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Old 07-12-05, 12:39 AM   #1
countrydirt
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What's so threatening about a bike?

Last week I had a new experience. I had ridden about 4 miles alongside the railroad tracks on an adjoining service road and decided to cut across the pasture(owned by a good friend who gave me permission to ride anywhere) about 1/2 mile to the county road and then ride about 5 miles back to my house. I carried my bike acroos the tracks and lifted it across the fence and was pausing to get a drink of water when a railroad worker comes along in his pickup and starts yelling at me. He wants to know what the he!! I am doing out there ( I am about 30 yards away from the tracks) I told him I rode down the service road and decided to cut over to the county road rather than ride back up the service road. So he yelps at me to stay off "my" service road and to "get on that county road" - which is where I am headed anyway.

I tried to understand his concern. I am fully aware of the hightened security concerns with 9/11 and 7/7, but for crying out loud, I live 50 miles from the nearest city. It is his job to make certain the tracks are safe for the coal and freight trains that use the tracks, so maybe he was really concerned that I was a terrorist. As I bounced through the pasture and over to the county road and then back home on the gravel, I was struck by how some folks are really threatened by bicyles and us feeble minded folks who ride them.

I would love to hear others' thoughts about this philosophical question: What is so threatening about a bike or a bicylist?
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Old 07-12-05, 12:52 AM   #2
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Because a bicyclist is "different"
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Old 07-12-05, 01:46 AM   #3
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Railroad ppl get all kinds of crazies (google "trolley jollies" and "foamers" and railfans to see) and all kinds of people who lack the common sense to stay off the friggin' tracks. Besides, any time some damn thing can fly off a passing train and nail you, or something, it's not the bike, it's the BS railroad ppl have to deal with, they deal with a lot of strange and lacking-in-common-sense people.
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Old 07-12-05, 05:01 AM   #4
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Hmmm...well any man that can walk into a store in full spadex is a threat. Wait a man that can go any where in full spadex is a threat.

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Old 07-12-05, 07:40 AM   #5
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Riding along railroad property is trespassing. The railroads don't want to have to deal with cyclists, pedestrians, ATVers, etc riding along the tracks. It's primarily a safety issue but also to prevent vandalism to switches, signals, etc.

It's not so much a 9/11 thing. It's been this way a long time. Best to stay off of railroad property.
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Old 07-12-05, 09:50 AM   #6
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There must be a right of way distance involved. So if you see someone you can get 50 or so feet away from the nearest track and you are likley good. I thing "take charge" kind are pretty sad. They lack any significant power so like to assert them selves in this type of situation. I've seen this type get out and begin to direct traffic or tell a woman how to park without being asked.

I thought that a good post 911 job would be bikeing the rail and texas eastern pipelines. I do see rails as a week link in our security-- what if some terorist blew up a few tankers of xanthem gum? We could go days with out potato chips or cookies.
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Old 07-12-05, 09:53 AM   #7
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From my experience, most railroad security people are dicks. He would have been just as mad if you were not on a bike.
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Old 07-12-05, 10:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thelung
From my experience, most railroad security people are dicks. He would have been just as mad if you were not on a bike.
Beware the railroad dicks.

HOBO

A hobo was a homeless, jobless, footloose man who traveled from place to place by illegally hitching rides on freight trains (called "hopping freights") or who took to the open road, thumbing rides to get from one place to the other. Hoboes were especially numerous during the years of the Great Depression when jobs were scarce, and there is much folklore surrounding them and their activities. However, hoboes have been around since the 1800s.

Hoboes were sometimes violent. Most drank, fought and gambled prodigiously. Sometimes a group would get into a drunken brawl over a gambling slight and one of their number would be murdered. Erwin, Tennessee, was the location of one of the most notorious of the hobo jungles (meeting places for hoboes) in the South. Located beside the Clinchfield Railroad tracks, about a mile from a huge railroad yard, this hobo jungle was adjacent to Jobe Cemetery. So many hoboes were killed there during drinking and gambling bouts that the "ghosts of a hundred murdered men" are rumored to haunt Jobes. The place was so infamous, in fact, that the local kids used to hide in bushes near the cemetery to get a glimpse of whatever ghost might float by.

