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Blazing the Urban Trail - San Francisco Message Board Random Stuff › Marin County Bike Coalition article on ped/bike path sharing: Speeding

Marin County Bike Coalition article on ped/bike path sharing: Speeding

user 5735301
San Francisco, CA
Post #: 16
A German friend of mine recently recounted how he nearly got into a fistfight on the Mill Valley – Sausalito multi-use path, when a guy on a race bike accused him of trying to cause a collision. This friend comes from an area in Germany where commuter cycling is common, the infrastructure supports it, and only renegade pubescent boys try to race on shared-use pathways.

At the time of the incident, he was riding between work and home at a leisurely pace. “Suddenly, I hear this screaming behind me. All I understand is, ‘LEFT! LEFT!’ So, I go left….”

Luckily, the racer was able to make an emergency stop. But he was irate—notwithstanding his own violation of the posted 15 mph speed limit—and the scene got ugly.

I was delighted that my friend took a stance but congratulated him for keeping his fists in his pockets. Finding oneself the target of outrage is galling when the other party is clearly in the wrong. Even as a dedicated bike advocate, I have fantasized about indulging my primitive impulses with aggressive cyclists who use our path as a training route, thereby terrorizing everyone else.

Of course, it’s easy to forget my own excesses. Long ago, I used to pelt downhill at breakneck speed on my 1979 Centurion Super LeMans, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, screaming at cow-like wandering pedestrians, “STAY IN YOUR LANE!” I felt I was justified, because I was entitled to go as fast as the cars—or would have been, if pedestrians had not been present.

Obviously, the stresses of office jobs and city life breed aggression, and vigorous exercise becomes essential for sanity. Pedaling to nowhere on an exercise bike can tame murderous impulses after a bad day at work, but it does not equal the exhilaration of going outside and conquering the terrain.

Still, now that I’m old enough to qualify for the Wednesday discount at Goodman’s Building Supply, I conclude that speeding is an addictive impulse. The lighter and more responsive the vehicle, the more irresistible speeding becomes. If I have reached the point of believing that the posted speed limit or presence of other users need not concern me, I am no longer rational.

I know a man who tamed his own urge to speed by buying the heaviest, fattest, second-hand mountain bike he could find and riding it hard. He gets a great workout on the multi-use path without threatening anyone’s safety.

Of course, like me, he is old enough not to care too much if he looks like a dork. Along with my German friend, we long ago yielded to our children the right of trying to be cool.

Elisabeth Thomas-Matej
August 28, 2012
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