The Chainlink

 

Hello my name is Dario.  I am typing this one handed because of an injury sustained while biking.  Obviously I did not die but if you want people to read your story you have to have a headline that grabs attention.  I am/was a year round cyclist who started commuting to work at the age of 32 (nearly 3 years now).  I know I am late to the party.  I started riding to lose weight but ended up loving it.  I love riding in Critical Mass, the clarity it gives me in the morning, and the way the way stress falls away on the ride home.  I love it so much I strong armed my best friend to follow me in biking.  It was easy to do when he saw my weight loss.  At first it bothered me to be the “crazy bike rider” who rides in the winter, but I got over it and now wear it like a badge of courage.  Besides I was never one to go with the flow.  I am a bit of a safety nerd.  While I don’t wear lime green spandex I always have lights and wear my helmet (not that it should matter).   I am extremely cautious and courteous.  I stop at stop signs,  don’t salmon, ride on side streets to minimize my interaction with “cagers”, and yell on your left when I pass people.  Yesterday while riding on the lake path a rollerblader (are they really still around), stepped in front of me after I shouted “on your left” and I ran into her.  I fell and separated my left shoulder. I have never felt pain like this.   She walked away.  In pain and furious I screamed at her to “get the fuck away from me before I beat your ass”, so I did not get her info.  Thank  God I have insurance.  Through no fault of my own, I will be out of commission for about a month.  

My wife and I brought home our newborn son Tuesday the 26th, and I can’t even hold him in my arms.  That hurts some much more than my shoulder.   This injury has saddled her with extra chores since I can do so little with one hand.  At the time in our lives when she needs me most I am a burden.  This is so unfair.  She has always been supportive(despite her reservations) and even liked buying me workout/cycling clothes.  

I cannot in good conscience continue to risk my well being with so many ignorant, discourteous, self centered, and just plain stupid people out there.  When it was just me I could rationalize it but I have a family now and I don’t want to miss any of it.  In short I am hanging it up, throwing in the towel, and giving up.   I did not write this for sympathy, or to hear people try and change my mind, i just needed to vent to like minded people.  Will I still bike, probably, but not as much.  If you’ve been a cyclist for a day you’ve probably had a close call, so you know what i mean.  I can not justify the risk any longer.  Thank you for reading this.  Goodbye.

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I agree with most of the people replying here.  I saw this post when it first came up an hour or so ago and hesitated to comment at all as I'm trying to turn over a new leaf and be less annoying and jerky online.  What follows is my own personal opinion and I apologize in advance if it offends anyone who might disagree.

 

Anyhow, what Chixieonfixie said is right on.  The LFP can become pretty dangerous to cyclists and peds alike as it becomes more crowded during the summer months.  As bicyclists we are among the fastest users of the path and are constantly overtaking other path users from behind where they can't see or sense us util it is too late.  They get startled and jump/turn away -often right into our path.  Crowding only makes this worse and it DOES get pretty crowded quite often this time of year.

 

Yelling, "On your left!" does not give us, as cyclists, the right of way -or abrogate our responsibility not to run other path users down from behind.  

 

In a way, we are the annoying "cars" on the path that are going much too fast for conditions much of the time when passing and overtaking other path users.  I confess to being guilty of this at times too.  But we have the responsibility to pass other path users (both when overtaking and  from head-on) in a safe manner and with enough clearance so that these kinds of accidents don't ever happen -and when they do it is most often our own fault.  People don't have eyes in the back of their heads and yelling, "On your left!" is often misconstrued as, "Move left" to many peds and bladers who are startled by a fast mover zooming past them.    

 

If it takes slowing down and giving the other users a lot more room then that is what it takes to fulfill our obligations then that is what we need to do -just like cars are supposed to give us 3 feet on the road. 3-feet is probably not going to happen but there needs to be enough safe clearance so that this kind of "accident" never happens.  There really are not such things as "accidents" -just people who are cutting things  too close and taking unnecessary chances/risks with other people's lives while zooming past them.

 

This often means that taking the LFP is not the best or quickest commuting solution.  I wish there were bike-only paths/lanes through the lakefront area with proper signage to warn peds and other slow movers to stay off these lanes and to pay attention while crossing but it doesn't look that this is going to happen any time soon.   Until it does happen we as bikes have a responsibility not to run other people down who get in "our way."    This is no different than the cars not running us down in the streets and sharrows.  Beeping (yelling) at us doesn't give them the right to zoom past us at unsafe clearances any more than yelling, "On your left" gives us the right to zoom past slow-movers on the LFP with a foot or two of clearance as a safety margin. 

