When to talk, and when to be quiet

IMG_1146Riding west on the Glacial Drumlin Trail, the rising sun warmed my shoulders. It was early, and there were few other riders. Subdivisions and commercial buildings faded the further I rode from Waukesha, and I began to climb the four-mile long hill to Wales.

Pollen from the newly budded trees was thick. Allergies have become a part of my life in the last five years, and I was feeling the affect of the pollen. I wiped the tip of my nose between my right thumb and index finger, and concentrated on my climbing.

The only sounds were the wind knifing through the trees, robins chirping, the trill of red winged blackbirds and the hum of my tires on the asphalt. And my sniffling. I was about to launch a snot rocket, when I caught a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye. Another rider was passing me on my left, silent as a ghost.

Looking back to be sure no one else was passing, I cleared my sinuses, wiped my face, and cleaned my hand on my shirt tail. I tried to concentrate on my riding, but I kept thinking about how close I had come to making a real mess, and how easily it could have been avoided.

Of course, I should have made sure I was in the clear. But the passing bicyclist should have let me know that he was going by. This is simple, and prevents crashes and other entanglements. “On your left” “Passing on your left” “Good morning” and the ring of a bell all would’ve worked. There are times to speak when riding, and this was one of them.

If a car gets too close or is going to turn in front of me when I’m riding on the street, I’ll yell out “Hey!” or perhaps something stronger if the situation is exceptionally tense. Same thing when deer and other animals wonder onto the trail. When crossing a street and there’s no traffic, it’s helpful to call out, “Clear!” to riders approaching the intersection. You can warn other riders when they’re approaching road hazards like loose gravel or broken glass. Riding in a group, people talk and shout out instructions to work together and keep the group safe.

When someone is riding against traffic on a busy street, I’ll call out, “Wrong way!” to avoid a head-on collision with another bike. It’s too dangerous to keep quiet in that situation. But if someone is walking against bike traffic on a trail, I keep quiet. Same thing with a dog off a leash, a motorized bicycle, teenagers fooling around, and other people whose behavior on a trail riles me but isn’t dangerous.

If I say something because I am perturbed, I know that whatever I say will not be well received. Reprimanding someone when angry doesn’t usually go well. And no one wants to learn a lesson when they are out for a run or a ride. I remember a guy running in the left lane, and yelling, “Always pass on the left!” when I passed on the right to avoid a collision with him. I was too exasperated to speak.

So, I try to keep my mouth shut when another person is doing something that’s not a good idea, but not dangerous. I’m generally pretty quiet when I ride. A lot of people riding are out to escape the pressures of work and family, and simply aren’t in the mood to talk. I respect that. But I also don’t want to launch a snot rocket on another rider, so please say hey when passing on the trail.

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