Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The "rotten apple" side of cycling

If you read my last post, you know I had a small confrontation with some seniors who live in Oakmont which is a nearby retirement community. They actually blocked my path and refused to let me use a small private path that reaches a great training area without traversing Highway 12 (which can be a deadly adventure). So, I started asking around and discovered that basically Oakmont residents are mad. They have actually appealed to their home owner's association to take action. The question is why?

Unfortunately, the answer comes down to rotten apples. Those few people who ruin things for everyone else. There are many cyclists out there inlcuding roadies, mountain bikers, and people riding through town, that do things that piss people off. I have seen mountain bikers almost take out entire families in Annadel State Park as they come screaming down hill off an illegal trail and then wonder why Annadel may close the park to mountain bikers. I've seen roadies riding 3 and 4 abreast on country roads simply refusing to get out of the way of cars trying to pass. In town, you see people who ride on the sidewalk, against traffic, and flip off the driver who didn't see them. And the perennial favorite, cyclists on pedestrian paths who shout at walkers to "get the hell" out of the way.

While I don't agree with the residents of Oakmont, I understand them. In the year I have been using their private path, which is very narrow, I have seen riders blow past walkers with no warning, teams take up the entire path while riding at 20+ mph, and riders who seem to think it is their private little race track (rumor has it that a cyclist hit a pedestrian which is what got the locals all fired up).

As a group, all of these actions makes us disliked by people who don't understand it's not all cyclists. You can tell by the look in people's eyes or the contempt in their voice when they discover your a cyclist. You get questions like "Why do you have to block cars?" "Don't you have to stop at red lights and stop signs?" "Why do you have to ride so fast on the trails?"

The situation in Oakmont is so bad that our local bike groups, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and the Santa Rosa Cycling Club, have been in talks with the home owner's association since March of this year. The response so far, a bunch of new big signs went up two weeks ago reminding us that the path is for local foot traffic only. In other words, NO BIKES!

So for now, I will stay out of Oakmont until things calm down. I am not being a goody two shoes here. The thought of having a confrontation in the middle of my workout simply lessens its appeal. Besides, I live in a great area for cycling with 1400 miles of roads. I'm sure I can find another route.


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