 

Regarding yelling:  I've found that a cheery happy-sounding bell does a much better job of communicating with peds and other road/path users than attempting to verbally communicating a command or warning.  It still doesn't give us the right of way, IMHO, but it helps to announce our presence in a non-confrontational way rather than a holler or other yelling at a level loud enough to be heard (often over headphones maybe.)

 

On the other hand...

 

Those roller-bladers are some of the most tricky folks out on the path.  Their intentions and vectors are hard to predict and can change direction at the blink of an eye without slowing down.  Peds can change direction very quickly without looking where they are going as well.   The thing is these other path users on the LFP are not thinking that the path is a "road" and not looking out for or even thinking about fast-moving vehicles such as bicycles moving among them much of the time unless they just got passed a few seconds ago.  They are thinking "sidewalk" while we are thinking "fast bike path" and the mix of these two different path-use philosophies leads to dangerous conflict.  

 

Short of education, signage, and well-marked bike-only lanes/paths on the lakefront this isn't going to get much better in the short term.   I find it best to stay off the LFP unless I'm in a very leisurely mood or it is a time where there are few peds or other path users to contend with. 

 

 

first, I think we can all celebrate that whatever triggered the roller-blading craze of the late 90s-early Oughts seems to have significantly run its course.

 

second, always sorry to hear about a crash, but you will never feel "right" if you gain weight because you stop riding.

 

third, congrats on the newborn!  I have a 5 year old, I try at least a few times a week during the non-winter months (my balance is dubious) to take her to pre-school on a trail-a-bike.  I have started a little trend there, which is great, but blows as now they've cracked down on allowing me to store the trail-a-bike indoors which means an extra lock to carry/time in the morning, blah blah blah.

 

fourth, I crashed solo on that stupid sloping part of the LFT between Oak St and Navy Pier about 10 years ago when it was iced over and broke my wrist.  Cost me my job (which I had just gotten) playing in a professional jazz band.  it took me months of therapy and then many more months of woodshedding to get back up to speed and to win my job back.  I didn't let that stop me from riding altogether, but I did stop riding when it's below freezing, so there is some middle ground that may work for you, wait a few weeks and see how you feel, "never say never" is a good motto!  : )

Good call. I'm going to try this.  I've been using excuse me, which generally works, if they even hear you.

 

Dario - Good luck in your recovery and congrats on the birth of your son.


Kevin C said:

I noticed this phenomenon years ago and have added the syllable "I'm" to the pronouncement "on your left." I think it has helped, but it's not a substitute for going slow, remaining alert and keeping a bailout plan.

 

"I am typing this one handed because of an injury sustained while biking.  Obviously I did not die but if you want people to read your story you have to have a headline that grabs attention."

 

I stopped reading here, as I find this incredibly disingenuous.

 

So much for your theory.

I use a bell. They cost about $7 ($15 if you want a really nice Japanese one from Crane) and have the distinct advantage of being pretty bicycle-specific. I ring it every time I approach any pedestrian, skater, or other cyclist on the LFT. Shouting "on your left" always struck me as more annoying than anything else. In truth the problems with the LFT are the problems inherent to any "mixed use" trail system. It's a phenomenally stupid example of poor city planning. Any one who has spent time in European cities like Berlin or Salzburg, for example, and ridden a bicycle there got to ride on wider trails that are divided into pedestrian and cycling tracks. (Usually, it is only American tourists one then encounters walking on the cycling side. I always take a little time to explain to them what the image of the bicycle means.) The LFT north of the loop in the summer is a series of accidents waiting to happen. Tourists stopped on the trails at the museum campus taking pictures, skateboarders and roller-bladers who fall much more frequently than cyclists, runners with earbuds and iPods who don't hear anything in their environment, stroller moms talking on cell phones as they hasten little Tommy forward, endless pedestrians crossing left without looking behind them when they see a drinking fountain, unreasonably optimistic triatheletes and cat 4 racers in training who think they can skirt by all of this without any audible warning if everyone "holds their line," and those MISERABLE pedi-cars that seem always to be steering directly toward you as you realize Mom and Dad have allowed their 4 year-old to steer. It's a wonder this doesn't happen every day. I stick to the trail south of the loop in the summer, and even with the construction at 31st, it just seems safer. Sorry to rant. I hope you recover quickly and get back on the bike. I'll spring for a nice bell as a return gift when you do.

