I am lucky enough to regularly commute to work by biking 15 miles along a beautiful bike path next to lake Michigan in Chicago. Now that the weather is nice, however, the amount of traffic (bike, rollerblade, pedestrian) gets heavy, and at times is out of control on sections of the path. I am always amazed by the lack of courtesy and judgement shown by many of the folks who use this great resource. By the beaches, volleyball players congregate on the path to stand around and talk (even though the beach has plenty of room); rollerbladers, pedestrians and bikers tend to ride 2-4 people next to each other (partially or completely blocking the lanes); tourists gape at the beautiful skyline views and snap pictures from the middle of the path (rather than step onto the grass next to it); and through all of this, serious bikers with fast road or racing bikes go speeding through, passing and yelling and acting like the path is meant for them and them only.
I wish that there were more police on bikes who cruised around, kicking loiterers off of the path, asking people to ride single file when crowded, giving out safety brochures and, yes, making sure that folks slow down on crowded sections of the bike path.
On my way home yesterday, the path was blocked by an ambulance on a particularly busy section (north beach, by the volleyball courts). Lying face-down on the ground was a guy with a banged-up road bike and a woman in rollerblades whose eyes were closed. She was not moving at all, and the paramedics were kneeling over her. I only hope both people are OK, but it didn't look good. Earlier that day, a group of tourists blocked the path and wouldn't move even after repeated loud requests (that were polite -- at first) by myself and three other bikers attempting to pass. Eventually one of the bikers fell over after not getting her foot out of her clips in time, knocking over another biker. Instead of apologizing, the tourists laughed. I also barely avoided crashing into an unsupervised kid who decided to race his friend across the grass and directly across the bike path at the bottom of a small hill with a curve at the bottom. He apologized, but obviously these people just have never been told that there are rules to using the bike path, just as there are rules to the road.
And this was just one day.
Anyway, I just want to say that the way I see it, this IS a road of sorts, not a sidewalk nor a speedway. Yes, rollerbladers take up more space and pedestrians are slow, but it's important that serious bikers also take responsibility for sharing the path by doing things such as NOT biking fast on crowded sections even though you may be in training or trying to get to work or whatever. . .
I hate to think that people are incapable of taking responsibility for their own behavior, but maybe there need to be stricter (and better enforced) laws for using bike paths. Just a thought.
Happy (and safe) trails!