Hoboes were to be avoid at all costs by solid citizens. Railroad dicks, or guards employed by the railroad, were always on the lookout for hoboes and most trains were thoroughly inspected upon entering a freight yard. Boxcars, because they were enclosed and offered protection against inclimate weather, were an especially favored mode of transport by hoboes and these were given special attention by the dicks.

If a hobo was found, the railroad detectives were none to gentle with him -- sometimes clubbing him into semi-consciousness with the hefty stick they habitually carried. Sometimes the dicks would turn to hobo over to the sheriff or, if they felt especially charitable, they would run the freeloader out of town. If a hobo managed to elude the railroad detectives, then they would fan through town, going from door to door asking to do menial jobs in exchange for a meal or a few pennies. Occasionally a hobo would rob his benefactor and, for this reason, local law enforcement officials tried to intercept them outside of town and forcefully suggest that they keep right on moving. Sometimes if the hobo was very hungry he would resist arrest, knowing full well that this behavior usually yielded a night in a warm jail cell, a bed, and a meal or two in his belly.

The end of the Depression, and the advent of World War II (with its increased opportunities for employment in war factories, not to mention the draft), ended the heyday of the hobo.
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Old 07-12-05, 11:52 AM   #9
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Railroad right of way varies on each side from 10 feet at the nearest to a whopping 100 feet. Typically you can assume you're ok at 30 feet from the edge of the clear cut area next to the tracks. It's a combination of safety and spark (fire) issues.

In most cases railroad workers don't worry about hikers or cyclists unless there is imminent danger. People have been walking the tracks as long as there have been tracks.

Now, since you were in a semi-extream rural location, I bet there's something else going on. My guess is that you were too close to his pot patch and he was worried about you finding it... Next time you're out there, have a look around. First for anyone else then for anything out of the ordinary...
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Old 07-12-05, 12:00 PM   #10
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He could just be a little frightened and overcautious after the London attack recently.
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Old 07-12-05, 12:37 PM   #11
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Nothing threatening about the bicycle. As you noted, there is increased security along railroad tracks, but more importantly the railroads have had to face serious liability issues along their rights of way. It is private property, and our unfortunately litigious society has forced them to be very very protective.
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Old 07-12-05, 08:42 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by countrydirt
Last week I had a new experience. I had ridden about 4 miles alongside the railroad tracks on an adjoining service road and decided to cut across the pasture(owned by a good friend who gave me permission to ride anywhere) about 1/2 mile to the county road and then ride about 5 miles back to my house. I carried my bike acroos the tracks and lifted it across the fence and was pausing to get a drink of water when a railroad worker comes along in his pickup and starts yelling at me. He wants to know what the he!! I am doing out there ( I am about 30 yards away from the tracks) I told him I rode down the service road and decided to cut over to the county road rather than ride back up the service road. So he yelps at me to stay off "my" service road and to "get on that county road" - which is where I am headed anyway.

I tried to understand his concern. I am fully aware of the hightened security concerns with 9/11 and 7/7, but for crying out loud, I live 50 miles from the nearest city. It is his job to make certain the tracks are safe for the coal and freight trains that use the tracks, so maybe he was really concerned that I was a terrorist. As I bounced through the pasture and over to the county road and then back home on the gravel, I was struck by how some folks are really threatened by bicyles and us feeble minded folks who ride them.

I would love to hear others' thoughts about this philosophical question: What is so threatening about a bike or a bicylist?

Nothing. These people have serious anger issues and somehow have put it into their heads bicyclists are at fault and an easy target. Maybe the fact that we are usually alone and on a bike, exposed gives enbolds them. My friends and I were yelled at by a psycho Medusa in a car because we were walking our bikes across the road. Someone else yelled racial slurs. Any of these sick people may be planning an attack on a cyclist and are just waiting for the right opportunity. It scares me to ride. I definetely do not ride alone.
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Old 07-12-05, 09:18 PM   #13
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I don't think this is about bikes, just more post 9-11 paranoia.

