Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ride to Plano | Thoughts on Trails

So this is the ride to Downtown Plano from Oak Cliff that I made yesterday.   I had started planning this trip years ago, and had just never gotten around to making the trip.  Now I have a reason, I'm trying to build up distance every week to become a stronger rider and train up to a century ride.  This particular route involved the use of trails both in Dallas and in Plano because I was looking for a more relaxed and scenic ride.

Which is a great way to use these trails, for recreation or taking in the scenery.  I really enjoyed riding around White Rock Creek up to the High Five at US75 and I-635.  However, the remainder of the trip until the Chisolm Trail was mundane to say the least.  It looked more like a swath of prairie land cut through endless suburbia, punctuated by the occasional arterial street.

As you might imagine, the trails aren't really suited well to commuting, most of the trail heads do not occur near any center of commerce or some location where a person could reasonably expect to be employed, they were designed for exercise and recreation.  And to that purpose they are well suited, near residences where people are more likely to use them for this purpose.  I'll set aside questions about jogging or biking under power lines.

But it's this purpose that makes me realize that the behavior, the rules of these trails differ from those of riding in the road.  I would argue first that the rules of the road are better established and understood, and that those rules don't really translate well to trails.  There are people who do strange or erratic things, there is an expectation of courtesy and respect that may or may not materialize.  As I was approaching the White Rock Lake trail through a neighborhood in Lakewood, two cars came up behind me on a residential street.  Since there was room to pass, I kept my position near the right of the road, and they passed slowly and safely.  Just ahead of me was a walker on a cell phone in the middle of the road.  The same cars that passed with care to get around me pulled up behind her and honked to move her over.  I am almost certain she was headed for the trail and this kind of behavior on the trail is expected or understood.

The other thing that shouldn't surprise me but always does is the behavior of cyclists on the trail, especially around White Rock Lake.  The trails are multi-use, and there are many walkers, joggers, roller bladers, people with baby strollers, and finally cyclists, many of whom are bedecked in professional cycling clothing and gear.  The utter lack of respect that I see from these cyclists towards pedestrians on these trails disgusts me.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to log some miles or move at a higher speed, but there is a problem with those things if you do not exercise the due care to pass around pedestrians safely.  Many people weave around people, cut pedestrians off, pass too closely, or just speed and think nothing of it.  These are the worst ambassadors of cycling, even worse than hipsters on fixed gear bikes with no brakes.  If I were a pedestrian and knew nothing of cycling, I would probably think these people are ass holes, and therefore all cyclists are ass holes.  And it's a good bet that the very people to whom so little regard is given are owners and operators of automobiles, and will be given to extend the same courtesy to cyclists on the road.

As glad as I am to have made this ride, it's more likely that in the future, I'll stick to the roads for these rides. They are less crowded, safer for everyone to share, and I think there is more to see.