On a lovely Friday morning, my run group was doing intervals at Coot Lake. A very cranky woman shouted at us that we did not belong there and she was not responsible if her dog took one of us out. A hot debate ensued with neither side satisfied with the outcome. The angry woman still believes that runners should not encroach on her trail and we still believe that as long as we are courteous, we can continue to run at Coot Lake.
Just yesterday, I was on the last few miles of a long run. I was delighting in the spectacular weather and admiring the mountain view as I ran along a popular dirt road toward the Boulder reservoir. I ran toward traffic as is customary. A cyclist was coming toward me. I expected her to move left as cars and cyclists usually do. She did not budge and screamed at me several times, “I am not moving over.”
I was confused and continued running. We came to a standstill when it was clear that neither of us was going to budge. She got off her bike and proceeded to screech, “You do not belong on the road. You should be running over there (she pointed to the heavily weeded ditch off the road).” I did not lose my cool, but I did explain that runners are allowed on the road and the ditch is filled with snakes anyway. Resolution was never achieved and I finally went around her. Given that there were a ton of runners out that morning, I wonder if she stopped and lectured at all of them.
Last week three cyclists in Boulder were hit head on by a car that swerved into their bike lane. The article that appeared in the Daily Camera outlining the details of the accident made it very clear that the cyclists were NOT at fault and the driver of the car was reckless. Nonetheless, the comment section was replete with people that clearly hate cyclists and used this incident to express their views even going so far as to blame the cyclists. There was an overwhelming theme that cyclists do not belong on the road.
There is so much anger and animosity between cars and cyclists, cyclists and runners, runners and walkers. Why? I am completely baffled that someone can become so enraged at a person they do not know who has done absolutely nothing other than occupy the same space.What mechanism compels a person to yell at a stranger?
There are no simple answers to living more harmoniously. Angry people will probably continue to be angry no matter what. But, I do think there are some steps that we can take as athletes to make things easier for all parties.At the very least, we can then say we did absolutely everything to avoid trouble.
1. Obey the rules of the road. Cyclists have a tendency to use red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs. If we wanted to be treated as a vehicle, we must act like one.
2. Single up when cars are coming. While it is legal in Colorado to ride two abreast, make it easier on the cars by singling up when they are trying to pass.
3. When using trails, be aware of the people around you. If on a bike, don’t speed around blind corners. Whether on a bike or running, let people know if you are passing. A simple “heads up” or “right behind you” alerts people that you are there and they usually appreciate the notice.
4. In Boulder, trail rules state: everyone yields to equestrians, bicyclists yield to pedestrians, and bicyclists headed downhill yield to bicyclists headed uphill. However, I often move to the side when the bikers come through as it easier for me to stop or move than it is for them.
5. Always give a wave or verbal thanks if someone does something you like. Positive feedback goes a long way.
6. Try not to use obscene gestures to express your anger. We are all guilty of losing our temper when someone does something that makes us feel threatened. Providing negative feedback will only make that person more apt to do something offensive again.
7. Pay attention to your surroundings. I am not a believer in wearing headphones while out on the road. It dulls the senses and makes quick reaction more difficult.
Look, I know that no matter how hard we try to co-exist with cars, bikes, runners or walkers there will always be hostility. I also know that there is plenty that cars can do to help us out, but that is a whole other post. The best thing we can do is to do our best to be considerate of each other.
Joanna Zeiger is a scientist, triathlon coach, and a world-class professional triathlete. You can read more of her thooughts on her most excellent blog Fast at Forty.