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Keeping Greensboro Country Park (or Any) Fun, Safe & Open to Bikers & Skaters

roadskater's picture

Dale Brown of Cycles de Oro posted some comments about riding safely in Greensboro Country Park after hearing some complaints relayed by Parks and Recreation. Let me add my thoughts and include cycling, inline skating, skateboarding and running. Any time you're faster than others, they need your help with safety. And any time you're in a smaller group, it's a good idea to strive to be worthy of the good will and respect of the larger one, in my view.

Of course, the vast majority of riders and skaters get that we need to be ambassadors for our sport. Sometimes we'll need to be overly nice to make up for others.

I hadn't thought much about it until I read Dale's notes, but I can recall one EPO juiced synthetic testosterone packing secret twin blood doping cyclist flying by so fast I heard a Doppler effect a week or two ago. I didn't know him, and I'm sure he wasn't a doper, but it made me feel better to silently grumble to myself. Aside from the depression I felt climbing up by the monument slogging in slow-mo, this was no problem.

The cyclist was amazingly fast but safe and not at all rude...just silent. I had the thought this fellow was checking out "the course" for later in the year. Of course I didn't speak to anyone about this because for me it was no problem and I figured it was a rare occurrence.

I've spent a lot of time in Greensboro Country Park and it's a wonderful and friendly place to train. I think it goes better when I try a few simple things (and yes it's true I'm not very fast):

  • it's not a bad idea to take a warm up lap so people will see you and less stressfully learn how to react;
  • let people know where you are by letting them hear where you're going in a clear but friendly way;
  • be as predictable and in control of your skills as possible;
  • when you pass, try "how're y'all doing?" or "thanks" or "y'all ok today?";
  • remember what it's like to have a car whiz by too close and too fast, and treat the park walkers with the respect you'd like to have from motorists on the road.

Every lap, every day, give it a try; people are more likely to watch out for that nice cyclist or skater than an unsympathetic jerk. they're also more likely to defend you if the park staff asks around (and they will), and to vote for your rail trail when it comes up in the voting booth.

Often, saying "I'll be going down the middle," or around turns, "I'll be passing on the outside," work better than "on your left" or "on your right," but anything is better than nothing and anything friendly is more effective than anything rude. I should add that with children it is sometimes best not to say anything unless they swerve or look around first, and if anything, "you're doing great" seems to help them not do that U-turn just at the wrong time.

The more you think you scared someone, the more important it is to be nice. Even go back and check on someone if they really seemed shaken, and remember they already know they shouldn't have listened to their music so loudly, had their dog on a 20-foot extender leash, walked five across the road or let their kid wander across the downhill pavement.

The park is a neighborhood. Day after day, year after year, they get to know you. If you encourage them, they will defend your privilege to bike or skate there, and even come cheer you and others on at the Carolina Cup or State Games of North Carolina. Spend enough time and the ones who tried to ban you may some day call you the mayor of Country Park.

Of course, I'm not always feeling or responding with such peace, but it's helpful to me to have that goal. Skaters know what it was like to be banned before 5:00 PM on weekdays a few years back, and we worked hard to turn that around with the staff and more importantly, the park regulars. Of course we all fail to reach our own standards some days. But then we get off the couch and try again.

The great thing is how nice the vast majority of cyclists are as they crank on by us skaters in the park. Thanks to all of you who have been so welcoming and willing to share the park and the road!

Comments

eebee's picture

What were the complaints by Parks & Recreation?

Where did Dale post and what were Parks & Recreation's complaints? Good points you're making, about being seemingly overly-concerned or nice to make up for some who aren't. It's good for the chronically reserved among us to remember that and use that to break through painful shyness and say boldly "How are y'all doing today?" like we mean it, as we glide past strangers in the park.

If it's done often enough it'll become habit. I for one need to work on this!

roadskater's picture

Fast Cyclists

Dale said Parks and Rec had called to say there were some fast riders training in Greensboro Country Park. There was no mention of skaters. Normally, there are some fast enough riders there, but I think this must have been more about very fast riders and more importantly (in my opinion and experience), riders that are fast, and also either silent or rude or otherwise frightening people (no matter who's "fault" it is). It's easy to frighten someone on skates even as loud as they are, which is why we sometimes fakebrake so they can hear us (especially those of us who don't like to speak to people). On a bike, especially a fast one, it's even easier not to be noticed by a walker, especially a walker with dogs, runner, skater or other slower vehicle like that green buggy they drive about sometimes.

