Friday, April 25, 2008

Magnificent Menace

Sunshine was glorying in the return of outdoor running weather in Minnesota after a long hard winter (lots of posts about indoor tracks) and posting a pleasing picture of a bird in the wild (check this one out in Cindy's backyard) when she raised the subject of bicyclists who don't signal. This is reminiscent of the runners wearing headphones debate, endless, subtly acrimonious and without resolution (Safe within my womb, I touch no one, And no one touches me).

She said that in the Twin Cities, most riders call out as they approach although a few do not. Charlie commented that "[m]any is the time my heart has picked up when a bicycle passes me swiftly without warning." Oh yeah. This to me is a more interesting debate than the silly headphone controversy (I've built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, That none may penetrate).

(I am a Rock, I am an Island.)

In the DC area on its many trails, it seems to me that most bicyclists race by without an On Your Left warning, while a few call out or ring a bell. (How hard is it to ring a bell?)

I try to say Thank You to the ones who signal, to encourage the practice and also because I truly appreciate knowing what is going on around me. Being run into by a bicyclist is a danger that I assess as I run, like watching out for potholes, avoiding free-ranging dogs and keeping aware through my senses of traffic around me (cars are noisy, bicycles are quiet and can be silent).

I have had a biker friend earnestly tell me that bicyclists think it is annoying to runners for them to constantly call out so they don't. Bicyclists just don't know, really, what it is like to be startled by a metal kite flashing by suddenly within a foot or two at 28 MPH with 150 pounds atop it providing force. (Bicyclists riding on Haines Point earlier this month. Runners like to watch out very carefully for swift and powerful moving forces like these.)

Being blindsided by a bicycle would be catastrophic. Time off from running could be the best outcome. Would you take a dare, even for a lot of money, and let a catapult sling a 150 pound bag of sand into your back at 28 MPH? It could kill you.

Bicyclists approaching from behind who don't sing out are putting the runner's protection wholly within their own hands. They are taking the runner out of the overall safety equation. They are allowing the possibility of the runner blindly committing some inadvertent mis-step, and leaving only themselves with the ability to exercise any control over the situation. This is arrogance, in my opinion.


Danielle in Iowa said...

I typically do call out when I pass people, but interestingly there are A LOT of runners/walkers on paths who apparently hear you call out "on your left" and move to the left, right in your way. While some might consider this natural selection at its finest, the cyclist can get really hurt too in a collision!Sometimes it seems safer to let them go along their straight path on the right side and not startle them.

CewTwo said...

I cross train with a mountain bike. Being both a runner and a bicyclist, I do call when I pass. I also wonder (sometimes) if the runner has earphones, if they are even listening or are interested.

They attempt to limit the speed on the Platte River Greenways to 15 MPH (even using radar guns, warnings and tickets while moving these checks about), but it really doesn't work.

In either case, I prefer to hear a warning then not.

Great topic, Peter!

Rainmaker said...

Like Danielle I call out most of the time. However I don't even bother if they are wearing headphones (unless they are clearly in my path) - because they never acknowledge anyway.

Also, as she pointed out, many times folks(usually walkers though), will actually go INTO your lane when you call out. Thus making the situation worse. Most runners 'in the zone' seem to grasp it. It's the ones who walk 2-3 abreast that drive me crazy.

It's also very poor form on any cyclists part to ever attempt a double pass - OR attempt a two-way pass (witha cyclist coming from the opposite direction). Recipes for disaster.

jeanne said...

Love that song! And oh, this is my favorite debate. I think Clinton and Obama should weigh in!

I think i was with you when that person said he doesn't call out. Boooogus, as the car talk boys say!

I was with a runner who said he doesn't say "Thank-you" when cyclists call out because they should just do it and not expect to be "rewarded." Boooogus, as the car talk boys say!

I don't know a single cyclist who doesn't call out. Most (normal) cyclists don't actually have a death wish so don't want to hit a runner or walker anymore than a runner wants to get hit! Most (normal) cyclists GET that everyone is safer if they call out or ring.

Whew. I'm all worked up again!

No man is an island, my friend!

jeanne said...

ok, now i just read rainmaker's comment, and i'm gonna tell him to CALL the EFF OUT! headphones or no! sheesh!

I think i've found my "calling."

Rainmaker said...

...I think Jeanne just wants to wear her headphones, even if she never hears me. :)

Don said...

Amen. Couldn't agree more. Those quiet ones scare the bejeebers outta me.

Bex said...

Effing bicyclists. You know what I think of them when they don't call out "on your left," which is common courtesy.

And re Simon & Garfunkel lyrics: Jesus Christ. We're all islands. Get with the program :-)

David said...

Blindsided by a bicyclist named Jeanne would be the worst.

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

I call out when I'm on the bike and am surprised at how many don't do the same.

It it frustrating when you call out and the runner/walker doesn't give any room to pass safely.

And when I'm passed by someone signally, I usually say thanks or wave or something. I appreciate it as the passee.

Sunshine said...

Appreciated your thoughts.

Didn't see any cherry blossoms today: we are back in winter again.

Anonymous said...

I definitely call "on your left" when on my bike...I can remember too many times when I was running or walking and a cyclist scared me to death by zooming past me with no warning!!

I am surprised at how many do not warn others! Even when another cyclist passes me when I'm riding and they don't say a thing, it bugs me and I say "thanks for the warning!" It does seem arrogant to me, too.

DawnB said...

I'm never around that many bikers but it is common courtesy to call out

Jade Lady said...

I've been a very quiet and naive little mouse.

I didn't realize that it's common courtesy to say something before passing - I thought that was only done when someone was smack in my way. Headphones or not, I will try to remember to say something when I pass a walker or runner.

And, when I'm doing the walking/running, I'll be sure to say thank you, assuming I heard you - since I do use an iPod. Something I also didn't realize was a common courtesy!

Live and learn.

Tomas said...

Well, most paths have a seperate bike part here in Iceland (we are small, easily manageble, but still bikers don´t seem to use them and come speeding past you. I always get so startled, my puls showing sprint like pulse.
I have never heard a cyclist call... aparently we are not so polite here... or we have a deathwish :)

Anonymous said...

oh...I forgot, in response to your comment on my blog...the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind ;)

skoshi said...

When I was "newer" at riding, I used to think that calling out would bother the person I was passing--especially when I did so to a new roller blader, startled her, she fell, I went back to make sure she was OK, and boy did she give me an earful...

Now, having been in the shoes of a walker or runner, and having been passed by a fast bike, I know how nice it is to know when someone is about to speed by on a bicycle. It's a courtesy as well as a safety issue.

To go along with the pet peeve about people not calling out when passing on a bike, is people who don't slow down on common use recreational paths. If you chose to use a common use path, then have the courtesy and safety awareness to slow down when passing pedestrians--there is no need to use a common use path like a race track. Safety is so much more important.

Nice topic.

ShirleyPerly said...

Yes, being a cyclist now I've found that calling out does often cause unexpected responses from some people, esp. those who are unfamiliar with it. Bike bells seem to generate more positive responses but often cannot be heard until fairly close in range (forget it if a person is wearing headphones).

So, for the most part, I avoid riding on paths where many pedestrians are present unless I just want to go for a nice easy ride. I'm better off riding on the roads!

akshaye said...

You're right - and so are the cyclists who claim that calling out startles some runners and makes them unpredictable.

I guess keeping a distance if possible is the best.

Anonymous said...

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