Saturday, March 14, 2009

Riverwalk isn't a speedway

Found in the Times-Union, "Something needs to be done to regulate the traffic on Jacksonville's multimillion-dollar Riverwalk before somebody enjoying a peaceful stroll on the magnificent walkway gets hurt by speeding bicyclists. Or the area should be renamed Riverside Bikeway instead of a treacherous walkway. The beautiful walkway was built for the taxpayers and tourists to enjoy in a quiet, family-oriented, park-like environment. But somebody had the bright idea to set up bicycle stations all along the river as an open invitation for bicyclists to race without giving strolling residents, playing children and exercising runners any warning, leaving them scurrying to safety at times."

I have been fearing the day that this became an issue. Although this little blurb is far from making it an issue, I'm surprised that it has taken this long for people to start complaining. I have seen and been embarrassed by the total lack of regard for other users of the Riverwalk by certain cyclists. On far too many occasions I have felt the need to extend apologies for guys wearing their sisters pants on fixed gear bikes and mullet headed lycra covered dillweeds that think they are actually impressing someone by scaring the hell out of them.

Yes, ipod wearing joggers and walkers are an unpredictable hazard. Yes, rampaging unsupervised kids are yet another hazard. Yes, the lunch walkers walking five abreast deep in office gossip without thought or consideration for other users of the path are a major pain in the ass. But they all have the same right to enjoy their time on the Riverwalk as us cyclist do.

You would be surprised what a simple bike bell will do for you in clearing a path and creating a positive impression. The ringing of a bike bell is such a universally recognizable sound that literally every single person on this planet understands what to do when they hear the sound of an approaching bell.

Don't have a bell? Get one. Until you do, try a friendly "On your Left/Right". If you take the Left/Right approach, please don't wait until you are 5 feet away and start screaming at the people in front thus scaring the crap out of them. Start calling out 15 to 20 feet back in loud but friendly tone. A smile and polite "thank you" as you pass will gain you major positive karma points in the eyes of those you've just passed.

The biggest issue that the person in T-U had was speed. And he is totally correct when stating that "the Riverwalk isn't a speedway". If you need to get Downtown or to Riverside in hurry, keep your ass on Riverside Ave. It has perfectly functional bike lanes that are considerably faster for reaching Downtown or Riverside than the Riverwalk is.

On the road we are the little fish that is at the mercy of automobiles. Countless amounts of money is spent on awareness campaigns so that drivers will look out for our safety. On the Riverwalk we cyclists are the big fish and just as we hope that drivers are looking out for us. We cyclists need to be aware of how our actions effect the other Riverwalk users. Florida has a 3 foot passing law on the roads and we should also make every effort to afford the same to other users of a multi-use trail.

When you are lucky enough to find yourself riding a bike along one the most beautiful rivers in this country and into the most beautiful skyline in this state. Slow down and enjoy the ride.


jackdiablo said...

That's a little harsh. If people just kept to the right when they walked it wouldn't be a problem. Cyclists are tax-payers too, even fixed gear cyclists. If some ignorant douchebags think it's funny to scare pedestrians, well that's something else entirely but let's not pigeon hole all fixers. When you are a morbidly obese couch potato who fancies a lazy stroll on the Riverwalk as exercise, I'm sure any bike would seem really fast. So I will continue to use the Riverwalk on a daily basis in the manner I see fit.
And I don't even wear skinny jeans.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the sentiments of this blog post. We have similar problems in the Seattle area with cyclist/pedestrian conflicts along the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River Trails. Many cyclists treat pedestrians on the trail with the same disdain as drivers treat cyclists on public roads. Many cyclists want pedestrians to "stay to the right, and get out of my way", just as many drivers want cyclists to "stay on the bike trail/shoulder/sidewalk and get out of my way".

Abhishek said...

well put. I wonder if the riverwalk is to be treated like a Sidewalk or like a Bicycle-Pedestrian multi use path. If it is of a sidewalk status, then bicycles become secondary users.

