The 12 People Who Block the Bike Path

Samuel HaglerSamuel Hagler is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and founder of the Ride for Good Foundation. He is a master’s candidate studying Bicycle Activism in the M.A. Sustainable Communities program at Northern Arizona University, and enjoys mountain biking, commuting, and traveling the world by bicycle.

Most university towns, including Flagstaff, Arizona, have a bike route through campus. There is a wide lane for walkers next to the bike lane, and the bike lane is split in two with arrows directing cyclists to ride in on the right hand side. In most cases bikers respect their place and walkers respect theirs but not always.

NAU Lumberjack Statue
Don't get me started about the buff bronze bike path lumberjacks.
  1. The Construction Worker: This guy doesn’t typically ride bikes or walk on campus. He drives too carefully. At four miles per hour. In the bike lane. Then he pulls over and parks his work truck half off the bike lane. He leaves the driver-side door open, because he is “going to be right back.” Five minutes and two near-collisions later, he is still crouched down working on the sprinklers– the back of his pants and the driver’s side door still wide open.
  2. The Overly Cautious Walker (a.k.a. Most Walkers): As I ride, I see two walkers ahead. One is going from left to right and the other from right to left. At their speeds I’ll have plenty of room to continue straight and miss them each by 10 feet. Oh, but now the one on the right sees me and starts to slow down, so I turn left. Uh-oh, the walker on the left stops like a deer in headlights, in the middle of the bike lane. Now it’s too late– all I can do is hit the brakes and stop dead in my tracks, ignore their dirty looks, realize it’s something only cyclists understand, and swear I’m going to write an article about this in hopes that some walkers will get it. I know, I know, you’re just trying to be polite. But have you ever played Frogger? If the cars stopped as you approached, it would be an impossible game. Ask any cyclist, and they’ll tell you: Stop-and-go walkers are the second most annoying thing about being a cyclist.
  3. Headphony Tony: This guy wants everybody to know he’s a music fanatic. No time for paying attention to the sounds of interference– the “on your left” warning and subsequent squealing of brakes
  4. The Swervy Cyclist: True, biking home from the bars is safer than driving, but let’s be honest; in your half-conscious state nothing is safe at more than three miles per hour. After an entire night of bro-toasting at Maloney’s, please just walk your bike.
  5. The Bike Walker: This confused champion of both lanes is usually an awkward male who is walking next to somebody he is interested in, because he’s “going that way anyway.” He walks the bike in the bike lane while he walks in the walking lane, hopelessly distracted by conversation.
  6. The Foreign Freshman: It’s not your fault; you’ll learn not to ride in the left lane.
  7. The Organ Donor: My roommate wants me to say something about hipsters who have no brakes, no helmet, no shoes, and no gears, but he has since admitted that he doesn’t like them simply because they are cooler than him.
  8. The Pro: This guy is too cool for school; he is not a student, nor does he work on campus. Instead, he stuffs a sock into his spandex and flies through campus on his $7,000 road bike in hopes that somebody will call out, “Hey bulgy fast guy, cruise on back here and make out with me!” But they never do.
  9. The Compassionate Commuter: We all make mistakes. In the past, this girl has accidentally biked on the sidewalk or almost hit a walker. So now, when a walker gets in her way, she skids to a stop and politely explains, “Walking in the bike lane poses hazards to all parties. I’m not mad. I forgive you. ” All the while blocking the bike lane…
  10. The Lazy Susan: Perched precariously atop a yellow bike, she zips on and off the sidewalks and doesn’t notice when she’s going the wrong way in the bike lane. When she is on the correct side of the bike lane she is probably texting, and she tends to pedal even slower than the construction worker drives. A red purse hangs from the handlebars and her peripheral vision is blocked by thick designer sunglasses. It’s okay, though, because under all that make up she really does look like a celebrity– and celebrities do as they please.
  11. The Self-Righteous Cyclist: This guy owns the bike lane. He probably has an uncle who not only podiumed in a Cat 2 race last weekend but also works for the city as a bike path planner. “Get out of my bike lane! This is for cyclists, for me! You are just a serf!”
  12. The Resentful Walker: “I almost got hit by a cyclist again today! I hate cyclists!” Guess what? Cyclists almost get hit by cars every day. I actually have been hit by cars multiple times, but I will never take it out on all drivers. These resentful walkers might as well be racists. They won’t admit walkers make mistakes because they, themselves, are walkers. They see a relative few bad apples among cyclists (and yes, I agree there are more idiot cyclists out there than we would like, but definitely not the majority) and decide to resent all cyclists. The worst of the worst in this group deliberately walk in the bike lane, blow exhaust in front of cyclists, throw cigarettes out the window, or yell at them to “get on the sidewalk!” all of which fuels the rivalry between walkers and cyclists.

