Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Minnesota Nice on the Trails

Wow! 81 degrees! I actually felt overheated yesterday on my run, which was a welcome change. Considering that many recent Boston Marathons have been overly warm, the heat is probably something I need to get used to!

My friends Kirk and Mike have been waxing poetic about what the first signs of spring are. I said that the first sign of spring was when the DQ at Minnehaha Falls opened up, which happened a couple weeks ago. I was wrong, here is the true first sign of spring. When the first biker-runner trail rage incident occurs.

For non-Minneapolitans, you need to understand that Minneapolis residents are ridiculously spoiled with almost every trail having divided biking and running paths. It's wonderful because since so many people use the trails, you are a little bit safer and comfortable since the odds are most people on your trail are going about the same speed. Contrast this to every other city I've experienced where the paths are just jammed with bikers, rollerbladers and runners. You almost NEVER see walkers on trails in other cities, but you do here, which I think is great because it encourages fitness in many who other than walking, would do nothing at all.

The downside of having this divided trail system is that people get very upset if you're on the wrong trail, even momentarily. Cars get mad if you're biking on the roads (even though there's a 10 mph speed limit on the bike paths, and I usually bike around 20 mph, closer to the car speed limit of 25 mph). And bikers get mad if runners dare touch their trail.

I have been yelled at a couple times by bikers, both times by an elderly man on a bicycle. I must say it's a little shocking to be called an a-hole at 8am on a beautiful spring morning, especially by someone who could be my grandfather. I sure hope my grandparents don't swear at runners!

I can certainly understand the frustration of bikers who sometimes see hordes of runners on biking paths when the running path lies unused just steps away. As someone who bikes as well, I have been frustrated by that at times. But I think we need to all take a step back and be civil with each other and realize that there are probably good reasons why runners occasionally use the bike path rather than the running path.

I read Buzz.mn every now and then, and a comment by a poster about runners in the biking path prompted me to post a couple reasons why I think everyone needs to relax a little and try to understand that most people (runners included) are rather courteous and usually have good reasons for being where they are:

(1) Most of the separate pedestrian paths at some point merge with biking paths.
(2) Many running paths (particularly the River Road) are very uneven and potentially dangerous for runners. Many (Nokomis) have long stretches of concrete, which is very damaging to a runner's body.
(3) For night running, when safety should be paramount, the biking paths provide better lighting than the running paths.
(4) Until April 1st, the biking paths are ALL combined running/biking paths, as the running paths are not maintained until that date each year. Many bridges on Minnehaha Parkway are still closed.
(5) Lastly, if you're biking faster than 10 mph, legally you should be on the roads.

Most cities do not have more than a few boring trails, let alone extensive networks of trails with separate lanes for biking and running. It would be helpful if all users of the trails appreciate our good fortune of having these trails in the first place. And it would be especially helpful and appropriate as Minnesotans if we could show a little respect for each other.

Let's show each other some MINNESOTA NICE!

1 comment:

Ed Kohler said...

I don't really care who's on what path as long as they have a sense of what's around them. If you're the fastest thing on the trail, be respectful when approaching slower moving objects. If you're a group of slow walkers, realize you're going to get overtaken from time to time and leave some room for your faster moving brothers and sisters.