Friday, August 18, 2006

Rainy Ride

It was cloudy and drizzling rain when I departed work at 5:00 pm. My bike handled well on the wet pavement but I was mindful of providing myself a longer stopping distance.

A leisure section of the previous day's Chicago Tribune featured a series of articles about congestion on the Lakefront Trail. It was the same old story about bikers bitching about walkers and runners and walkers and runners bitching about bikers. An opinion piece from a biking Tribune reporter was especially venomous about skaters. Despite the feature being kind of negative it did motivate me to go out and buy a bike bell. Shouting "On your left!" has always struck me as a bit forceful and arrogant (one of the opinion pieces mentioned this as well). When I try to tone it down a bit, I'm often not heard at all. So after researching online I decided to buy a Mirrycle Incredibell at Kozy's. I like the Incredibell because it is small and its black finish matches my bike. On drop down handlebars it is a challenge finding a good place to put it though. I mounted the bell near the stem since it wouldn't fit around any of the taped areas. Unlike a traditional lever activated bell, the Incredibell has a springed clapper that you flick for a single ding. For the most part it does the trick. Unfortunately I didn't get many opportunities to try it out today. The rain kept away the crowds and the Lakefront Trail was the emptiest I'd ever seen in summer time.

An encounter with a runner showed that sometimes even the best preparation doesn't help. What a coincidence after reading the articles about path conflict, immediately buying and mounting a bell and I get to put it to the test the very same day. It was along Belmont Harbor that a young lady was running right in the middle of the path on the yellow line as I approached from the rear. I rang my bell a ways back but no reaction. I couldn't decide whether to pass on the left or right as her stride sent me mixed signals as to where she was headed. I was going to pass on her right (contrary to all rules of the road) as she seemed to be headed left and at the last minute past her on the left as she seemed to be veering right. If my bell was better positioned and not a single ding deal I might have been able to warn her of my presence. I narrowly missed her as I passed and startled her with an aggressive "On your left!" into her iPoded ear. I was plenty loud enough as she shouted "Jesus Christ!" in response.

I continued on at my quick rate of speed but felt a bit sheepish. Even though I believe she was at fault for hogging the path, I know I could have handled the situation better. I could have slowed down and I could have dinged more. She probably thinks I acted like major jack ass and I'm sure I reinforced any negative impressions of cyclists she had. But I was also a little pissed and reacted in the heat of the moment. Hopefully we'll never meet again.

Distance Traveled: 24.7 miles
Distance to Date: 175.6 miles
Price of Gas: $3.31

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