Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Aggressive riding on the W&OD trail

Is it just me or is there an increasing number of aggressive bike riders on the W&OD Trail lately? Cyclists who are either training or just want to go fast will pass too close without warning, and otherwise put other trail users in danger by their aggressive behavior. Is it because more people are using power meters or they are trying to beat times on Strava?

The trail is getting too crowded for this kind of behavior. We try to avoid the trail on busy summer weekends, but there aren't many safe routes between Reston and Vienna so we all to often end up using it. We've lost our cool too many times, yelling at rude, aggressive riders who are usually oblivious to their own behavior.

An example was on Sunday morning when I was bike commuting to work from Reston to Vienna. I approached a couple walking side by side coming toward me near the soccer fields. A cyclists was coming behind them, moving very fast as I approached. At the last minute the cyclist realized he couldn't safely make the pass, and instead of braking, he passed me on my right. As I came to a stop I yelled at him as did the cyclist behind me. He just kept going. When I got to work my coworkers and I traded stories of encounters with other aggressive riders.

On Saturday in the Vienna area, where the trail is narrower than other places, the trail was very crowded. As we were returning to Reston from running an errand in Vienna we were slowed behind a line of slower riders and walkers. Several riders behind us tried to pass as we signaled and pulled out to pass. The cyclist ended up off the trail on the gravel and barely managed to continue on. Another cyclist tried to pass on the right as we were passing the slower riders.

Is this kind of behavior getting worse? According to Bob Mionske, that seems to be the case in Portland where their bike facilities are also getting very crowded.
"I have so many friends who are suddenly regaling me with stories of fights on bikes," Mionske said. "Someone is riding along, someone else flies by them in an unfriendly way, words are exchanged and just like that, people are threatening each other with fisticuffs."

Mionske has certainly ridden his bike long enough to recognize some new trend in the way that cyclists related to one another. He was a member of the U.S. Olympic team, competing in the road race in both the 1988 and 1992 Games. In 1990, he was the United States national road-racing champion.

One place of particular concern seems to be the Hawthorne Bridge, a favorite among cyclists. Davis said typically it seems to be a case of one cyclist wanting to go fast, another wanting to go slower and and the two get into some sort of argument or finger-flipping contest.
We all need to show common courtesy to other trail users. We all have a right to be on the trail but we also have a responsibility to obey the trail rules and treat others with respect. Fast riders don't belong on the trail when it's crowded. If you want to go fast, use the road. If you're walking or running consider using the other W&OD Trail, the gravel sidepath that isn't over-crowded.

FABB continues to advocate for better on-road bike conditions in part to give cyclists an alternative to our overburdened trail system. We only have a very limited number of good bike facilities in the county, and those are being overused. Why not explore the county using the Fairfax County Bike Route Map or google map bike directions. And please, let's just all try to get along.

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Unfortunately, some of the boorish behavior also occurs on the roads or at the trail intersections with roads. I'm having an increasingly difficult time convincing my motorist friends that "not all cyclists" are scofflaws. I agree though, that on the trails it is particularly dangerous.
Saw similar behavior today. No warning when passing or turning.
We received the following comment that wasn't related to any identifiable blog post. We're assuming it belongs here. It was sent by the ever-present Anonymous:

As a 15 year member of the Reston Bike Club I both appreciate and share many of your concerns about the lack of concern that a minority of riders have for traffic stops and basic safety. I disagree with the assertion that the faster riders ignore the rules. In fact, the 1s and the 5s are the safest riders out there. I ride mostly with the 2 and 3 riders and that's where it gets dicey. Many riders are on the edge of hanging on and consider getting dropped akin to a complete life failure. They'll do anything to keep up, so double yellow lines get crossed, stop signs sometimes get blown, etc. RBC leadership has stepped up their awareness announcements, ride leaders have been assigned, and (most importantly) regroup points have been mandated. All of these things have helped a lot, but like in life, it's the few inconsiderate or clueless people who make it dangerous for us all by enraging motorists, creating dangerous situations for the other riders, etc. I think RBC is a great group but it needs to continually be thinking about safety. I am continually amazed that no one has been killed on one of our rides. Not to be an alarmist, but it's only a matter of time. RBC management needs to constantly and loudly make safety a core message and part of our culture.
I am tired of the aggressive cyclists who yell at me as I am walking my dog. I am tired of people yelling "control" and "leash length" when my dog is about as close as he can get to me walking and to be any closer I would have to carry him. Really rude. If cyclists want people to "share the road" with them they should show the same courtesy to walkers and joggers.

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