Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bike Trail Code of Conduct

If the Minute Man Bike Trail is any indication, there are some fertile-ass people in the Arlington area. Why do I share these sweeping, borderline-offensive sentiments? Because on the first nice weekend of the spring (ie this coming weekend), the Bike Trail looks like tryouts for a children's circus. On such a day, every child in Middlesex county descends onto this 8-foot wide, 10 mile long strip of pavement, and it is hell on earth.

Some may say I'm exaggerating. They have obviously never ridden down the Bike Trail on a Saturday afternoon. If they had, I probably would have heard their "AMEN" from here. I don't particularly mind children, but trying to navigate around children on the bike trail is like playing 'hot potato' with Napalm. I don't have any children (to my knowledge), and I'm sure they are difficult to control, but this is why God invented the 'child-leash'. I understand this isn't practical on a bike, so if you MUST allow your spawn to roam freely on their 10-speed, make sure that they understand simple physics. By simple physics I mean inelastic collisions and the concept of 'proper braking distance'. Translated for the layman, "Make sure they know that if they get in my way I will not stop and I will crush them."

There are 3 types of bike-riding children on the bike trail, they are as follows in order of danger:

The Parasite

This is the best-case scenario when it comes to children on bicycles. The child is strapped in and unable to move. Tom Brady is a smart, courteous man (though he should be wearing a helmet), and he and his son can come on the bike trail any day. Of course, if you've ever seen the 'Daddy and Baby' skit from Jackass, you might think twice if you value your child's life.

The Sidewinder

This kid is cute, but he is a MENACE. He just graduated from training wheels and thinks he is hot shit. This kid realizes that having a bike means he can leave his parents/his sister/the cops in the dust, and he'll be damned if he touches the brakes. He pedals like Lance Armstrong on speed and has no interest in where he's going as long as it is as fast as possible. This inevitably means that every 3 seconds is punctuated with him realizing that he is about to die and jerking the handlebars the opposite direction. Reckless, but predictable.

The Pigeon

At first glance, the Pigeon appears to be the slower, docile cousin of the Sidewinder. That is until you are 10 feet behind them and they stop and look back at their parents for no reason whatsoever and you have to ride into a bush to spare their life. Sometimes they get off the bike entirely and leave it laying there. Other times they will attempt to walk their bike across the bike path, think better of it, and simply stand and wait. What I'm trying to express here is that they could not be any more unpredictable if they tried. I liken it to trying to catch a pigeon. You've picked your line, you have a bead on them and at the last second they turn the tables on you completely and you look like a fool.

The moral of the story here is never, ever, ever take your child on the bike trail. It looks serene, but then there are people like me who have no interest in leisure and use it as a speedway, and I REALLY don't want your child's blood on my hands (or on my new bike). I am convinced that if I am going to die on my bicycle, it will happen while valiantly trying to avoid some snot-nosed kid on the bike trail who got distracted by a butterfly rather than any combination of errant car door or drunk driver on Mass Ave. Please remember valiant for my epitaph.


  1. mike, mike...jofo here, with a little sarc to counter your snark:

    You have penned an amusing but ultimately typical anti-breeder rant, one that echoes countless hipsters and almost-hipsters before you. But beware of poetic justice: I've known many of these too-clever-by-half folks who ultimately end up raising exactly the kind of undisciplined, high-self-esteemed,screaming tots they once despised.

    And yes, as dad of a former parasite who is rapidly evolving from pigeon to sidewinder, I take a modicum of offense at your anti-breeder sentiments, but I also take some pleasure in them, if only in anticipation of the schadenfreude I know I will get to feel when the worm turns. It reminds me of all those young thin folks who roll their eyes at every overweight person who walks into mcdonalds, only to belatedly learn compassion twenty years down the line when they are unable to avoid the siren call of the combination kfc/taco bell even as their metabolisms slow and their own middles spread to farleyish proportions.

    One day, there just might be a lanky, blond, towheaded child who hates thom yorke, weeps every time he sees quentin tarantino's chin,truly believes that money grows on trees, vomits at the sight of mulligatawny soup, and rides his training-wheeled mongoose just fast enough to outpace you while wreaking biking havoc on everyone in his path.

    But really: where else but public parks and trails do you expect city kids to learn to ride? How do you expect those tykes to grow into the kind of devil-may-care,traffic signals-don't-apply-to-me speed-demons who are able to weave their self-centered asses in and out of traffic with enough skill to avoid the countless accidents and near accidents they inflict on cars and pedestrians?

    Ultimately, I do sympathize with your mixture of annoyance and concern, because the way you feel about young-uns weaving in and out of your way in the park is similar to how I feel about the cambridge cyclists who daily thumb their noses at the potential for death-by-my-hyundai: their lack of awareness (or practiced disregard) of the danger they put themselves in, combined with my fear of being the one to accidentally crush them, causes me that same kind of worry you described, the kind of worry that so easily morphs into to anger: I fear them, and for them, even as I resist the urge to run them off the road.

    So let's make a deal: you do your best to forgive the next toddler that suddenly parks his big-wheel directly in your path, and I'll keep my middle finger politely tucked where it belongs the next time a tatted-up vegan cuts me off in the midst of his best lance armstrong impression.

  2. I really liked jofo's post but I'll go one step further. Mike, you should not be riding your bike on the bike path at peak hours. You go too fast and YOU are the one being reckless. The bike path needs to be shared by everyone. I'm more in favor of some kind of informal mixed-use agreement where high-speed bicyclists stay of the path on weekends between 10am and 6pm and little kids stay off the rest of the time. This way they can have their Sunday strolls while commuters and people like us can speed along at 15-20mph.

    On a more practical note, the world is not filled with bike paths and you are not a child. Get used to riding on the roads. You can do ride the streets in relative safety if you are cautious and courteous.

  3. I obviously need to invest in the 'SarcMark' because my sarcasm is obviously lost on you people (maybe not you J-Fo).

  4. Hahahah, so "you people" just refers to me?

  5. You and any other dolts who take my Op-Ed posts seriously.

  6. The biggest offenders are the roots/pot holes that sneak up on you in off-shaded areas - esp when they didnt spray paint them...gosh.