New Arrows!

More than 20 or so new arrow signs have gone in along the Schuylkill River Trail, and it looked like they were still in the process of painting more this morning!

New arrows painted on the trail near East Falls

I hope this helps with the summer trail traffic. Of course, some pedestrians will likely think the arrows only apply to bicycles and ignore them, still walking on the left side of the trail with their headphones on and dogs on leashes stretching across the trail…sigh…I suppose I often ignore signs too, like those signs on every bridge telling cyclists to walk their bikes. I agree, we should. When there is traffic, I do. But when there is one pedestrian on the bridge, I will admit I usually just slow down and take my cleats out of my pedals so I can get off my bicycle quickly if necessary .There is my confession for the day. I too ignore trail safety signs. But really, should I get off my bike at every bridge? That seems excessive, no?


The crazy things people do, another alternative while the trail is still closed, and views from the train…

The trouble with nice weather is that it brings out the crowds, and with the crowds come the crazies. Here’s one example: On Tuesday I was biking home from work, enjoying the beautiful weather when I found myself behind two cyclists and a blind corner up ahead. I fell in slowly behind them, waiting for a safe place to pass. When we got around the corner, I saw ahead of them a small child on his bicycle, weaving back and forth haphazardly, and his mother, several steps behind…on her cell phone. On an open trail with few people around? Maybe. But this was not the place for negligent parenting (and yes,  there are good–or at least better…Ok, fine, acceptable?–places for negligent parenting). The three of us on the bikes slowed down almost to a standstill to allow the child and mother to pass. At that point, apparently, there were some words exchanged by the mother and the cyclist in front of me, and the next thing I know I see the mother, still on her cell phone, start yelling obscenities at the cyclist and sticking her foot out repeatedly at her wheel (to kick it? get run over? not sure…). Now, I’m a mother, and I would love to stick up for the mom here. I take my kids on trails a lot, and I have run across some real jerks on bicycles who seem to think that children should be locked up away from all trails. But the cyclist in front of me was certainly not one of them. I can only feel for the child..If only I could force people like that (the mother, I mean) to read my trail etiquette post!

In other exciting news, my bicycle is out of the shop and running great. Thank you so much to the guys at Wisshickon Cyclery I think the improvements have probably cut 5 minutes or so off my commute. See Jane ride. See Jane be happy.

There were a couple days where my bike was in the shop, and I hadn’t yet broken down and pulled out my monster Trek and therefore rode the train. And let me tell you, I do NOT want to go back to commuting by train. In the span of two days I missed the train by a hair and had to call a friend to pick up my kids from school. (Meanwhile, the second train was late.) I was squeezed between two unfriendly men, one who smelled of alcohol and one who insisted on sitting with his knees nearly three feet apart. And, of course, I shelled out nearly $16 for these privileges. I am so grateful that the option to commute by train is there when I need it, but so happy I can usually take advantage of the two wheeled option instead.

The third day without my bicycle was an absolutely gorgeous, beg-to-ride-your-bike kind of day so I pulled out my old Trek Hybrid from 2001. Certainly not the worst bike in the world, but after sitting in the basement neglected for a couple years, and after becoming accustomed to a bicycle that I love, it almost felt tortuous. I don’t know if it was the bike or just my psychological state when on the bike, but I felt like I was riding a beach cruisers while everyone else was on Madones. The only bike I managed to pass was one of those fold-up deals. (Why do people ride those on trails? Aren’t they for riding five blocks from the train to the office?…)

And lastly, should anyone be looking for another alternative while the trail work along Lincoln Drive is going on, to the side of the guard rail along Lincoln Drive there is a narrow but passable path. A bit tough to ride the whole thing without dismounting for those of us with side panniers, but at least it is an alternative.

My husband took this picture on the way home one night. This guardrail is on the northwest side of Lincoln Drive, paralleling the trail that is closed.


This alternative may not be there for long, however, as I got an email tonight from WMAN stating:

“Beginning Friday, March 2, a single lane will be closed on southbound Lincoln Drive from Wissahickon Drive to Forbidden Drive.  The closure is needed for the continuing repairs to the supporting retaining wall.

The closures will be scheduled at 9:00 am after the morning rush starting Friday, March 2 and daily through the next two weeks. Advanced warning signs will be placed to channel a single lane of inbound traffic around the work area. During construction, the parking area along southbound Lincoln Drive is closed.”
I’m not sure how having both the trail and the road closed will affect the option next to the guardrail. However, Ken also reports that continuing along Ridge into Manayunk to Henry to the Walnut Lane Bridge is a good alternative. And, of course, one can also turn up Midvale off of Kelly Drive and go through East Falls and Germantown.

Basic Trail Etiquette

Some basic etiquette for those of us who use busy, urban/suburban, multi-use recreational trails, including Forbidden Drive Trail, Lincoln Drive Trail and the Schuylikill River Trail

For everyone:

A busy trail is very similar to a roadway.  If you wouldn’t do it on the street, don’t do it on the path either.  This includes U-turns without looking over your shoulder, passing on the right, stopping in the middle of the path, walking in the middle or left side of the path, and yelling obscenities.  (OK, so maybe we each occasionally do that last one on the roadways, but it isn’t acceptable on the trail.)   Also, if you walk, run or bike with headphones, keep one ear free, or turn your music down low enough to hear passing traffic.  Keep in mind the nature of a multi-use trail.  While you may be trying to get to work on your bicycle, others are trying to enjoy a morning stroll with their child.  Conversely, if you are strolling along hand-n-hand with your lovey, keep in mind that someone behind you may be trying to get home to their family on their way home from work.

