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Old 09-09-08, 11:57 PM   #1
Tom Bombadil
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Surprised on Rail Trail

I've commented here many times about the simplicity on riding on my local rail trails, where the usage is very light - to the point of sometimes riding 20+ miles without passing another biker or walker. Thus I haven't had the problems that many people report on busy MUPs.

The other day I'm out for a ride, and being a beautiful day, there are more than normal trail users. Still well short of busy, but over every 5 miles I'm seeing about 6-8 people. Nearly all of them being recreational trail riders, with small kids or older couples out for a relaxing ride.

So I'm riding along, heading for home, just a couple of miles to go. I see a walker up ahead of me, a good half-mile from me, walking in the same direction as I'm traveling. I gradually come up on her. She's hanging on the right edge of the trail, walking a very straight line. No headphones on. My tires are crunching through the gravel. Walkers without headphones always hear me on these trails. Hard to sneak up on someone.

I pull out on the left and start to announce my pressure by calling out "Passing" as I almost always do. But for some reason, I don't bother. It seemed pointless, as I was making enough noise and she had been hugging the right lane for as long as I had seen her.

So right as I go to pass her, when I'm about 10' behind her, without looking, she steps directly to her left, into the left lane and directly into my path. I was shocked. I yell "Watch Out", squeeze both brakes, both tires skid briefly on the gravel, then I hard cut to my right, and start pedaling. Somehow I barely miss hitting her. I continue to fight for control of the bike for a couple of secs & then regain it and begin pedaling normally.

She yells out from behind me ... Sorry, I didn't hear you! But I was so focused on getting control of the bike, and in dealing with my irritation for her stepping in front of me, that I didn't say anything back. That is so unlike me. A few seconds later I wished that I had, but at the time, I had no words for her. I would have said that I should have made sure she knew I was there, but that she should also look before she changes lanes on a bike path. At least I didn't curse her.

My lesson learned is ... despite every factor suggesting that it was safe to pass, don't assume that you shouldn't make sure they know you're there. I should have said "Passing." And I should mount a little bell on my bike to make a more distinct noise. I had one on there, but it jingled as I rode over gravel, so I took it off.
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Old 09-10-08, 01:28 AM   #2
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Your point is well taken.............no matter how many times you pass pedestrians (or anyone else including bikers), sooner or later they will do something completely unexpected.

All persons and things on a country MUP are living in their very own personal world. So are we. It is really common to be unaware of others at times...........the pretty flower, an animal sighting. Sometimes its us as a faster bicycle closes from behind and passes.
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Old 09-10-08, 06:02 AM   #3
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No rail-trails around here, but when I did live near them, I would always announce when I was passing. One thing I noticed-a lot of people must not know their left from their right-I'd announce "passing on your left", and have had many step to the left!
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Old 09-10-08, 06:11 AM   #4
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No rail-trails around here, but when I did live near them, I would always announce when I was passing. One thing I noticed-a lot of people must not know their left from their right-I'd announce "passing on your left", and have had many step to the left!
Say "Passing." Automatically, folks in the USA know that passing is done on their left, and move right.

Another thing (it happened to me yesterday) is that, after giving your warning - bell, voice - whatever - kids (and sometimes adults) will look over their left shoulder and while looking, actually pull left into one's path, while trying to see what is behind them.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 09-10-08 at 06:27 AM.
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Old 09-10-08, 06:15 AM   #5
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Another thing (it happened to me yesterday) is that, after giving your warning - bell, voice - whatever - kids (and sometimes adults) will look over their left shoulder and actually pull left, while looking, into one's path while trying to see what is behind them.
+1

Paths are scary; people on them (riders, roller bladers, kids, people walking dogs) are completely unpredictable.
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Old 09-10-08, 06:18 AM   #6
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Pedestrians are like squirrels - no traffic laws apply to them and in fact they don't seem to have any perception of them; only the illusion that they do. Never count on a pedestrian being predictable.
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Old 09-10-08, 06:40 AM   #7
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For whatever reason, people who are right-handed (the majority) almost always, when surprised by a noise from behind, will look over their left shoulder. I've read that successful fighter pilots in WWI and WWII took advantage of this by, whenever possible, attacking from behind and below on the right side.

Of course there's always that one left-handed iPod-using jogger that'll get ya every time!
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Old 09-10-08, 06:42 AM   #8
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For whatever reason, people who are right-handed (the majority) almost always, when surprised by a noise from behind, will look over their left shoulder. I've read that successful fighter pilots in WWI and WWII took advantage of this by, whenever possible, attacking from behind and below on the right side.

Of course there's always that one left-handed iPod-using jogger that'll get ya every time!
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Say "Passing." Automatically, folks in the USA know that passing is done on their left, and move right.