People in all groups make mistakes. The solution is to calm down, educate, and start with the man in the mirror.

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14 thoughts on “The 12 People Who Block the Bike Path”

  1. Carol says:

    I feel your pain all too well. I would also add the leashless dog walkers a la ,”Oh don’t worry, he’s friendly” which translates to, “He has no sense of path etiquette and he wants to jump in your moving lap”.

  2. Joel says:

    Once again, I almost feel ashamed that I do not have more war stories to tell after six full months of bicycle commuting.

    I travel six miles to and from the bus station in a multimode commute. The bus drivers and I now have a symbiotic relationship. They know me by my blinkies at night and during the day. The few times they stop in front of me, I do not try and pass them on the right and often stop behind them so they can pull out without worrying about hitting me and they have slowed down to allow me the lane on the few hundred feet of narrow lanes and overpasses on my trip to the consternation of the cars behind them. I am extremely predictable and they know that I will do the safest thing possible. I support them and they support me.

    Three miles of my trip is on a local bike trail. I travel between ten and eighteen miles per hour depending on conditions (especially mine when the legs are tired!). I smile and thank everyone for moving over a bit when I pass them at a speed slightly faster then they are moving as to avoid any possibility of a collision. Many of my regular walkers know my voice when I politely announce, “Passing on the left” with a heartfelt “Thank you” when they move. I often get a polite greeting as I pass which I reciprocate. I guess I am in the biking land of OZ. Most of the riders going the other way give me a nod, hand lift, or smile as they pass.

    Granted, the winter is a lonely time on the trail and I have gone weeks in the morning without seeing anyone but the weather is fine now and I enjoy the company.

    I hope that I can continue to lament that I have no war stories or complaints because I biking a dream.

    Did I tell you that I just enjoy riding my bicycle?

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      Joel: I think some locales and some routes are more prone to issues with drivers and/or pedestrians than are others.

      I’ve been bike commuting in varying degrees for most of the last 30 years. (Ouch. I had to stop and think about that.) I haven’t developed the it’s-a-war-out-there attitude that I hear and read from some bike commuters. Maybe your experience will be more like mine.

  3. Graham says:

    My bicycle commute takes place mostly on low speed neighborhood roads, so I rarely have to deal with crazy traffic patterns. I wouldn’t say that I think of it as a war, but there are some funny/annoying things out there.

    The first (or last, depending on how you look at it) part of my commute is on a separated bike lane. Even though it is clearly labeled as a bike lane, cycling in my little corner of NC is considered an extreme sport and nearly everyone uses it as a walking path. My favorite walkers are the Red Rover Walkers. They walk shoulder to shoulder 5 or 6 across and occupy not only the whole lane, but also portions of the grassy area on either side.

    When you ring the bell, clack your brakes, or say “Hello!” they will be momentarily startled (no matter how often I meet the same people) and then attempt to move out of the way without breaking their line!

    I find this easily more ridiculous and annoying than being briefly chased by “friendly” dogs.

  4. NAU is perhaps the most stressful area in Flag to traverse by bike due to all of the above. I find Lazy Susan perhaps the worst offender, as well as all the people in head phones wlaking and weaving in and out of the bike lane. On the other hand, I am always struck that university campuses usually seem to be great models of walkable/bikeable communities. The university population accepts it for what it is and accommodates the more limited car access by walking, biking and using the bus. At Unv. Of Georgia they told us at orientation that you have to learn to use the bus, were handed a route map and expected to learn it. NAU is the one school I’ve encountered (wked there but didn’t attend) that seems to have accommodated cars, although that seems to be changing w/the the schools plans for growth.

  5. BluesCat says:

    When I attended NAU, way back in the Last Century, for a while I drove the shuttle bus which went between North Campus and South Campus. I don’t remember seeing ANY bicycles back then, and you could drive your car everywhere.

    Many of the roads I remember blazing down in my sports car (much to the chagrin of the Campus Cops) are now limited to pedestrians and bicycles.