The Basics:

Walk, run, skate and cycle to the right of the trail.

Pass on the left.

Share the trail.

Try to anticipate the actions of those ahead to avoid collisions.

Always listen and be on the look-out for others.

If you plan to stop, look behind you first, and stop to the side of the trail.

Do not litter, and practice low-impact trail use.

Be polite.  (We’re all out there for recreation, after all.  Trail rage is no fun.)

Be aware of your surroundings.

Glance over your shoulder periodically, and always before stopping, passing and turning.

Never cross the trail without looking.  (It is bad enough that the geese do this.)

Look out for the well-being of other trail users.

Special Considerations with Children:

Keep your children within arms’ reach and to the right of the path.

Consider using the trail at less busy times (or another area such as a parking lot or grassy field) for things like teaching your child how to ride a bike.

Teach your children how to use a multi-use trail safely and review the basics each time you get on the trail together.  (I knew I had succeeded with this one when my son yelled at me “Mom, stay to the right of the path!”  Do as I say, not as I do…)

Special Considerations with Dogs:

Be mindful of how well-behaved your canine friend really is, and before taking them on a busy trail, make sure you have good control.  (Ask a friend their opinion, as doggie mommies and daddies, myself included, often have wildly flawed perceptions of our dogs’ obedience.)   If there’s a possibility Spot will jump or bark at children, bikers or runners, consider training him elsewhere and at less busy times before taking him on a busy path a 5pm.  Full disclosure: my naughty little lovable pooch is old and cranky and therefore no longer allowed on busy paths.

Only walk your dog on a busy trail if you are using a very short leash.  Trying to pass someone who is walking a dog on a long leash is extremely dangerous for the person passing, as well as the doggie and the owner.

Consider keeping your dog to your right, on the outside of the path.

Special Considerations for In-Line Skaters:

When the trail is busy, limit the wide turns and side-swinging of your arms.

Skate in control and ready to stop quickly and safely.

Special Considerations for Walkers and Runners:

Stay on the right side of the path.

If passing a slower pedestrian, look quickly behind you before going to the left side of the trail to pass.

Don’t walk or run with more than one other person sise-by-side during busy times on the path.  Your group should never take up more than half of the path.  Ideally, groups should run single-file when the trail is busy.

Special Considerations for Bikers:

Unless passing others, stay to the right of the path and pass on the left.

Cycle in control.  Be ready to stop quickly and safely.

Don’t cycle with more than one other person sise-by-side during busy times on the path.  Your group should never take up more than half of the path.  Ideally, groups should cycle single-file when the trail is busy.

When passing others, slow down and look quickly behind you before going to the left side of the trail to pass.

When necessary, alert others that you’re intending to pass with an audible (but not jolting) “Passing on your left!”  “Out of the way!!” is not acceptable, even if it is what we want to scream sometimes.  If you’re biking in a pair or group, informing others of the number passing is helpful (e.g., “Five bikers passing on your left!”).

Special Considerations for Spitters:

Do your spitting and snot-blowing when others aren’t nearby, and try to avoid landing your luggies on the trail.

Caution! Cross-country season!

There are always other bikers, runners, walkers and skaters causing traffic jams on the trail, especially in nice weather.  Then comes fall, and with it, the crew teams and cross-country runners!  For those of you who run and bike along Forbidden Drive and the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, note that cross-country season–that glorious time of year when sweaty kids train in packs to race on natural terrain courses–is in full swing, and the crew teams too are heading to their boats (and in the process, swarming the trail near boathouse row).  The runners primarily train in the late afternoon/early evenings (sometimes early mornings).

So, watch out for the mobs of lean, mean, running machines from every high school and college in the Philadelphia region.  The slow ones always seem to be desperately trying to keep up with the pack, off to the side, right where one might want to pass.  And since they’re trying so desperately to hang on, they are really loathe to use any extra energy to get out of a biker’s way (or they’re suffering hearing loss due to a lack of oxygen to the brain).  I was once on a cross country team and have run miles and miles alone and in mobs for years (and was often the one  trying desperately to keep up) so I keep a soft spot in my heart for them, but I do wish that their coaches–some, others do a very good job of this–would take 5 minutes to teach the runners some basic trail etiquette.  But we, as cyclists, can at least do our part.  When you need to pass a mob of runners (or walkers), take time to slow down, alert them that you’re passing with a friendly but audible “passing on your left”,  and pass with caution, keeping in mind that there may be someone else, who you can’t yet see, trying to pass from the other direction as well.

As for other alerts, it is getting a lot better since the storms–there have been at least 6 trees across the trail along my commute that have already been cleaned up–but there are still obstacles remaining on the path along the Wissahickon, over a week after the storms:

Tree across the trail about midway between Ridge Avenue and Lincoln Drive--cyclists need to get off to lift bike over the tree

Tree across the trail near the intersection of the Wissahickon trail and Ridge Avenue--cyclists also need to get off here to lift bike over the tree

Mud along the trail