Sunday, April 26, 2015

Don't Call Me a Cyclist

I can't tell you how many comments I've read over the years regarding pedestrian accidents when a car has hit a person running or cycling. On some occasions these comments are downright infuriating, saying "the cyclist probably deserved it" "they never obey traffic laws" or "the runner was in the road, what did they expect."


This is someone's life we are talking about, worth significantly more then the $250 fine the driver recieves.

A while back I read an insightful article on the language surrounding pedestrians and how to make it more humanizing. The theory is that by altering the language we use we can change the tone of the conversation. Don't say 'cyclists', say 'people on bikes'. This way we can focus on the need for safety for people, rather than cyclists' right of way.

The more I think about it, the more I can appreciate this sort of language change. The mountain biker you hit this last week? Just so happens she is an amazing artist, mother and friend to the entire community, including me. The runner you almost plowed into a few weeks back? He is a soldier and much-loved boyfriend who was training for Boston. We may all be runners, cyclists and pedestrians but we are also someone's friend, daughter or father. We are people first and people on bikes or people running second.

So please, don't call me a cyclist. Instead call me a friend on a bike, and I'll call you a safe driver.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Runners and Cyclists: Why Can't We Be Friends?

Note: I am about to paint in very broad brushstrokes. I realize there are nice cyclists just as there are mean runners.

January of 2014, in an effort to shake a slump I made a bucket list. On that list were the goals to run both a half and a full marathon. As a cyclist my opinion on running had always been "only when chased" and I could not understand why anyone would put themselves through the torture, so these goals were in part a lark.

Fast forward to March of 2015 and I have a half marathin under my belt and am more likely to head out for a run these days than a ride. Often times I run with a group of women out of a local running store and this is particularly true on Thursdays when they host a women only social run. We're a pretty chatty group and on a nice day can number close to twenty. There is something about running or riding with someone that forges a stronger bond then almost anything else.

Running on the Santa Fe during a good weather day.

On a recent good weather day we were strung out along the local pedestrian path in groups, chattering as women will when a cyclist came along wanting to pass. The back of the group was able to hear his "on the left" and moved out of the way as he continued to shout about "share the trail". The tone of the shouting was a bit rude but it was what happened next that really shocked me.

Although the back of the group heard him, the middle part did not and he did not continue to announce his presence until he was right on top of them. At this point he angrily yelled "on your left" again. It took a minute for the women to process that there was someone behind them, but the did and moved out of the way. It is worth noting that this group included a sixth grader running with us while on spring break. She was the one in the way, and obviously a kid.

As he got through the group (perhaps thirty seconds later, there really was no significant delay), the man turned around, looked her dead in the eye and snarls "what the hell".

Shocked would be putting it mildly.

As a group we had done our best to move as soon as we heard him and although we weren't as fast as he wanted, there was no excuse for the language he used. I realize he is likely grumpy to begin with but I think it also stems from the conflict I have often witness between recreational cyclists and runners. In open space meetings mountain bikers and trail runners are routinely commenting on the other's behavior, on paved trails like the Santa Fe everyone seems to think they own the trail and the number of disparaging comments I have heard from both sides about the other over the years is discouraging.

A not so good weather day, but everyone is still happy!

Even more so because of how much we have in commen. As endurance athletes we understand the long hours of sufferng and dedication it takes to do well. As pedestrians we understand the dangers of reckless cars, unleashed dogs and dreaded piotholes. And finally, as open-space users we have a deep appreciation for local parks and the outdooes. We have so much in common and yet cyclists continue to look down on runners and runners continue to view cyclists as, well, entitled pricks.

When it comes down to it, we're all just trying to enjoy the outdoors, be healthy and get our training in. Yes, let's continue to "share the trail" but let's do so in a supportive and uplifting mannner. If we can't do that, then why should we expect any other user groups to do so?