Walkers on the right, attitude off the trail
July 13, 2006
The other day, my daughter’s dog, Earl, and I delivered some hay machinery to a friend’s house, and not having any support personnel in the neighborhood, walked home, a trek of about three miles.I’d never really walked on a bike-horse-pedestrian-non-motorized-vehicle path in the summer and got an education, of sorts. For the most part, bike riders are soundless until they’re going past you, meaning they generally fail to verbalize their proximity, but being on foot reminded me that pedestrians are still the most unconscious bunch of the lot.Once an indefatigable road biker, I was always careful to announce my presence when approaching pedestrians from behind, but it didn’t always go as expected. Headed uphill one morning, I came upon a spectacularly amorphous group working its way along the trail. Two women, who may have been related, were accompanied by a very large (not rotund, not really) man pushing a baby carriage and of course, there was the requisite dog, attached to the baby’s conveyance by a leash. A breath of fresh air couldn’t have got by this quintet and when I said “Hello,” from behind, to notify them of my approach, and after they had all over-reacted as though a grizzly had spooked them (baby excepted), the man turned on me with a nasty tone of voice and proceeded to give me a lecture (as I slowly pedaled by) on proper trail etiquette. I was tempted to stop, just to see how big he really was, but didn’t.Heading west through Holland Hills, and at the top of Bishop Drive, there is a great little hill that could allow most anyone to gather 40 to 50 mph of speed, although at the bottom, the trail abruptly angles right through a tunnel under the Roaring Fork Club access road. Caution is called for since one never knows what surprises the passageway may hold and a careless attitude could result in a bone-crunching event.The last time I came upon that underpass, it was blocked by a man, in the right-hand lane, holding onto the hand of a woman, who straddling both lanes, naturally had in her left hand the leash to a large golden retriever, who was taking up whatever room may have been left to sneak by this laggardly lot.Not wanting to be an obnoxious biker, or in a wreck, I quickly slowed to their speed, stayed about 15 yards behind and quietly said, “Hello.” Apparently engrossed in arcane matters from another world, they instinctively panicked. The woman went straight in the air, letting out a yelp and the man jumped as far to the right as he could go. The dog seemed to have a handle on things and quietly jogged ahead of the woman and moved to the right. Once landed from this entertaining exercise, they all three turned around to get a gander at me, and didn’t look that pleased, particularly the man.He said, “Hello? What the hell does ‘hello’ mean?” I replied with, “It means someone’s behind you.” Him: “You’re supposed to say, ‘Bike on your left’ or ‘Bike on your right’, not ‘hello’!”Finding humor in this, I said, “It’s a little hard to spit all that out when you’re doing Mach 10.””I’ll run you down and tear the shirt off your back, Mr. Mach 10!”, said the pugilist.The look in his eyes told me he was definitely serious, and as I hurriedly began to take off, the guy actually caught up to me and grabbed hold of my shirt, literally trying to rip it off my back. This, of course, gave me the giggles, which further enraged him. Fortunately, I had begun to gain some momentum by then and his grip was no match for my legs or the tough material of my cycling shirt and I swatted his hand away with little trouble.As I broke his grasp and pulled away, he could be heard to yell out, “I’ll kick your ass.” Good luck, I thought.Tony Vagneur has given up spandex for hiking boots. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to email@example.com.
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