Recently a friend and I were riding ATVs along side some tracks in Pennsylvania when a railroad cop told us to clear off and not come back. When I was a kid, I used to ride my Yamaha DT along railroad tracks all the time and I can't recall a single instance of being told to leave.

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to go target shooting in the swamp next to the Jersey Turnpike near Giants Stadium. I'm sure if anyone were seen with a firearm in that local today, they'd be promptly hosed down by a helicopter gunship.

The world has changed a lot in the past few years -- and not in good way.
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Old 07-12-05, 09:42 PM   #14
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Hey! Get get your hobo bike outta here....
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Old 07-12-05, 09:52 PM   #15
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It's amusing to read all the comments here about "authority" types. We've had a rash of of people killed by trains in my area, and the push is on to blame the railroads for stupid people getting run over. Faced with this, it's no surprise the railroad workers push for people to be off the right of way.
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Old 07-13-05, 06:02 AM   #16
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When I was a stupid adolescent back in the 60's, we would occaisionally hop the trains running through Alexandria, VA for a free ride into DC. It was not the cost of the bus ride that made us do it, but rather that "dare ya" thing stupid boys get into. We finally were caught and made to view some very graphic photos of what happens when a train and a human body clash. I never hopped a train again. The guy yelling at you was just doing his job. Keeping the rail lines free of potential trouble.
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Old 07-13-05, 09:36 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supcom
Riding along railroad property is trespassing. The railroads don't want to have to deal with cyclists, pedestrians, ATVers, etc riding along the tracks. It's primarily a safety issue but also to prevent vandalism to switches, signals, etc.

It's not so much a 9/11 thing. It's been this way a long time. Best to stay off of railroad property.
Supcom is right. It is there property and there is a variety of reasons they don't want people on it. It has been that way long before the 9/11 attacks and probably won't change. The railroad company basically is trying to avoid vandalism, possibly sabotage, but primarily liability if somebody is too stupid or crazy to get out of the way of a train.

I have been asked to get off railroad property when trying to get to good fishing spots. My father has too, but he just happened to know a bigshot at the railroad and got him to send him a pass and a master key to all the gates. I used to walk along the tracks a lot anyway, and rarely do you see an employee. It was always pretty easy to hear the RR employees coming and hide in the weeds until they passed. As an adult I wouldn't do that because it makes your presence that much more suspicious if you are noticed.

On a couple of occasions when I was young I ran into railroad employees that were very nice and friendly. They didn't seem to care if there were a bunch of kids bumming around, they just told us not to get hit by trains.
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Old 07-19-05, 09:04 AM   #18
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Saying you "carried my bike acroos the tracks" have you considered he would have been yelling at you for your own safety and had nothing to do being an bike rider or the service road could have been railway property?

And do you think he wouldn't yell at someone just walking across the tracks?

Last edited by kwv; 07-19-05 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 07-19-05, 07:52 PM   #19
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=v= Sheer velophobia. Usually there's no adequate explanation for a bike ban, so the rent-a-cop or other wannabe authority figure will make allusions to post-9/11 security.

Last edited by Jym Dyer; 09-13-05 at 11:16 PM.
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Old 07-19-05, 10:04 PM   #20
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Paranoia may destroy ya. (Although usually it's a good thing.)

The RR dick's reaction had absolutely nothing to do with either cycling or 9/11 backlash. The RRs have always, since the 1850s, been very protective of their right of ways. There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been mentioned here. Historically, the RRs fought long, hard and dirty for this property, and they're not about to give up their "rights" to it.

Countrydirt, you got off pretty easy. In most areas, there are especially harsh laws that specifically prohibit trespassing on RR property. And the RR companies do employ their own police forces (the dicks) to enforce this. Recently, I was spectating in a district court and an elderly alcoholic fellow got 30 days in jail for trespassing on RR property.

Scarry--thanks for the cool little essay about the hoboes. They still exist! I see them occasionally when I stop to take a leak in the deep woods alongside our River Trail. Last summer they found one floating dead in the Red Cedar River, so I guess they have kept their violent ways.
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