The Chicago lakefront path...
20+ miles of mostly uninterrupted trail that hugs along the lakefront for the sole use of pedestrians, runners, and bikers. In the city this is one of the only trails for people to enjoy and what I once thought was the safest place to run because it avoids contact with cars, buses, and manic taxi drivers. But this summer I have felt more so than ever in the 10 years I've been using the path that safe has become a relative term.
This summer I've seen:
- A runner that was knocked down by a cyclist where he was spread out on the pavement with blood gushing from his head.
- A biker that was cruising like madman without a helmet fly over his handle bars after loosing control of his bike. By the time paramedics came to his rescue he wasn't moving.
- Small children frantically darting across the path lacking any parental supervision or looking before they cross millimeters away from nailing a cyclist.
- Runners and plenty of walkers on the incorrect side of the path on heavy traffic days.
- Bikers off in lala land riding along merrily in the middle of the path weaving all over the place.
- Runners and walkers in large crowds taking over the entire path not leaving space for oncoming traffic to safely pass.
- A biker and a runner throwing punches at one another about who's fault it was when the biker clipped the runner with his handle bars.
- Walkers swinging their arms all over the place smacking people in the face as they pass. Actually I enjoy seeing this, keep this coming.
- People getting dive bombed by a very angry swooping bird.
Last week I was hit by a child that couldn't have been more than 7-8 years old as I was running with a plastic bat. He was walking on the incorrect side of the path swinging a blue bat, so I scooted over to avoid bumping into him. But as I passed he decided it would be funny to whack me with his bat to which I more than likely over reacted by calling him a "little s***" where his mother had no reaction whatsoever to the situation. I'm sure she would have had a reaction if I hit her son with that blue bat.
Then yesterday...oh gosh yesterday...
I thought it would be fun to bike all the way south to where the path ends, which is a 32 mile round trip from my home. Within the first 10 minutes as I was slowly crusing along on my fancy-schmancy Target Schwinn bicycle, I was slowly coming up on an older lady who was weaving from one side of the path to another. She almost looked like she was biking under the influence. I alerted her that I was approaching "on her left" to let her know that it would most likely be a good idea to bike in a straight line so we don't collide, where she than completely lost her mind. The woman somehow lost control of her wheels while spewing out every curse word from A-Z at me as she crashed to the ground. Thinking this woman was crazy, I continued on even though she spilled all over the pavement. Yes, I'm a model citizen.
|At the south end of the lakefront path, 71st street|
|Bend near the Shedd Aquarium|
As I was on my way home, I seemed to have gotten into a little tiff with another older woman on a rental bike as I spoke up notifying her that I was approaching "on her left". She seemed to have gotten offended that people kept passing her letting her know that she cannot be riding in the middle of the path, especially in the congested area she was in. Apparently she was under the impression that the lakefront trail was a free for all where safety rules don't exist.
My point is this...
As a user of the lakefront trail (or any trail for that matter) it was always my understanding that there was an unspoken code of conduct that all trail users need to comply with:
- Always stay to your right, just like the road.
- Notify persons when approaching from behind if you'd like to pass, and always pass on the left.
- Don't stand in the middle of trail. Especially if you have a baby stroller.
- Wear a damn helmet, even if it makes your hair look like a ratty mess.
- If you are operating wheels, don't have headphones in.
- Don't run in large clusters taking up the entire path.
- When someone says "on your left" it's not meant to demand you slow your pace and move over, instead it just means take a bit of caution because there are others on the path.
- Use common sense, you won't be the only one using the trail.
- Pedestrians will always have the right of way. Always.
I know we all do it, I'm guilty of running in the middle of the path during the winter months when I'm the only one out there or spacing out at times not realizing how much of the path I'm taking up. But I never get angry when someone says on your left, and realize that it's just a cautionary warning to stop being an idiot and think about the safety of others that are using this same shared space with me and shove over. However, my feelings are that if you can't comply to these rules and feel like you need to run on the wrong side of traffic or that it is impossible for you to scoot over for passing traffic, than you should lose your rights to the public space.
Opening the forum for path etiquette discussion here. Am I just being an uptight snooty city snob, or do other trails have this same problem?
Do you think that rules should exist for trail use?
In case you're wondering, the city of Chicago does actually have rules in place for the trail. If you're curious as to what they are, you can check them out here.