Another point of view on city's paths

Share this:
May 1, 2014 // UPDATED 4:27 pm - May 1, 2014
By: John Leaf
John Leaf

It’s commendable to identify so many different types of felons on foot right in our back yard. Ironically, I happen to be all of them and more. Many days, I’m what you’d call “the rabbit. " I train most days of the year and to some, I suppose the appearance alone is enough to deem me self-righteous and entitled. In reality, my mind-set on any given day floats from work to sports or nullity.

Some days I’m also a “plodder,” slogging through a tired-legged day and imagining the cold glass of Kool-Aid that awaits me when I get home. On high volume weeks, I’m the “cow-path cheater,” desperate to find a soft surface to alleviate my throbbing feet. Finally, I’m a biker, perhaps en route to work or an ice cream cone at the Pump House Creamery.

As a runner, I typically mind my business on the pedestrian path. I’m experienced enough to match the time of year and weather with the projected traffic flow around Calhoun. When it’s 65 and sunny in April, it’s obvious the lakes aren’t the best option for a group of athletes that generally prefer to train away from people.

There are times that I cross to the forbidden realm of the bike path, fully understanding the risks and my place in the pecking order. As many trials I’ve had on the lakes, there are always times when I’m surprised by traffic flow. Packs of extend-o-leash dogs and stroller caravans obstruct the paths to the point that I’d be safer taking my chances as a “rabbit” with the bikers. I was also plodding out on the bike paths yesterday the entire run; though at 38 and raining I didn’t see another soul. I occasionally run the prohibited paths for speed work as well. The only way to get in an effective cadence for 20-60 minutes is to avoid the masses and take my lot of occasional swears and lectures from angry bikers that must have struck a rock on their first lap around the smallish 3-mile lakes.

Let’s consider for a minute another city ordinance. PB7.5-10 states “No person shall propel a wheeled device at a speed greater than the maximum of ten (10) miles per hour on any pathway.” Perhaps you are a diligent follower of this rule and all of the other 11 ordinances related to pathway use. If this is true, then we will rarely meet. We are going roughly the same speed, thus ensuring our chances of encounter minimal.

If you are not, why is there a sudden hierarchy of ordinances that are more important to follow than others? I’m not advocating that all bikers should sustain a speed slower than 6 minutes a mile; rather I think we all could take a step back and look at it from a stance of common sense.

First and foremost, the paths around the lakes are in existence for recreation. If you are interested in swift bike routes for a workout, perhaps the Greenway, Cedar-Lake Trail, or Luce Line are the best fit. The lack of speed limit, rare pedestrians, and longer straight-aways will bring a smile to your face. If you are a runner that’s logistically closer to pace of the 10 mph posted bike path than the 2 mph Sunday strollers and the bike path is a choice for that day, stay to the side and keep alert. If you are plodding along the “cow path” no worries you’re not actually on the path and thus not breaking any rules. In fact, it’s at least a foot away from the bike path on nearly all lakes and in the rare case of contact bikers need only slightly pull their handlebar to the left to safely avoid you.

I wasn’t aware that a pedestrian died from a bike-pedestrian collision. It’s a sad reminder, but I fail to see how the right combination of a 20 mph cyclist and a 5 mph child fresh off her training wheels would end differently given the same type of crash. Awareness and common sense on all fronts could continue to stretch our 40-year drought of deadly biker/pedestrian accidents.

If we are to continue to “police” ourselves out on the lakes, let’s do so from a stance of understanding how our actions affect others. Stay vigilant and mindful of where you are on the paths and remind others to do the same. After all, ordinance PB7.5-4 states: “No person shall use pathways carelessly, recklessly, or heedlessly in disregard of the rights or the safety of others.”

John Leaf
CARAG