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Trail Talk: Letters from Green Bay

Betsy and Sal talk discuss dog walking and cycling etiquette on one of the North Shore's more popular trails.

Dear Betsy and Sal,

Nothing makes me angrier than bikers speeding by on the Green Bay Trail. Let met be clear. I don’t hate all people who ride their bicycles on the Trail, just the ones who race by at top speeds and weave through walkers as if we were orange cones on an obstacle course. You rude cyclists know who you are. You refuse to alert us walkers that you are coming up behind us, and you are unaware that as you skim by at lightning speed, we grab one another for dear life, retreat to the “shoulder” and curse your diminishing figure as you ride off into the distance. Shame on you. You should be on the road angering motorists, not terrorizing innocent ambulatory shade seeking strollers. 

Signed,
This-really-isn’t-Betsy and her friend Lisa 

Dear Betsy,

Rude cyclists? Maybe. Possibly. At times. But let’s be clear. The issue is not really about rogue velocipedes. It’s about safety. It’s about courtesy. And it’s about sharing.

Let’s start with sharing. I hate to share. If I order dessert and you want some, tough. On the other hand, if you’ve got a nanny and I need a sitter, I’d like to drop my kids at your house. My point? You need to learn to share, and that includes the Trail.

Courtesy. This is about gentle manners and kind words. Yes, if a rider is approaching, she should call out, “On your left” and offer a friendly wave and a “thanks” as she passes. In the same vein, the walkers, upon hearing the warning, should promptly move to the right of the Trail. They should not stop, turn, assess the situation, pass conspiratorial looks of disapproval about the fast-approaching cyclist, stumble first left and then right and then freeze and then realize that they haven’t moved out of the way even one inch. 

And then there’s safety. Was the biker wearing a helmet? I hope so. That makes me crazy when bikers don’t wear helmets. Or you know what really makes me mad? When parents ride helmetless while their kids follow in full safety gear. Kudos to the kids. Shame on the parents.

Where was I? Oh. The terror on the Trail. Sorry about the crazy bikers. They need to be nice. But make sure you and your buddy aren’t plugged into your iPods, too engrossed in your chatting to heed the warnings, or too upset to move with alacrity to the side of the path.

You’ll never guess whose side I’m on. 

Dear Sally,

Come clean. Your new license plate is “CYCO,” referring of course to your passion for cycling. To your credit, you are one of the good guys on two wheels when it comes to bike etiquette, though you do tend to get defensive when it comes to all things velo. Yes, we hear your helmet rant. I even agree. But here is where we differ. My Trail friends and I (and not just Lisa – I include Jill, Sue, Jan, and others) have been keeping track of the number of riders who offer up warnings of their arrival and those who just zoom past. The survey shows that teenage girls are the most polite, middle aged women announce themselves about fifty percent of the time, and boys and men of all ages prefer to heed no warnings ever and endanger walkers and runners on weekdays and weekends and especially on overcrowded vacation days. 

Signed,
Okay-yes-it’s-Betsy

Dear Sister, 

You cannot legislate speed on the Trail. Kindness is contagious. According to your survey, we should ban all males. I would vote for that.

Can we talk about dogs off leash? That’s my pet pet peeve.

- CYCO

Dear Cyco Cyster,

Dogs off leash are truly a problem on the Trail. They pose a hazard to bikers, walkers and other dogs. Of course, one super-fast, highly aggressive off leash dog could easily take out one speedy biker, so there is a potential up-side to these unleashed canines. However, most free range Fidos aren’t moving that fast, and most choose to chase squirrels, other dogs, and the occasional tricycle rider. In other words, keep your dog on a leash. And pick up after him.

Signed,
Pooch Patrol

Got an issue with the current Green Bay Trail etiquette or lack thereof? Leave a comment and get the conversation going.

Marilyn Magnusson July 08, 2012 at 01:04 PM
I run on the trail several times a week and have not encountered a rude cyclist, only those who walk their dogs, or walk in a group on the gravel part of the path and make no effort to move when they see a runner approaching. I was almost hit by a biker the other day, as I had to move out onto the asphalt because the dog walkers on the gravel would not move. It would not have been the bikers fault had I been hit.
jim July 08, 2012 at 07:42 PM
You certain it Dog Poo?
Bob July 08, 2012 at 10:09 PM
When I'm running on a path I'll yell out on your left before I get too close to walkers. I'd hate give someone a heart attack who is trying to get in better shape by exercising.
M-J Detwiler July 09, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I am both a walker and biker, but an average speed biker. My issue is the same as someone else mentioned. With everyone wearing headphones, no one can hear you call out "on your left". I do it anyway out of habit, but most don't react so you know they didn't hear you. I feel bad when they are startled, but does everyone has to listen to music all the time? I never use an iPod outside because I want to be to be aware of the environment around me at all times.
Walter Edelberg July 09, 2012 at 02:24 PM
I've been biking on the GBT for nearly twenty years. I always call out "on your left" two or three times well before I pass any pedestrians, runners, or bikers. I thank people as I pass. People wearing earbuds seem not to hear me; so if you do that, please keep far to the sides of the path, walk in a straight line, and please look both ways before turning. Two suggestions for bikers. (1) If your small child is riding with you, please have her or him ride *in front of you*, not behind. That way, you can make sure they are keeping to the right and can advise them of any dangers. (2) Two or more riders should ride in single file, at least when anyone is approaching from the opposite direction.

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