Another thing (it happened to me yesterday) is that, after giving your warning - bell, voice - whatever - kids (and sometimes adults) will look over their left shoulder and while looking, actually pull left into one's path, while trying to see what is behind them.
Yep!

Glad we agree.
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Old 09-10-08, 06:49 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox View Post
Say "Passing." Automatically, folks in the USA know that passing is done on their left, and move right.

Another thing (it happened to me yesterday) is that, after giving your warning - bell, voice - whatever - kids (and sometimes adults) will look over their left shoulder and while looking, actually pull left into one's path, while trying to see what is behind them.
+1

Kids seem to be the most unpredictable on the paths. I always slow down to a snail's pace when passing them
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Old 09-10-08, 06:49 AM   #10
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I am glad no one was harmed and you were able to recover safely.

My wife and I ride a MUP that makes connection to two additions we ride as part of our 10 mile ride each evening. As the sun is setting earlier, we have been riding earlier and encountering more traffic.

Always announce "on your left" and if two or more even include our number as well, [2 on your left] when prepping to pass.

Last night approached a couple walking same direction and a jogger approaching, with no room to pass we slowed, made them aware we were behind, and waited for the jogger to clear, then from behind, no sound no announcement, a person in mid thirties on MTB shoots past us and just clears the jogger because the folks in front of us had just stepped of the path.

Every one looked shocked and then to me, and I say "he is not with us".

I wanted to chase him down but my wife said to leave it be... So I did as she requested.
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Old 09-10-08, 07:01 AM   #11
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I think walkers that aren't regulars on the trail hear "uwr LEFT" and move left. Just "passing" "passing through" or "good morning" works for me.

I use "on your left" for riders in my same group ride.
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Old 09-10-08, 07:32 AM   #12
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The trouble is that the walkers/joggers now basically all have iPods if they are out alone. I always call out; they never hear me. This is now just a crap shoot. And, I just shiver when I see CYCLISTS on a MUP (or anywhere, really) also with the iPods on. Death wish.
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Old 09-10-08, 07:35 AM   #13
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The passing on the left is the norm in most areas of the US. But you could live here in the middle of NASCAR country, where everyone thinks that when you tell them that you want to pass, then it is time to step (pull) in front of you in an attempt to block so they can win. You see that here whether they are driving a car or just walking thru the Mall.
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Old 09-10-08, 08:06 AM   #14
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Good point, Tom. My little Incredibell is silent unless I ping it.

I always give them a ding or two, and also announce, sometimes by saying a simple good morning.
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Old 09-10-08, 08:32 AM   #15
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Knock, knock!
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Old 09-10-08, 09:13 AM   #16
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In our area it is required that bikes using a MUP also have a bell. I usually ping it a few times about 100 ft out (just within what I judge to be earshot) to give people plenty of time to react.

I also think that there is a certain fraction of the population that will walk in front of you unexpectedly in order to satisfy some unknown psychological need (albeit unconcious).
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Old 09-10-08, 09:27 AM   #17
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If you don't have a bell, you could warn like a pirate: "Aye, me maties! Passing on yer left! Ignore at yer own peril...arrrrrrrgh!
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Old 09-10-08, 09:27 AM   #18
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The passing on the left is the norm in most areas of the US. But you could live here in the middle of NASCAR country, where everyone thinks that when you tell them that you want to pass, then it is time to step (pull) in front of you in an attempt to block so they can win. You see that here whether they are driving a car or just walking thru the Mall.


To carry the NASCAR analogy further, maybe people are expecting to have their own personal "spotters" the way NASCAR drivers do. If we all had two-way radios in our ears, with a spotter up in the sky, we could have folks telling us what to do in advance of a colllision.
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Old 09-10-08, 09:53 AM   #19
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Now, there's an idea with merit!
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Old 09-10-08, 09:57 AM   #20
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To carry the NASCAR analogy further, maybe people are expecting to have their own personal "spotters" the way NASCAR drivers do. If we all had two-way radios in our ears, with a spotter up in the sky, we could have folks telling us what to do in advance of a colllision.
That only works on MUPs with all left hand turns.
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Old 09-10-08, 10:01 AM   #21
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If I had a NASCAR mentality, I would have put her into the ditch.
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Old 09-10-08, 10:18 AM   #22
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My wife is hard of hearing in her left ear and its really hard for her to hear a lot of the time such as when we are riding and she gets noise from the air moving past her helmet. Even when she has her hearing aid in place she has tones and db ranges she still doesn't recieve. I have tried to impress upon her to check the mirror frequently but she still gets the occasional surprise.
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Old 09-10-08, 10:27 AM   #23
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Okay, one more time.

Knock! Knock!
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Old 09-10-08, 10:37 AM   #24
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OK, I give up -----

"Who's there?"
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Old 09-10-08, 10:55 AM   #25
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