Danger on the Bike Trail

Sounds like a Nancy Drew title, doesn’t it? Or amaybe a Peg Kehret title. But no, this is not fiction. This is a true life account of dangers I have faced on the bike trails near my house.

And for my anonymous friend who doesn’t ride the bike trail because there are deer there, it’s true. I do see deer almost every time I ride the Clear Creek trail (in the morning anyway), but THEY ARE NOT A DANGER! I will concede that it’s POSSIBLE one might plow into me sometime, but until that actually happens to me or to someone I know, I am not listing deer as a danger on the bike trail.

I’m also not listing small children. Any decent rider should be able to see a small child from pretty far away and anticipate that the little person will in fact be right where you want to be when you want to be there. Well…small children have just as much right to use the bike trail as anyone else. And they don’t know to get out of the way, therefore I think it’s the cyclist’s responsibility to slow down and/or get out of the way. The cyclist can anticipate danger there.

My list includes dangers one might not necessarily anticipate ahead of time. For instance:

1) Snakes. I can hear my friend Laurie laughing at me…she would tell you snakes are NOT a danger, especially not where I live. She’d say snakes are more afraid of me than I am of them (though she has yet to actually PROVE this to me). But even if I give her the benefit of the doubt there, I still don’t like snakes. And I really don’t like snakes on the bike trail when I’m on the bike trail. And this is MY list of dangers, so I’m putting them on my list.

2) Rabbits. Rabbits are really dumb animals. They dart out of the bushes, stop, then turn around, leading you to believe you’ll be fine. But then at the last minute they’ll turn around again and race across the trail right in front of you. Last year a small rabbit actually ran between the spokes of my husband’s tire. While my husband was moving. It didn’t throw him at all, but I don’t know if the animal survived after it staggered off into the brush.

3) Rabid raccoons. Okay, I don’t know for sure that the raccoon I encountered early this summer was actually rabid or not…but the rider who flagged me down told me there was a rabid raccoon at the bottom of the hill I was approaching. He had seen the animal roll sideways down the hill. You don’t normally see raccoons out in the middle of a bright, sunny day. When I passed the raccoon, he was just lying there looking a little weird. So I’m just going to assume the other rider was right and the racoon was rabid.

4) People who walk down the middle of the trail and then when you call out, “on your left” they freak out and start flailing around yelling “I don’t know my right from my left!” which then gets the friend they’re with doing the same thing and you, the poor rider, don’t know where to go. (Note to trail walkers…(and I walk the trail just as often as I bike it!) IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR LEFT FROM YOUR RIGHT, DON’T WALK DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAIL! PICK A SIDE!!!!)

5) People who are thoughtful enough to walk along the edge of the trail, but then string their 20 foot dog leash across the ENTIRE trail because Sparky likes to chase the squirrels on the opposite side of the trail.

6) Guys who stop to pee a foot and a half off the trail. I understand that when you gotta go, you gotta go, but there’s something scary about a guy who has to go right THERE when there are plenty of trees and bushes to pee behind just three feet further, not to mention a Hy-Vee restroom about a half a mile off the trail.

7) People who just decide to stop in the middle of the trail for no apparent reason. (Well, no reason that is observable to those of us who are riding along behind you at about 15 mph.)

8) Clueless rollerbladers. (And I don’t mean ALL rollerbladers…some rollerbladers share the trail just fine…I’m talking about the CLUELESS ones who take up the entire trail and then have their music blaring so loud in their ears that they don’t hear you when you come up behind them and yell for the fourth time, “PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!!!!”

9) Guys who take up the whole sidewalk on Riverside Avenue (which, by the way, is a wide sidewalk and part of the trail system, so it’s okay to bike on the sidewalk there) on Game Day and don’t notice you coming or yelling “Excuse me” because they’re so busy throwing A BOTTLE OF SOME MYSTERIOUS LIQUID across the backed-up traffic on Riverside to their friends who are walking on the other side. Trust me, I was slowed almost to a stop by the time these guys finally noticed me, so I scared them WAY more than they scared me. (The one guy even apologized…but he ruined the whole thing by tacking a “Ma’am” on the end. Am I really old enough to be a Ma’am???)

But of all the dangers I’ve encountered on the trail, I think today’s really takes the cake:

10) Men with chainsaws who suddenly decide to back up across the trail while holding the chainsaw that’s STILL GOING behind their backs without bothering to make sure nobody’s coming! It is kind of amusing to frighten college students who are throwing bottles across the road, but I have no desire to frighten men with roaring chainsaws. Fortunately, we both survived.

And yet, despite the dangers of the trail, I still love a good, long morning ride!

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