+1

 

The Japanese Crane Suzu bell is a top-notch bell and a beauty both to behold and hear.  This same bell is sold under different brand names such as NYC bell and Soma Fabrications. 

Moc Artsy said:

I use a bell. They cost about $7 ($15 if you want a really nice Japanese one from Crane) and have the distinct advantage of being pretty bicycle-specific. I ring it every time I approach any pedestrian, skater, or other cyclist on the LFT.
Congrats on your new baby! As a new mom of 2 little ones, I also have gotten a lot more cautious in my riding (it was good practice as I biked through both of my pregnancies).  In my biking career, I've ridden on every type of street and almost every neighborhood in Chicago, but I am most terrified of the Lake Front Path. I simply refuse to ride on it (especially on the north side, esp in the warmer months). It's way more dangerous than just about any street in the city, and the peds/rollerbladers/other bikers are WAY more unpredictable than cars.  I'm not sure if you really want us to cheer you back on your bike, but we're gonna do it anyway. Get back in the saddle and stay the hell off the LFP.  
Dario, I first want to say congrats on the birth of your son. I am so very happy and excited for you and youre wife. It saddens me so much to hear that you will not be able to hold your beautiful newborn son in your arms like you long to. I am so sorry that this terrible accident has happen to you. I know first hand how safe you have always ridden and it's unfortunate that you will no longer be biking as much as you have in the past. When the time feels right and you're ready I know you'll be back in the saddle. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I wish you a quick and healthy recovery.

I opted for a bell sold as THE BIG BRASS BELL....Sells for $10 at LBS. It has a nice, throaty, old school Detroit steel LOUD ring to it...I put the shamrock on there...A buddy of mine has one of those "ping" bells which seems to be very ineffective.

 

 

It sounds like the response we want from pedestrians and others on the path is similar to what automobile drivers (should) do when an ambulance or fire truck is trying to get to an emergency - i.e., watch out for the vehicle that needs to get past you.  I wonder if the solution is to have, not a siren, but something that you can activate early enough, and which repeats a noise, so that people aren't caught off guard.  Maybe it's just as simple as continuously ringing a bell as you approach someone from behind to pass. 

x2

 

The roller bladers are possibly the most dangerous thing on that path, in my opinion.  They take up *much* more room than pedestrians and they tend to swing out with their legs and arms as they're propelling themselves along.  On areas where the path is narrow, I've seen them easily take up the entire path with all their leg and arm movements and they are very difficult to get around.  And 99% of the time they are totally oblivious to the rest of the world because they have their damn headphones on.  

 

When I ride to work (Diversey to 57th Street) I find the LFP tolerable in the morning, but I only take it as far as 18th Street in the afternoon, then take 18th to Halsted to Milwaukee.  That ain't no cakewalk either (don't even get me started on Halsted through Greek Town and the West Loop!) but it feels somewhat safer than the LFP.

 

Hope you heal up quickly and get back in the saddle.

James BlackHeron said:

Those roller-bladers are some of the most tricky folks out on the path.  Their intentions and vectors are hard to predict and can change direction at the blink of an eye without slowing down.  

 

 

 

 

There's a valid reason for having car drivers pull over when an emergency vehicle needs to go by.  Given that pedestrians and cyclists (and others) are all equally valid users on the path, I don't see why everyone else should be made to move over to avoid inconveniencing a cyclist.  Perhaps we cyclists should slow down and pass when it's safe. Although courtesy on the path dictates that the peds move to the right, I don't think it's a rule.  You could use the exact same analogy on the road with cars and bikes to say that cyclists should move over to let cars go by.  Although I'll move over if it's safe to make it easier for overtaking cars to pass, I don't want it to be something that I have to do.

Rowbike Mike said:

 

It sounds like the response we want from pedestrians and others on the path is similar to what automobile drivers (should) do when an ambulance or fire truck is trying to get to an emergency - i.e., watch out for the vehicle that needs to get past you.  I wonder if the solution is to have, not a siren, but something that you can activate early enough, and which repeats a noise, so that people aren't caught off guard.  Maybe it's just as simple as continuously ringing a bell as you approach someone from behind to pass. 

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