My Turn: Etiquette on the path: ‘Yield to Wheels’
August 5, 2007
After several weeks of traversing and maneuvering through the pedestrian obstacle course that is our Tahoe City bike path, I feel impelled to share a simple truth: Bike path is not synonymous with sidewalk.
It’s true, I know it hard to believe, but it is called the “bike path” primarily because it was put there for bikers. In fact, read the signs, they are truly posted, and even provide pictures for those who can’t read, “Yield to Wheels.”
Which leads me to the question, how can a walker yield to something he or she is not facing? I try to explain, the bike path is not like a sidewalk, with the flow of pedestrian traffic dependent upon right-side walking. In actuality, it is like a road: The bikes are cars, walk on the left.
I say this to people, remembering how my Pops once instilled the rules of the road in my preteen mind, after a close call, that you should face the cars so that, if need be, you can jump out of the way rather than get careened from the backside without ever knowing what hit you.
The simplicity of this logic gets lost when I say this to people and am amazed by the blank looks I receive followed by two questions, “You are supposed to face cars? Does it really make a difference?”
The answer to both is yes.
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The dictionary defines yielding as “giving up or relinquishing.” As in, relinquish your spot on the path when you see a biker; in other words, get out of the way.
I write this with everyone’s safety in mind. I swear my mantra for patience and peace at the end of a 20-minute bike ride that used to be five is helping, but having slow-moving backwards turned pedestrians who holler at me for unintentionally riding too fast up on them or surprising them around a corner, something that creates in me a mixture of concern and glee, is motivating. It is somewhere around that point on my ride that I begin my thought process, repeating something I am beginning to think is a mirage, “Yield to Wheels.”
It isn’t my responsibility to move in and out between walkers, though I do it everyday, it is their’s. A wise move on the “Yield to Wheels” sign posters, given people on foot have more agility to alter their path than a forward moving vehicle on two wheels. Although, I am getting pretty dodgy.
I have tried to ignore and adapt to this problem, it isn’t working: As most bikers attempt in this town (Bless and protect the road bikers ” at 25-35 mph a pedestrian I merely cruise past would be toast. Food for thought: bikes move fast, people don’t.) I have, from time to time, taken to the road as a “car” where, hugging the shoulder, fearing for my life, I have experienced the near skinning caused by motorists traveling warp speed through the 25-mile-an-hour zone called Tahoe City, who, angry that I am not on the bike path bobbing and weaving through people, have decided it is their job to teach me a lesson they think I have missed: I’m not a car.
No kidding, I’m saving lots of money on gas, passing you in a traffic jams, but, okay already, I get the point.
Then there are my bouts as a slowly creeping “pedestrian,” a legal option as long as I move at the speed of the people, courteously weave in and out and remember, cars aren’t looking for me from the right, so always pause at corners and driveways. Not that my understanding this has made me friends with anyone along this route. Cars are miffed for glancing at me peripherally, even though I’m not moving, people get scared and jump as if their life depended upon it (And why doesn’t this happen on the bike path?), even though I am teetering between moving and stopping.
Until, alas, I return to the mishmash of the bike path; where I envision the perfect ride for the cruiser. One where people walk on the left, one to two people across instead of in a chain gang, actually looking for oncoming traffic and yielding so that (Oh, happy day) my 20-minute bike ride is truly what it is meant to be ” five.
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