I work in Boulder Colorado and get to enjoy biking the Boulder Creek Path at lunchtime. Boulder has an interesting mix of people that use the path and it is quite popular. The path can get pretty crowded with lunchtime athletes, students, and tourists. As a courtesy, bicyclists commonly say “on your left” as they pass pedestrians or slower moving cyclists to avoid crashing into them. The pedestrian has the right of way and it is the cyclists responsibility to avoid them. Sometimes, you could expect to be scolded for not saying it loud enough or not at exactly the right time. So in the spirit of some of the great wars between outdoor groups like rafters versus fisherman, snowboarders versus skiers, and hikers versus mountain bikers, I offer my take on the cyclist versus the pedestrian. Here are my top five reasons for not giving the pedestrian the courtesy of the “on your left” shout out anymore:
- The vast majority of walkers have their headphones on so loud with their favorite Justin Beiber song cranked up they can’t hear anything else. Or, more realistically, The Grateful Dead.
- Your version of “Rocky Mountain High” is very different than what John Denver had in mind. Even though pot is legal here now, it still isn’t supposed to be smoked in public. Many people ignore this, especially in Boulder and they are wandering all over the path without a care in the world. Just the other day, a guy on a recumbent bike was smoking a joint and discretely put it to his side as he passed me by. Now that sounds like a great combination: biking and marijuana. I guess this guy must have a really bad back. So much so that he has to ride a recumbent instead of a regular bike and needs to smoke a joint instead of taking a Percocet.
- You are a tourist and you’re oblivious to the fact that you are on a multi-use path where you could get plowed over while you look at the creek, the mountains, and the scenery. Admittedly, Boulder is a pretty cool place to look at but really people, pay attention.
- You don’t know what it means when someone says it. This one I don’t fault people for. When I first hit the trails in Boulder, I had no idea why people were saying that to me. Now I know that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but I had honestly never heard that one before. Also, multi-use path rules and regulations can differ from one place to another so I know that it can be confusing. I know that on a trip to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge a couple of years ago, I was walking on the right side like I would in Boulder and had a cyclist yell at me for being where I shouldn’t be. When I think about that one, I still can’t figure out what I did wrong.
- You think that “on your left ” means move to your left. I can’t tell you how many times walkers move to the left when I’m passing them, making it a close call for both of us.
After all of these top five humorous yet sometimes annoying reasons to not say “on your left”, I still find myself giving everyone the courtesy of saying it regardless of how many people may not know their left from their right (after possibly eating too many ‘special brownies’). I just make sure that they don’t have headphones in, aren’t high, they aren’t tourists , that they look like they have common sense, and that they know that having a bike crashing over them like a speed bump would be bad for them and the cyclist. But it will most certainly be the cyclists fault!
Be safe out there 🏃🏻🚴