On this morning’s walk I came within a whisker of being struck by a bicycle.
It happened on one of the darkest parts of the leisure path, where there are no street lights. The cyclist didn’t have a headlight. I could see him because there was a dim red light on the back of his bike, but he apparently didn’t see me. I moved to the right edge of the path, but he kept veering inexorably over in my direction. I’m guessing he was fiddling with his gear or water bottle and wasn’t paying attention; I’m fairly confident no one has put out a bicycle hit on me. Finally, I trotted off the leisure path to get out of his way, and the sudden movement got his attention. He said “Sorry!” as he righted his bike and went whizzing past, and I emerged from the encounter unscathed, with only an adrenalin surge to remember him by.
There’s always been an uneasy truce between cyclists and walkers on leisure paths and sidewalks. Bicycles move much faster than pedestrians, of course, and it’s unnerving to hear cyclists shout “On your left!” from behind you before they go flying by. When I see cyclists weaving though the people on the path, I’m tempted to think that the path should be reserved for walkers and joggers. Then I remember that I ride my bicycle on the path, too, because it’s a great ride — a smooth path, unhindered by stop signs or cars that drive too close, with a cool tunnel, little hills to get the blood pumping, and long coasting runs. It’s perfect for cycling, just as it’s perfect for a brisk, head-clearing morning walk.
There’s no reason why cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers can’t share the leisure path, day or night or early morning. But the cyclists need to really pay attention, especially when it’s dark outside. Having a light on the front of the bicycle would help, too.
There are morning walkers, and then there are morning joggers. Walkers uniformly greet each other with a hearty “good morning!” Some joggers, on the other hand, just . . . wave.
Actually, calling it a wave isn’t all that accurate, because there’s no side-to-side motion. It’s just a flip of the wrist and showing of the open palm, as if the jogger wanted to demonstrate that he isn’t carrying a knife or revolver. It’s like the hand that appeared above the head of Paul McCartney on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, which was supposed to be another of the clues demonstrating that McCartney was killed in a car crash. No wonder the joggers’ wave doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of my heart.
I’m not quite sure why the joggers’ wave bugs me. It’s a bit embarrassing to say hello and get the joggers’ wave in return, but that’s not the only issue. It’s like the joggers who do the flip wave think they are better than the walkers, because they’re moving faster and they wear spiffy jogging outfits and have bottles of water hooked at their beltlines, whereas the walkers look like they’ve just rolled out of bed. The joggers are willing to condescend to acknowledge the existence of the ant-like walkers — so far below the Olympian joggers — but they don’t want to be too familiar and encourage too much unwanted interaction.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe the joggers just don’t want to let the walkers know that they are so gassed they can’t say hello without gasping for air. Maybe they can barely summon the energy to do their lame excuse for a wave without stumbling to the side of the road and sprawling on the grass.
I’ll think of that happy thought the next time I’m walking the dogs, say hello, and have to endure another desultory joggers’ wave.
The New Albany Walking Classic is a nice event that helps make New Albany a fine place to live. I’m a walker, and I’m all for encouraging people to walk more. Still, I think there are kinks to be worked out. Our neighborhood, North of Woods, always is penned in by these events. If you try to engage in some normal weekend suburban act — like driving your car — while the event is underway you are either blocked entirely or subjected to angry glances from participants as you try to navigate on what are supposed to be public roads.
Today the Classic started at 9 a.m., so I left home to drive to the New Albany Country Club at 8:50, even though my tee time wasn’t until 10:10. I wanted to leave plenty of time to spare. Although I made it out of my neighborhood okay, I was blocked at one point by an earnest Boy Scout troop leader who tried to prevent me from driving to the golf club even though there was no walker within miles. After I made it to the golf course they sent us off on the east nine, which required us to move through the teeth of the walkers and then play past some acid rock guitar group that was playing heavy metal at ear-splitting volume. I’m sure the music helped motivate the walkers, but how about some consideration for the golfers — or for that matter, for the neighbors who would like to spend a quiet Sunday morning in their backyards?