City planners recently released a PDF notice aiming to remind cyclists and pedestrians to share Eugene’s many “shared use” paths. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the Fern Ridge, Amazon, and River paths – as well as many other “bike paths” in Eugene – aren’t really bike paths at all. These paths are meant for everyone, including pedestrians and emergency vehicles. The message is a response to a very small–but constant– trickle of complaints to the city about bicycle and pedestrian crashes and conflicts. No doubt it also comes from personal observation, as many city staffers, including the author of the PDF, are frequent bike commuters and riders.
This is something I feel strongly about as well, and before I post the full PDF I’d like to offer a bit of perspective taking. I’ve written it in the form of a “social story;” a method that I use to help teach perspective taking to students with autism. When people divide themselves into groups (cars vs cyclists, cyclists vs pedestrians) I find that these groups tend to behave just like children with autism. Forgive me if this is preachy, but I’m often ashamed of how other cyclists ride on the paths. We must end the groupthink that allows this behavior. Notice which words are interchangeable:
When I’m (riding/walking) down the (street/path), I hate it when (cars/bikes) buzz past me. It makes me feel very unsafe and unwelcome. I wish they would understand that I have just as much right to the (road/path) as they do. I get very nervous and think it’s dangerous when (cars/bikers) don’t wait for oncoming traffic to pass before they try to pass me. Why don’t they just wait behind me for a second instead of trying to fit all three of us on the narrow (road/path)?!? They often force me off the (road/path) when passing in a hurry, and sometimes they hit me! Why are they such assholes? Sometimes I’ll (ride/walk) two or three abreast on the (road/path), but I’m not trying to get in the way. I’m just enjoying conversation. If the (car/biker) will give us a second we’ll move out of their way. Why are those (cagers/bike jerks) in such a hurry anyway? Can’t they take a route without so many (bikes/pedestrians)?
More food for thought: Chances are most of the pedestrians you see on the bike path also drive their cars around cyclists (and vote). If you “buzz” them on the path they might “buzz” a cyclist a few hours later with their cars.
Take the jump for the official message from the City of Eugene.