    So, I guess it’s a GOOD thing that they took motorized vehicles out of there, although I can appreciate your frustration, Samuel, with your Dozen Idiots. I face my OWN set of idiots when I ride in the so-called “bike lanes” in Phoenix; and, unlike your Construction Worker, these clowns are all INSIDE their two-ton weapons and ROLLING when they pull THEIR dumb stunts.

  6. Todd says:

    I bicycle commute on the same campus as you and I’ve run into (sometimes literally) your entire list. Thanks for the belly laugh first thing this morning! Number two seems to be the one I deal with the most. Sometimes the back and forth is nearly comical as they jump to the left and then the right. Man, but I do love Spring Break when the campus is nice and quiet.

  7. Diego says:

    In my bike commute home I also face families, and there is the usual kid who runs astray just before you.

    When I read the title of this article, I also thought of people who don’t want to allow the construction of bike paths. Here in North Orange County, CA, we are facing a serious NIMBY case (check:

  8. JonO says:

    Man, awesome post. People #2 are, without question, the worst in my neck of the woods.

  9. JonO says:

    @Diego –

    Not trying to hijack the original post but I noticed your reply and wanted to reply back. I live in Floral Park so I’m in the midst of the so called ‘NIMBY’ crowd (your words, not mine). I’m a bike commuter and for recreation I ride the Santiago Creek Trail all the time. I LOVE the new extension that goes to Villa Park and it’s allowed my friends and I to take our families on group bike rides and have picnics without our kids having to ride on the street, etc. Its just awesome. I’d love to have the extension done to Fisher Park and I’ve tried to gather as much info as possible on the pro trail site as well as the non pro trail site. The key issue for me is the issue of imminent domain (which I am not in favor of). I can’t get a straight answer anywhere on whether or not imminent domain would be used to finish the Santiago Trail and there are several friends and neighbors who haven’t really chosen a side because of this issue. If you’re someone who can edit the pro trail site you posted, you guys would do well to directly address the issue of imminent domain with a straight yes or no answer including city references.

    Side note: As far as the Memory Lane Class II bike path, I loved it when they removed the traffic lane and added the Class II lane but there are MANY times where I encounter morons actually driving IN the bike lane. Check it out:

  10. What are these “bike lanes” you speak of? We know them not in these parts. 🙁

  11. Carrie Stemrich says:

    This list seems to be a mixture of on-road bike lane and bike path issues. I’ve had issues with some of these, but not all. On-road bike paths, I do have issues with:
    1. Drivers opening driver-side doors without looking.
    2. Drivers making a right turn without looking.
    3. Folks who are waiting for a bus and step into the bike lane to look down the road to see if their bus is coming – without looking.

    On the path, I’ve had issues with:
    1. Kids trailing behind their parents, darting all over the path.
    2. Students sitting on the bike path, sometimes lying across, even though there is nice, soft grass off the bike path for them to sit on.
    3. Folks power-walking with leashed dogs AND wearing headphones. Nice.

    Fact is, bike paths are really multi-use paths, so the cyclists are affected by these things in ways that everyone else is not. We’ve moving faster than they are. Roads are their own multi-use paths with a myriad of other ways cyclists are affected by things that motorists are not.

    Sometimes we just have to slow down for the irresponsible/clueless behavior of others. People tend to forget how their behavior affects others directly, and we have all been that person to someone at some time. Patience is the best tool to use here. Serenity now.

  12. BlueBerry Pick'N says:

    ” …I’m on a MotherFucking Bike… ”

  13. Dr. M says:

    This was excellent. Portions of the NYC Bike Path especially along the Hudson are also called Greenways. They are for anyone on wheels which on any given day means inline skaters, razor scooters, skate boards, folding bicycles and even little kids with training wheels. Then you have people running (or attempting to), jogging and those who have given up doing either and are walking.

    So I know about multiuse tracks like the one you have on campus. So many different people using the bike path, some without a vehicle like our bicycle means you have to be extra vigilant. What gets me crazy is OTHER cyclists salmoning up the one way bike lanes. The second place goes to the NYC food cart vendors who use the path to get around the city but then for some strange reason, plop to cart in the middle of the bike path, obstructing it. I wouldn’t mind too much if they were there selling some falafel and drinks but the cart is covered up with no sign of said food vendor.

    We all have our bicycles to bear but most of your problems might be solved by getting a serious electric horn on your bike. I have the MegAlert Megahorn and at about 103 decibels, it gets the job done.

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