Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Cautionary Tale

A couple of weeks ago you might have seen me limping around the campus. While I have had back problems in the past, this was the result of a crash I experienced while riding my bicycle. I thought I would talk about it here with the goal of providing a guide to sharing space. It is not the usual kind of post for this blog, but it has been on my mind. 

While I was out riding on the Duck Creek pathway, which I do every day after work, I saw ahead of me a man walking his dog. The dog was on a long leash, and was actively running back and forth across the path. As I approached the man, he began to reel the dog back in on his retractable leash; as a result, I kept riding, but moved to the right side of the path. However, I think he failed to lock the leash and the dog unexpectedly ran across the path right into my ride path. In order to prevent hitting him, I turned by handlebars sharply to the left and threw on my brakes. This stopped the bike but threw it and me up and forward at 17mph, my riding speed. Since I was clipped into my pedals I could not stop the fall and I hit the ground very hard on my left side, my head hitting the ground hard as well. I was stunned and left lying on the ground.

A man walking behind me happened to be a male nurse who had the local ER wired into his cell phone. An ambulance was dispatched and assessed me at the site. After an hour with them I was released, fixed my bike and rode home. This was an accident, and accidents happen. That night I began to stiffen up and experience real pain; I count that night as among the worse I have ever had. I ended up bruised from my left knee to my left hip, and I had neck pain as well from hitting my head. Fortunately, I always wear a helmet. I am now recovered for the most part and up and riding comfortably.

But it got me to thinking. Can’t we all get along on the path? The path is a multi-user pathway. There are bicyclists, walkers, dog walkers, kids, and running teams. If all pay attention to the rules, accidents will occur less frequently. Mine happened because a dog was on a long leash. But here is my thinking.

Riders: You know the rules. Ride on the right of the path. Tell people and other riders when you pass them; if you do not, they are often shocked when you go by and that makes them unpredictable. Do not ride two or more abreast. Stop at stop signs and lights. 

Walkers: Stay right when you walk. Do not walk two or more abreast. You should not wear headphones, because you then cannot hear a rider telling you that he or she is passing. When riders come up behind you and let you know, move to the right. If you have children with you, tell them what to do. Small kids do not understand the conventions we use. Hold onto them. If you are walking a dog, use a short leash and control your pet. Too many dogs are running free on the path, and they are very unpredictable.

Runners- If you run with a club you need to pay attention to the rules. Often when I ride I come across a local running club. When I see them, I usually turn around. I do because they often run in a pack, may have 3 or 4 runners across the path blocking traffic in both directions, and wear headphones so that you cannot get them to move even when you tell them. I remember once being behind a runner who was running in the same direction I was riding, but was on the left side of the path, next to 3 runners on the right and who failed to move when I signaled her because she had headphones on. This puts riders at risk, especially those whose pedals are clipped in and cannot be released when the unexpected happens. 

If we know the rules (stay right, don’t run or walk or ride 2 abreast, control your dog, or your kids, and move right when told that you are being passed), we can ride in more safety. Let’s all be careful out there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow...happy to hear you weren't injured. You know you were going 2mph over the limit!! 15mph is what the rules say...it should be 10 IMO. After 17 years of riding the DCRT, I feel it lives up to the name of "Recreational Trail" and not "Serious Biking Trail". Families should be allowed to saunter and frolic and be relaxed on the Recreational Trail with their kids and pets. Cyclists have a right to the road and should use it if they want to go 17mph...I'm sorry you were hurt. Imagine if you'd of run into my kid at 17mph while we were recreating?!?!