Let’s be careful out there

I used to hate bike paths. I was a vehicular cyclist, and an adherent of John Forester’s Effective Cycling. I used to snicker at people driving to trailheads, $3,000 Serottas strapped to their bumper.

The nearest bike path to my house is poorly implemented, with dozens of industrial pull-outs crossing the path, and some weird traffic rules (including the only intersection of any kind I’ve ever seen where you have to yield to traffic approaching from behind you). The very existence of said path meant that riders who choose to ride on the wide, smooth, uninterrupted roadway that’s immediately adjacent are harrassed by drivers who think they should be on the crappy path.

Then I did a century in Tallahassee, and got to ride the St. Mark’s Trail, and a beautiful new trail opened near my parents. Dad invited me to check out the Silver Comet Trail, and it’s primo: wide, relatively flat (for Georgia), and 60 miles to the Georgia-Alabama border, where it will soon connect to the 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail.

A few years ago, between gigs, I started riding the Silver Comet regularly. On Wednesdays, I would do a hard 50-miler, iPod blasting, with the trail to myself once I got 7-10 miles out from the trailhead. My daughter spent a lot of her Burley Piccolo phase on the trail. There’s a real sense of freedom and safety that accompanies being separated from the constant interaction with cars and drivers.

So it was a shock to read that a 54-year-old woman riding on the Silver Comet was abducted and murdered Tuesday, and her body found just off the trail on Wednesday. I didn’t know Jennifer Ewing, but she’ll be missed, as will that sense of safety on the trail.

Police have a suspect in custody, a 43-year-old who was on probation for a 1991 rape. He has yet to be charged but “investigators believe that an arrest is forthcoming.”

Police patrol the trail occasionally in golf carts, and say there have been only 3 crimes reported along the trail since the start of 2005. Nevertheless, they recommend riders couple up, carry cell phones, and exercise caution.


I lived in Atlanta when the Silver Comet was first built and remember hearing some residents who opposed it say that it would become a “corridor for crime”. Statistically of course that is not true, but I am very sad to hear of this particular case. I used to skate on the silver comet fairly often and have found that outside of Smyrna it can get quite isolated. I guess this guy was just waiting for a victim to come along. Still, this type of incident is not typical on multiuse trails. This is a terrible tragedy, but it could have just as easily have occurred on a country road.

I love the bike trails in Minneapolis/St. Paul and surrounding areas because they are separate from the road.  I’m in Salem, OR for the summer and I hate biking on these demarcated bike lanes on regular streets.  I swear this city is attempting to pave the bike lanes with glass.  If I go 2 miles without seeing a smashed bottle in front of me, I’m thrilled. 

I actually ride less here because I know I am going to flat on every third ride or so.  It is absurd.  Bike trails are at least insulated from idiot drivers.

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