May 13, 2011 Ride: Rubber Chickens

I have decided that all rideblog ride entries need the :subtitle model shown above. It’s just that much more intriguing, don’t you think?

Often, when I’m getting ready to head out for a short ride, I find myself saying: “I don’t need to rideblog this. It’s just a quick jaunt. Why would I bother?” But then every time, something interesting happens or inspiration strikes… and here we are.

Tonight I headed out on the new Viva for an hour on the Cedar River Trail. I have now officially ridden this trail a gazillion times. It should be totally uninteresting: nothing but the same old rose bushes, golf courses and dog walkers. Of course, that’s not how things work for me.

First off, compared to yesterday’s ride on the Burke Gilman, this was heaven. Serious heaven. I must have passed about a dozen folks during the entire 11 mile ride, as opposed to yesterday, when I saw at least that many people in the first 11 feet. The sheer emptiness of the trail was liberating: no need to worry about being run over here!

Riding in the evening after work, I’m always struck by how tired I am. My legs are leaden and it feels like I’m cycling through mud. It doesn’t matter which bike I’m on; I’m slow and sleepy. Tonight was no exception. In fact, I was so tired and listless that for a few moments, I thought I wasn’t having much fun. Then I realized I was making slow zig-zags across the empty trail, for no reason at all. Shortly afterward, having had no one to pass, I found myself ringing my bell repeatedly in a particularly empty stretch of trail, just to hear the sound. Fun, I think, is relative. By the time I turned around at just past the 5.5 mile marker, I was feeling a bit bummed that the ride was so short. But darkness was falling, and I needed to get home and eat dinner.

Note the blinky stuck on the fender strut. I will have to get something to go on my rear rack soon. That looks ridiculous!

I took a few photos along the way. Here is the front fender on The Viva, which is sun faded. I like to think of it as “two-tone.” This fading has made the pinstripe appear brown on one side, and cream on the other!

The stripe of non-faded fender is interesting. I wonder what angle the front of the bicycle sat at to produce that patch.

Self-portraits while riding are still challenging, even with the settings on my new camera. I can set it to take as many pictures as I want, after any delay up to 30 seconds. I set it for a ten second delay, taking 10 pictures. This captures me, but the photos are out-of-focus and blurry, as the camera is focusing behind me, not on me. I tried setting the auto-focus to the bike in the foreground before hitting the button, but it didn’t work. Still, the me-in-motion photo is interesting.

On my way back, I was passed by an extraordinary sight: a grown man, riding a perfectly normal black bicycle… with a rubber chicken (wearing swim trunks! The chicken, not the man) affixed to his stem and handlebars, vertically. As he passed me, he honked his chicken at me, repeatedly. I truly wish I had a photograph of this set up, but he was gone before I could ask.

Right before the parking lot, The Viva and I stopped at this tiny make-shift memorial.

Last year, when we still lived a few blocks from the trail, the Eldest Girl and I headed out for a quick ride. We soon encountered a fire truck and several police cars, parked on the trail. We were told to dismount, and walk past what was clearly the scene of an accident just moments before. Several road cyclists in team jerseys were talking to the police, but I saw no one down. As we passed the fire truck, I noticed a pair of black mary jane shoes sitting neatly off to one side, as if someone had taken them off before going to bed.

The shoes did not bode well, and they stayed in my brain. Curiosity piqued, I read the news the next day to see what had happened. The shoes belonged to an 83 year-old woman named Velda Mapelli. She was walking the trail when a road cyclist attempted to pass her. She stepped in front of him, he hit her and knocked her to the ground. She suffered many injuries: fractures to her skull, ribs, pelvis and clavicle. The cyclist was only slightly hurt. She died at the hospital. Velda was, apparently, an active and energetic woman who loved to hike and get outdoors.

I don’t know if the cyclist was going too fast when he tried to pass her. Given that she was 83, her many broken bones could have come from the combination of age and the fall. That said, that’s a lot of broken bones for an active older woman, suggesting that he wasn’t riding slowly. I don’t know if he used his bell or his voice to warn Velda. My guess is that he either didn’t say anything to her, or he said: “On your left,” which I find often causes pedestrians to move left (I think it’s the result of hearing only the final word and simply reacting) rather than right. I’m certain that it was an accident, but I’m haunted by those shoes.

I wish everyone would use a ding-ding bell.  I wish they would put them on their fancy road bikes and use them around pedestrians. Yesterday, most road cyclists passed me with no verbal/tonal warning. Some of those cyclists were moving very, very quickly. No one should die on a pretty trail walk on a sunny afternoon, and no cyclist should have to live with that guilt. Given how often I’ve seen people nearly take out one of my kids, I think it was only a matter of time before this happened. The way I think of it is this: if you wouldn’t drive that way on the freeway, weaving in and out of traffic at high speed, then don’t ride your bike that way. Rest in peace, Velda.


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4 Responses to May 13, 2011 Ride: Rubber Chickens

  1. adventure! says:

    Bummer about the death of the older woman. I know that, as rare as it is, pedestrians are killed by bicyclists. But when I actually hear about it happening…man.

    I agree that a bell is a worthy accessory. I’ve seen certain bicyclists say they’d never put a bell on the bike because of the “added weight” which I think is one of the most ridiculous things to say. That and fixie riders who refuse to install brakes because it breaks the “zen” of riding a fixie or some such.

    Regarding the rear blinky: Doesn’t the bike have a dynohub? Did they not include lights as part of the package?

  2. Auchen says:

    A ding-ding bell is a good ancillary safety warning device but it is not adequate.

    E.g., I recall coming up upon one pedestrian who was stone-deaf, and others wearing ear-buds, or (not uncommonly) alarmed and confused by the sound of the bell, such that they suddenly react by stepping to one side or the other, without regard to the direction I’m approaching from.

    This is why I always pass pedestrians at a crawl, and assume that they will step into my path.

    PS. Your Viva bike is adorable.

  3. Sue says:

    Oh how sad.

  4. Pingback: Rideblog Sale: The Viva Kilo | rideblog

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