Bike Path Racer Confessions

My friend Josh Cohen is a bike nerd. If you needed any proof of this fact, you can just look at his paid blog- he’s Publicola’s official Bike Nerd. Everyone in Seattle is going to know this soon, too.

Anyway, Josh is awesome. I went to college with him and whether working under him on the editorial board of the school newspaper, alongside him as a peer in a number of classes, or just hanging out milling between parties I grew to be conscious of the fact that I like and respect his opinions. Since school I’ve develped the sense that I don’t only respect them, I value them; highly.

That doesn’t mean I have to agree with him, though.

Josh recently wrote a splendid piece for the bike nerd blog about the Burke-Gilman trail and the menacing racers who frequent it, endangering others and generally going much too fast for the joining traffic.

Now I’m not arguing against the danger of such racers, and that it is very dangerous to have a confined area in which people of various sizes and mobilities are travelling in vastly different means at drastically different speeds: it’s dangerous. There’s no way around that.

Where I take issue is the point of contention that racers should slow down on the gilman and keep the racing to less populated trails or roads. He of course is only saying that this needs to take place only when there are people present and the trail does not accommodate a safe margin of space and visibility, but even that is something I don’t agree with completely.

Pedestrians need to know that they are sharing the path with fast bikers. Bikers should be courteous, and safe, but they shouldn’t stop doing anything dangerous just because there’s danger. When I bike, I don’t expect cars to try to stop being dangerous when they race past me. I’d rather be a pedestrian travelling at less than 4 mph and be hit by a cyclist on a 30lbs machine travelling 20 mph than be a cyclist on a 30lbs machine hit by a 3000lbs machine travelling the same speed… let alone the real world approximations of 13 mph vs 25 mph.

If you take the danger out of a hugely popular and heavily used mixed use trail, people don’t think about safety. I honestly don’t think people being less safe is a good thing, but I think the danger in a path racer buzzing pedestrians is far less serious than a road raging idiot in a car, and blogging about eitheris internet douche fodder at best.

I’m going to quote Minus Blindfold here, “that son of a bitch swerved almost hit two kids.”

And by quote, I mean confess. I came within inches of hitting two adults on the Burke yesterday because they weren’t looking and I was riding brakeless and not yelling bloody murder until I realized they were all of a sudden jumping into my vector. My reserved yelling, not incessant “on your left”ing but actual dangerous/scary “WHOA!” or “AAP!!!” yelling, singlehandedly prevented these and other potentially terrible collisions… by inches. These people, each of who were travelling perpendicular to path traffic without warning or looking before they leaped, would have been under my wheels had they not stopped themselves in time –  and I would have felt horrible -but next time maybe they’ll look. Danger’s only bad if it results in injury… and asking path racers to stop being dangerous is like asking people to stop driving cars. It ain’t gonna happen, sister.

Josh is sensible in his argument but I just don’t see it that way. The burke needs its racers like the jedi rebellion needs the sith.

Weigh in on the debate at Josh’s blog: http://www.publicola.net/2010/03/30/slow-down-bike-path-racer/

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