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.
Writing for the Seattle Weekly, David Neiwert criticizes Seattle for not really being that bike friendly. It’s a good article and I think Seattle simply needs more bike lanes. That’s the difference with Portland, Eugene, and other cities, they’ve got lanes everywhere and even traffic lights for bikes! I’ve found that when I’m in a bike lane, motorist don’t care. Out of a lane and that’s when problems start. And it’s just the fact that Seattle’s inability to make tough decisions results in gridlock. Starting with allowing I5, to cut through the center of town and then ignoring a master plan in the 70s that warned of the traffic gridlock we have now.
For years, I’ve ridden Lake Washington Blvd mostly car free and and because of I5 traffic, the blvd is a freeway during the day with angry, rushed drivers. To recall what is used to be like, try the City’s Bicycle Saturdays and Sundays where they close the blvd to car traffic and it’s bikes only.
To it’s credit, the City is trying, we’ve just got way more to do; especially, as Neiwert notices, there are so many cyclists on the street.
A good hard ride with Mike, my training buddy and psychical therapist, snapped me out of my funk over Landis and an impending descent into a Marlon-Brando-in-a-muumuu, beer-drinking fat phase. Like the SI.com reporter Landis spoke to today (also see ongoing coverage from CyclingNews), I want to believe, but I don’t believe anything about professional cycling anymore. From the lab results that get leaked, questionable tests, Jan, Basso, and all of Operation Puerto, there’s nothing that’d surprise me, even if Lance was “el dope.”
What I do believe in is the bike. I remembered that on (and later off!) Mike’s wheel, cresting a hard climb, and a fast descent. Heroes fall, some come back, and the tour will be on again next year. We started Bike Hugger for the passionate cyclist, the culture, and mostly just for the bike and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on. I’ll also have a few beers this fall, just not enough to get fat.