Oh and I didn't mean to be "seemingly concerned" or "like we mean it," but to actually be overly concerned and mean it, but also to let people know that's how we feel. I want people to want to be us, to do what we're doing, to love our sport, or at least to be inspired to continue what they are doing. If they feel that we respect their exercise efforts and want them to be able to continue that safely, I think they're more likely to want us to have that freedom as well.

eebee's picture

I just meant 'fake it til you make it'...

...for people like me, who weren't brought up to make contact with strangers in public. I know I'm not alone in this - I see quiet slow and fast bikers every day in my park. A person in fear of making any social contact with strangers in public is often viewed as rude and snobby. Oh, and I agree with everything you said in your original post, Blake.  I guess I used the wrong word to say what I meant, in 'seemingly'. I just meant to the shrinking violets among us it might seem to us like we're exaggerating, or are overly concerned. Where I grew up, if you yell 'How are you doing today?' at someone on a bike path you're likely to get mugged at knifepoint. Come to think of it, if you keep your eyes silently fixed on the asphalt you're still likely to get mugged at knifepoint. Glad it's not like that in the South(ern US).

 

I just meant to thank you for explaining why it's worth skaters and cyclists going the extra - and for some of us - unnatural mile to be loudly friendly - and it's especially important to reiterate that point to those who'd rather stab their eyeballs with a pencil than greet a stranger in the park. Thanks for giving specific tips on what to say, also, because some of us need help in that department.

 

Being concerned that we're not scaring the bejeepers out of people as we skate by them makes a whole lot of sense and I wasn't disputing that. What I was alluding to in: "'How are y'all doing today' and mean it", was the strangeness, at least to a British person, of the (southern) US custom of asking somebody you don't know how they are. All I'm saying is that being loudly sociable comes more naturally to some than others, and when you put bike or skatewheels under someone, it unfortunately doesn't mean they'll have an instant personality transformation and become loud, nice, courteous, or concerned.

 

There are indeed rude and snobby people who get on bikes or skates and then become rude and snobby cyclists or skaters, and it'd be great to reach them in all their eliteness, slow or fast, to get them to display kind manners to scared dog-walkers or families with 3 year olds. There are also indeed timid wallflowers who might want to come out of their shells a little in the name of us all just getting along in our outdoor exercise endeavours. But what a shame it is that we read such eloquent posts as the original here, say to ourselves at our computers "Yeah! Right on! I can do that!", and then we go out five minutes later and totally forget all about it, being just as rude, snobby or shy as we were before, without really thinking about why. I hear the same rant and see no progress, and was exploring why.

 

This is a very important topic that bears repeating and elaborating on, and thanks to Dale also, for bringing it out into the open.  

roadskater's picture

As for Overdoing it, I certainly can do that!

Ha! Yes I know lots of folk who are not the least snobby and in fact feel not good enough like so many of us, and just that they're quiet doesn't mean they're being rude.

In fact, when I say "How ya doin'?" or "How're y'all?" or "Yawright t'day?" I'm such an overdoer (evildoer?) that I'll often answer for them once they've gone on by... "I'm good; hope you are!" and reply to myself-as-them, "Glad to hear it. Lucky to be here."

But the only essential part is for them to hear us and know where we're going and see we know what we're doing but we're glad they're there doing their thing too (ooh a they're there their sentence!).

And I haven't missed the point that some folk there at the park just want to be left alone to their happiness or phone calls or music or internal dialogue or misery and I try to figure out the ones that'd rather just learn to stay to the edges of the road and not have to say Hi every 6 to 10 minutes.

What seems to really work well is to go out and start slow and just be there, then slowly get more into the training as people know you'll be coming by again sooner than they think.

And this is just what I think, and I know everyone has their own style and preferences.

skart's picture

Concern around fast cyclists at Rose Bowl park

I have just saw this posted on another board... Resonates very well with Blake's concern... Make sure you check out the video:

 http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_6557214#

 

andrewinnc's picture

Re: Keeping Country Park safe

Last Saturday I ventured up to Gboro and Country Park for only my second time. This was the first time by myself. I spoke to everyone I passed as well as those who were coming towards me. I made sure I gave everyone as wide a berth as possible. I received smiles back from everyone and no one seemed to be annoyed that I was there. 