A bell is so useful. I use the heck out of my bell on a Saturday afternoon in the tourist infested streets of St. Augustine. It was a breeze to ride.

Joe said...

I frequently take the riverwalk, but I always try to keep my speed down, and I always call "on your right/left". Most people are pretty cool about it, although I have had a couple of people insist that I do not belong on the riverwalk (typically the same people that insist that I do not belong on the street).

Manners is key, though. If you're courteous it will do alot to disarm peoples hostility.

night train said...

Why can't we all just get along? Is this Riverwalk a sidewalk or MUP?

Either way, what happened to the conditioning of drive/walk to the right and pass to the left? Have we downgraded ourselves to nothing more than a bunch of mindless wanderers?

Respect is a two way street. There are those that have no respect for anything and I refuse to pay for their sins. Share the roads, share the trails. There is enough for everyone.

Final note: From the photo, it appears that the Riverwalk is of a brick cobblestone. What kind of yahoo enjoys the torture of that on a bicycle?

J.O.B said...

as a frequent river walk commuter, i dont mind paying attention. it's the same reason i dont blow through stop signs or red lights ( conscious effort ). joggers and pedestrians alike aren't exempt from being idiots though. though roadway rules may not apply, common sense does.

1. look both ways. this is a gimme.

2. most adults understand the rules of traffic flow. stay on the right if at all possible.

compromise is king.

The Editor said...

I totally agree with JackDiablo. I ride on the RiverWalk often (not lately, which is obvious if you have actually seen me in person lately, LOL) and always heed the right of way to runners etc. But there are plenty of peeps who are taking up the entire length of the walkways and refuse to get out of the way.

Anna said...

I bike to work on the riverwalk frequently, usually during the lunch hour because I start work at the TU at noon. I know the crowd will slow me down, but I'd rather go that way to avoid pothole-ridden streets and lunchtime car traffic that doesn't bother to look for me on my measly two-wheels. and i want to enjoy the view before i get into my cubicle and stare at a computer for the next 8 hours.

On the riverwalk, I am respectful, but run into the same attitude I get on the street: "You don't belong here"

I go slow, use "on your left" etc. but I find that people extremely overreact when they notice me pedaling towards them. I've had people jump out of my way, swear, gasp as I pass them and all I can think is RELAX! I see you, I am giving you space and I am in control of my bike!

I have frequented other multi-use paths in other places, and sadly, I'd have to say, they understand the "on your left" signals better and don't stereotype bikers as punk, hipster kids that are gonna just run them down.

I bet if I wore a sundress and rode a beach cruiser at the same speed and level of aggressiveness, people wouldn't care that I was there. I see it as a culture clash and it's really a shame.

fixed gear uk said...

they are such moaners - its a free country!!

Abhishek said...


yes, you need to rethink those drop bars :)
or just get a bell.

Emory said...

I ride my bike my fair share on the street. Last week I was running at dark on the River walk when some bikes came by. They were going at a good pace. They had lights and we gave each other plenty of room. The problem is they were on me before I ever saw them. After thinking about it they were looking further ahead then me since they were on the other side of the path and made eye contact. Then we were all on our way to enjoy a nice evening. Now off to the bank on my bike.

Flappers Alley said...

It's funny but true, people can't figure out where "left" is when you're right behind them. If you say "behind you" they pretend they are cars and go to the right.

A pleasant bell and a "thank you" works best of all.

David said...

Hey Night Train,

Only the end portion of our rivewalk is cobblestone, and yes. It's brutal. The rest of it's smooth pavement.

I like what this article's saying as in cyclist should keep their speeds down on the riverwalk, but pedestrians need to do their part as well to share the walkway.

You shouldn't have to dodge 20 mph bicylist, but they shouldn't have to flip over their handlebars because you walked out in front of them at the last minute either.