Sunday, August 05, 2007

Long Weekend Cycling is Dangerous

It's true! Last year, on this exact same long weekend, I found myself dodging banana peels flung from cars. This year? Ah, we'll get to that momentarily.

One of the routes that I ride on takes me right on by Bronte Creek Provincial Park. Along with the campgrounds located on the far side of the park, there is also a day-use area that opens to visitors at 8AM. En route to pass the Day Use Entrance, I could see a mess of cars parked on the gravel shoulder of the road, waiting to enter the park and get their Civic Holiday Weekend Day Party on.

The stretch of Bronte Road that borders the park is an excellent, straight, flat stretch of street - perfect for a sprint. However, the thing about road riding is that you're always constantly on the look out for things that might go wrong in the path ahead of you. So, the need to sprint, and 10 or so cars parked on both sides of the road. The only solution? Start gaining speed, and flip from aware to hyper-aware, and begin to anticipate the possibilities and plan reactions to all of them.

In front of one of the cars on the right side of the road stood a couple, talking, cups of coffee in-hand. In fact, they stood, talking, on the line where gravel shoulder turned into paved road. And in my head, I could see them make the decision to step onto the pavement, and cross the street.

Real life was a little different. As I hurled myself down the road at 40 km/h, I saw the woman step back, away from the road. And the man, he took a step forward. And then another. And stopped. And took a sip o' joe. And stood there, feet firmly planted, looking everywhere but in the direction of on-coming traffic.

Have I ever told you about how much I hate to yell? Passionate, passionate dislike. Avoid it whenever I can.

I yelled. I yelled, "WATCH OUT!"

The man slowly swivled his head, and a huge, shit eating grin spread across his face as he slowly stepped back onto the shoulder of the road as I zipped by. First thing that flew through my mind? Someone got an early start on the drinking.

Although I didn't look back to see what happened after, Jason, my brother, was riding a bit behind me. When he caught up at our usual slow-down-and-hydrate stretch of road, he told me that the lug of a man had immediately stepped BACK onto the road. And gave him the same ear to ear smile when Jason, more eloquent then I, shouted, "Get the fuck out of the road!" as he came up to his position.

Roads are the new sidewalks. Who knew?

Do you like how I made a complete non-event sound all crazy dangerous? It's a gift.


Peter said...

When I'm out for one of my regular jaunts along the Martin Goodman, I try to preemptively handle as much as I can with my bell (Incredibell brand).  A runner seemingly unaware of his environment who I'm about to pass, one medium volume respectful ding.  2L plastic Coke bottle-carrying picnicker about to cross trail without looking, a steady stream of loud dings.  Don't like what someone's wearing?  Ding!

But clearly, yours was no bell job.  Not being much of a yeller myself, I'd love to have a button-activated recording of your brother fastened to my handlebars for those sorts of situations.  And maybe a taser.  

40 km/h?  You are fast, like wind.

Melissa said...

Peter, you are a man after my own heart! I think you'd love what the City of Chicago has done with their waterfront for cyclists and runners. When I was running along the lake, all I could do was stare at all the cyclists and wish that I had been able to bring my bike along!

Peter said...

How'd you know I was after your heart?? Hey, maybe you need one of these (Wiki). They seem pretty popular in the UK right now, and they fold small enough to take on airplanes. I've heard great things about Chicago's waterfront from several different sources now, although it's hard to imagine an urban waterfront being a runners'/cyclists' paradise without the charm of a Gardiner Expressway RIGHT beside it!

Melissa said...

I feel like Ron Popiel is behind the folding bike. And that scares me a little. Pocket Fisherman! GLH Formula #9! The folding bike!

Peter said...

You mean there's a Formula #9 now?? Good - this #8 crap keeps coming off in my bicycle helmet!