From what i have noticed if you say Hey,how are Ya. to someone they will usually reply back in a friendly manner as well. A little kindness goes a long way. Seeing how we(skaters) are relatively few in number we could use all the good publicity we can get.

 

profjb2000's picture

Cyclist Complaint About Skaters / Trail Speed Limits

     We recently had this discuss when a cyclist complained about passing skaters. The pack called out when passing, and then he started to pass another cyclist without first looking back to see the pack had not cleared. Although the skaters were not wrong, we did everything possible to make the cyclist "feel better". I think half the problem was a bruised ego.

 

     The park systems where I cycle/skate have implemented speed limits and a code of conduct. It is not strongly enforced, but is observed by most and helps us remind each other to be safe.

 

     The typical multi-use trail speed limit is 20mph while crowded or less suitable trail speed limit is 10mph. Dedicated pedestrian trails/paths have been created and plans exist for a dedicated high speed corridors (over 20mph) for fast cyclists and skaters. Trail watch volunteers and park rangers can ticket unsafe trail use, but it is very rare. A gentle reminders is usually enough.

 

     The code of conduct is basic courtesy. It is posted along the trails and most people follow it. The biggest violations are the frequent retractable dog leashes, failure to call out when passing, and kids wandering when the parents are otherwise distracted.

 

     BTW - I don't always call out when passing kids, especially if the parent has already notices us. They always seem to veer into my path when looking back.

 

 

Jb

eebee's picture

People head in the direction they're looking...

Good point about children veering into your path when looking back to see you coming! This is so true. I hadn't realized it but if I see a child under about 10 years old up ahead either walking, on a scooter or on a bike or skates, I usually resign myself to saying "I'll be on your left - I'll be on your left - I'll be on your left", as calmly and as ridiculously giddy-sounding (for me) as I can muster. And if I'm too close to get three 'on your left's out, I just pick a spot to slip through, and try like heck to smile or say something to them and the parents on the way through.

I wish small kids were only a problem when the parents are distracted! It's incredible to me that a family or parent can see me coming towards them, and still let their 18 month-old zigzag all over the path with zero regard for whether I fall, or whether I cream their kid. Maybe it's not their kid. Hmm.

eebee's picture

Wanna Fight?!

Tonight's training-skate hour in my local park was defined by me scaring people, dogs and snakes. Now it's all said and done, I am mostly heartbroken that I scared the pretty silver-green snake.

 

Tonight I had the chance to practice peace, love and understanding, whilst throwing in some skating and British ambassadorship after scaring the wits out of two walkers in the downhill chicane. They had been walking so far apart to where passing them on the left or right would've sent me into the ditch, and they were veering so much so that shooting between them could've caused a collision.

 

Having a low, mumbly kind of voice, I have to sound like I'm shrieking if people ahead of me are to hear me. So I have to choose whether I'm either going to sound hysterical, or sound kind, relaxed and in control but risk the person ahead not hearing me at all. Tonight I tried well ahead of time, saying kindly (i.e. apparently too quietly) three times "I'll be on your left". In the end I gave that up and said "Ok I'm just gonna go through the middle". No response. The veering, wide-walkers had no idea I was there. So I made a split second decision not to use my heel brake, to avoid making a scary screechy sound. Instead I dragged my wheels and made a scary scraping sound. This made the one woman jump pretty high in the air. As I wove through between the walkers, I grinned and tried to apologize. When I was about ten feet in front of them, the most-freaked out one bellowed to me "Why'd you DO that?". That was when my fight-or-flight vehemently kicked in. I sat down hard on my heel brake, practically stopping on a dime, turned and skated back towards her. Pointing my now ever-present frown mark in her direction, I challenged "Why'd I do WHAT?!??".

 

Thankfully Dale's words and this forum thread were fresh enough in my mind to break through the adrenaline pumping through my arms, and I was able to explain NICELY that I had been trying to announce I was behind them but that either I wasn't loud enough or they didn't hear me. The most aggressive of the walkers backed off when she realized I could a) brake and therefore wasn't as out of control as the scraping-sounds suggested, and b) confronted her (with my frown mark).

 

The next four times passing them I think they wished I'd shut the heck up with my inane pleasantries. But in the meantime I had the chance to freak out a cute Husky puppy, a fluffy young Borzoi, and sadly a beautiful snake who was making his way across the path - he reared up so fast he almost fell over backwards.

 

I think the heat is getting to everybody and it's making the parks & trails more congested last thing at night when the temps finally get below 90 deg F.

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