W&OD Rule #7

On the W&OD Trail website, under the tab “Safety,” there is a list of “Rules and Guidelines” for the safety of all users of this multi-use trail. The seventh item in the unnumbered list reads “Move off the trail when stopped.”

I was riding on the W&OD yesterday morning, going basically downhill toward S. Shirlington Road, where I turn around and go back as far as Bon Air Park, at which point I underpass I-66, follow side streets to Patrick Henry Drive, ride a loop through North Arlington, rejoin the bike trail at Little Falls Road, and head out to home.

Somewhere this side of Columbia Pike, cruising along at 18 mph or so, I approached a guy stopped astride his bike in the trail, blocking the entire lane on my side. He was on his phone, chatting away. Middle aged, red and black kit (as I recall), red hybrid (straight bar, fat wheel) bike. As I approached, a jogger was coming towards me in the other lane. I had just enough time to get by the stopped cyclist without risking an encounter with the jogger, and as I said “Passing on the left” I also added emphatically “Get off the trail,” thereby advising him of Rule #7. True, I did not say “please, good sir, in the future could you possibly consider parking your velocipede on the greensward whilst conversing on your device,” but at nearly 20 mph the message has to be delivered quickly, assertively, in monosyllables. I proudly invite the reader to observe that none of my additional monosyllables were four letters long.

The guy caught up with me at the long light at Columbia Pike, and he was livid. I was taken aback by his passion, having gotten a minor peeve off my chest in four words, and forgotten the incident by the time he arrived. He began with “If you can’t get around a stationary object on a wide open trail, you’re a pretty lame bike handler.” I tried to tell him there was a jogger coming up on me, but when he said “shut up” and went on it was clear that he had a monologue to deliver, and was not interested in dialogue. (I thought of pleading that my bike handling was probably no better then Chris Froome’s or Alberto Contador’s, but he likely wouldn’t have thought that was credible.) He went on to say that the bike trail is a place where people ought to be able to go to have fun and get away from tension, the words coming out of a face flushed and distorted with tension, betraying no sense of fun. My inner smart aleck felt like saying “that doesn’t seem to be working out so well for you this morning,” but I only said that if the jogger had been ten feet closer I would have had to stop, because he was blocking the lane. His reply was “t[oo] s[orry] if you did have to stop.” That confirmed to me that he was entirely self-absorbed, willing to regard the W&OD as his own private 40-mile-long asphalt open-air phone booth despite others’ possible inconvenience, while disregarding the Trail safety rules.

When he finished his piece the light still had not changed, so he got back on his phone (!). This time, though, he pulled off the trail to his right, so I figured my message had made some impact. Admittedly, had I added the single monosyllable “please” to my message I might have mitigated his reaction, but rightly or wrongly I judged the situation as requiring the imperative mood. The rest of my ride was safe, enjoyable, and tension-free.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2014.

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