Posted by: emilybybike | October 12, 2010

Sharing the Path

The “bike” path for all intents and purposes, is a multi-use trail. On any given day as I trek back and forth along various sections of the Custis Trail and Rock Creek Park trail, I’ll encounter everything from runners to serious cyclists, people walking, people running, people skating, dogs, strollers, hybrids, mountain bikes, road bikes and even on occasion, a segway or two.

One thing I’ve learned over the past almost six (yes!!) months of commuting, is that you don’t want to be *that* person on the path that is the speedy jerk or the path hog. You need to share the path and be courteous of everyone else using it, even if they happen to be slowing you down.

Mornings especially tend to have heavy traffic, typically commuter cyclists, joggers and the occasional road cyclist out for a morning work-out. One way or another, you’re probably going to get slowed down or have to wait a second to scoot around someone slower than you in the morning – nothing new there. So I was obviously a little surprised and slightly irritated when I got screamed at by a fellow cyclist this morning. I had just come down a rather hilly section of the path and was avoiding one of the roots when out of no where, I hear coming from right on my back wheel “On you LEFT! LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!” and yes, I know that saying “on your left” is the appropriate thing to say when passing, but there’s a difference between politely giving notice and shrieking notice.  Hard to type the difference, but I think you get the picture. There was no patience, there was no politeness there was just a fast pass and obnoxious yelling.

But it gets better. The cyclist flies by me, and then I’m like “hey, I know her!” Yup, a cyclist from a local team, that I used to think was a polite person. She obviously had no idea who she was passing, as I don’t typically wear my team jersey when commuting and I’m not on my road bike. And maybe she was having a bad morning, maybe she was late for work or late for a work out. I don’t know her circumstances, but all I do know is she blew past me pretty rudely, and it was not behavior I would have expected from her. I’m not going to name names or team names, all I will say, is when you’re on the trail, no matter if you’re riding, running or walking, and no matter if you’re on a road bike, cruiser, commuter or what have you, be considerate of everyone you pass, because you don’t know when it’s going to be someone you know or someone who knows you.

I’ll admit I’ve raced down the path and probably irritated people passing too fast or too close, and again, maybe to her benefit she was late or just having a bad day. Either way, it made me a little sad, but at the same time made me more aware of the people I passed this morning and had me make even more a conscious effort to be polite when I did happen to pass another path user.


  1. DC’s outdoor sports community is so small, that there is always a chance you will run into people who know you. However, that said, I am sure that I have not been as considerate on the trail as I should. I am going to pay attention to that on my ride home today.

  2. And normally I really like running into people I know!! Most of them typically are smiles and super-nice – so another reason why I was a bit shocked this morning. Either way – it’s a nice afternoon for a ride home – so enjoy it and smile as you ride!

  3. I think I know who she is. Oh well.

    Reminds me of the path on 234 by Montclair when I was going at a good clip ready to pass a walker who had ear buds in and at the moment I was saying “on your left” she let her little dog pull the full extension of his leash and now they blocked the entire path. There wasn’t room to go around and if I had gone “through” the leash I probably would have dragged the little dog or the woman. I tried to stop and go around, but there was only a ditch, I headed for it and promptly fell over into some wet mucky leaves and grass simply because I didn’t unclip in time.

    The woman was horrified realizing that she let her dog take up the entire path and prepared herself for me to SCREAM at her. I immediately knew I was OK albeit a little wet, and I smiled at her. I told her if that’s the worse thing to happen to me on my bike, I’ll take it. She had every right to expect to be dressed down by another cyclist but I didn’t want to be *that* guy. I wanted her to think that cyclists are nice people, and as I passed her on my return trip, this time on the shoulder of 234 and not on the bike path, she was very excited to wave to me.

    I admit to struggling with announcing my presence to those runners or walkers who wear the ear buds and don’t hear “on your left” or “passing left.” I give a second warning, a little louder (“On Your Left”) but am aware to get their attention I may have to go to “LEFT! LEFT! ON YOUR LEFT!!” And I simply don’t. Although it may be necessary for them to hear me, it also borders the line on rudeness, so I simply so slow and pass at the next safe opportunity. Life’s too short to be a jerk.

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