Many people who are not confident cyclists avoid riding on the road because they find the traffic intimidating. “Off road” paths are a great alternative. Just remember that what cyclists often call bike paths are usually shared paths. Here we as cyclists are sometimes seen as the intimidating traffic.
You’ll meet all sorts of traffic on a shared path: walkers, joggers, roller bladers, kids on training wheels, parents with prams, dogs on leads.
You can generally hear cars coming behind you, but you don’t make much noise at all. So coming up behind people on a shared path can give them a fright.
If you’re riding with companions the second and following bikes can give pedestrians an even bigger fright if they’re not expecting them.
Observing some simple rules of etiquette can make shared paths enjoyable for everyone using them. Bicycle Victoria starts by suggesting we simply be considerate of other path users and then keep some other points in mind.
Keep your speed at running pace or below (20-25 kph maximum) if there are other users on the path. Remember that wheeled traffic should give way to foot traffic.
Move off the path if you have to stop. That way you don’t impede other traffic.
It’s easy for pedestrians to see bicycles coming towards them, but when they overtake it’s a different matter. Keep left unless you’re overtaking and then overtake on the right. People are used to this from driving, so it makes your movements predictable.
The main thing you want to avoid is giving people a fright as you go past. Ring your bell gently, call “passing” and slow down as you do pass.
If there are more bikes behind you, call “two bikes passing” or whatever’s appropriate. That way the people you’re passing know it’s not just you they’re looking out for.
Bicycle Victoria recommends bells rather than horns for two reasons. Bells are recognisable as the sound of a bike and more expressive than horns. You can ring them with “urgency” or “politely”.
If a pedestrian is about to step onto the road in your path, an urgent ringing of your bell is definitely the most appropriate warning. On the path a gentle ring usually does the trick.
After all, the person we pass without making them jump out of their skin on the shared pathway could be driving the car that we cyclists will be sharing the roadway with.
See you on the road soon, God willing.
Image source: http://www.pedbike.org/ Dan Burden