’re all going to be out in force after the winter we had here. Just remember, a little courtesy goes a long way.

Keep rollin’…