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The Manners Primer: Of Bikes and Men and the Fox River Trail

This is a blog on manners.

I am a runner but not in the strictest sense of the word. My husband is a runner in the strictest sense of the word because he started running cross country in middle school, continued in high school and received scholarships from his college for being on the cross country team. At 57, he runs a sustained 7:40 mile for long distances and he has run five marathons. At 56, I run an 11:30 mile. I run 25 to 30 miles a week and have done so for 25 to 30 years. I have run countless half-marathons and finished four marathons and this is why I consider myself a runner, although not in the strictest sense of the word.

My husband thinks it is with a noble reverence for health that I run six days a week because he runs only three days but there is absolutely no truth to this. I run six days a week so that I can eat a cookie at four o’clock every afternoon and not gain weight.  So much for nobility. 

One of the best parts of living in Geneva, for a runner, is the Fox River Trail, (FRT going forward). Seasonally spectacular, it offers gentle hills and views of the river and you don’t have to worry about cars. You must, however, worry about bikes.

The bikers have three methods they use when approaching a runner from behind on the FRT.

First, they call out to you that they are passing you on the left. This method would be okay but the tone is often slightly hostile as in: if you so much as think about taking one step to the left, I may run you down like a chipmunk with this bike.

The second method—and my favorite—is the tinkle-bell. You know the one. We all had them on our bikes when we were little kids and they have a merry little jingle that happily announces their presence.  I love the tinkle-bells and I love the riders who use them.

The third method is absolute silence as they pass you so closely that your hair is blown to the other side of your head or your shoulder touches  theirs as they streak by. I know that my hearing may be going a bit but you cannot hear these riders, I swear. These stealth Ninja-bikers scare me to death because if they hit me, I could fall and at 56, that might mean something gets broken that will require a long mending process and the afternoon cookie is then out of the question.

For the longest time I thought my bike paranoia belonged only to me and was another weird- getting-older sign to be added to the many other weird- getting-older signs I seem to be accumulating.  But three things happened that convinced me otherwise.

The first thing happened when my daughter was visiting me last year and decided to take a run on the FRT while I made pies for Thanksgiving. I did not mention to her about the bikes on the trail because I thought she would think I am turning into a paranoid old lady and this is probably true, but why invite speculation?  She came back from her run and announced that the cyclists on the FRT were lunatics with an agenda to pick off as many runners as possible. She said that they probably gouge a notch on their seats for every runner they take out.  I felt justified for having this same belief and crossed it off my weird- getting-older signs list.

The second thing happened when I was driving a car. I was making a left-hand turn onto our road.  A bike rider was on the sidewalk riding toward the cross-walk into which I had turned.  Suddenly, I heard, “Hey!”  I looked in the rear-view mirror to see the rider chasing me down. He was screaming. I could not imagine what he needed so I pulled into my driveway and waited for him.

He stopped behind my car, screamed that I had almost killed him, whipped out his cell phone and dialed 911. Upon connection, he screamed to the dispatcher that I had almost killed him and he wanted an officer sent immediately and, in case I should attempt to escape justice, he gave them my license plate number.  I was in shock.  The man did not have a scratch on him. To me, “almost killing someone” should have some blood involved or at least road rash.

The officer arrived. The cyclist screamed that I had almost killed him.  The officer asked him what happened.  He screamed that I almost killed him in the middle of the cross walk.  The officer asked me what happened. I said that I had, indeed, seen the rider but he was nowhere near the crosswalk at the time of my turn.  The cyclist continued to scream that I had almost killed him.

My neighbor was listening to all of this.  He had come out into his yard no doubt wondering why the police were called to a home as boring as ours.  My neighbor offered that it might have been a service to humanity if I had killed the cyclist. The officer began chewing his lips in an effort to keep from laughing. The cyclist wanted a fine levied.  The officer refused. The cyclist insisted. The officer declined. The cyclist demanded an apology from me. My neighbor told him not to push his luck. Everyone left. But this incident again validated my belief that some of these cyclists are militant about their imagined or actual rights on the roads and trails.

The third thing that happened was that I read a piece called “Critical Mass” in the Oct. 2 issue of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. It was on the front page. The piece was written by a cyclist and talked about the hostile and aggressive attitude of some of today’s bike riders toward motorists and pedestrians. A bike rider wrote this.  I now had absolute proof that this attitude and subsequent behavior exists.  All of this evidence points to a need to reiterate the rules of the road so that the guilty can repent and behave better toward the pedestrians with whom they share the Trail. As a child, I was taught these rules by the adults in my life but clearly, this is no longer the case. So here are the rules and they are the essence of simplicity:

Pedestrians have the right of way. Always. They have feet and you have wheels and feet always trump wheels in the case of right of way.

When approaching a pedestrian while riding a bike on a common walkway or path, the rider must call out to the pedestrian their intention of passing on the left.

And then, there is the merry little tinkle-bell. Might I interest you in purchasing one? Who knows?  It may even improve your mood.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike Bruno July 03, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Like someone else said, don't take the tone of "passing on your left" personally. Bikers are not trying to strike up a conversation, it is a quite-utilitarian announcement. Some pedestrians oddly think it means "get off the trail" and leap off to the grass. That said: it is annoying just how many bikers *don't* announce themselves. I try to make my presence known *at least* three seconds before passing with my bicycle. As a fairly strong rider (for an older fat guy) that means [what might be considered] yelling from a good distance back. The FRT in the tri-cities is, if I recall correctly, the most heavily traveled stretch of trail in Illinois. ANYONE using it should treat it like a two-lane highway. You should ASSUME that there will be people approaching from behind. Stay in your "lane". Make sure your dogs and little kids stay in their lane. I won't begrudge anyone wearing headphones (though there are good arguments against them), but it is the wearer's problem if they are getting startled. How about some group (or the responsible park districts) stencil trail etiquette reminders along it's length?
Matilda B July 03, 2012 at 06:32 PM
So Jon, should I stop my car if someone is coming along the sidewalk to wait til they reach the crosswalk? Really? If someone is using the crosswalk, I stop but I'm not going to sit there waiting for them to get in it if they haven't gotten near it. And also, doesn't the rider need to use a little common sense? Accidents are the result of poor judgement and that goes for both parties involved. Chill out Jon
Kyla Keime July 03, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Sorry everyone, I have to side with Jill on this one. And let's leave out every biking and walking and street crossing example unless it pertains to you and your body and a bike being on the FRT - at the same time! If you want to complain about pedestrians crossing 3rd Street and getting plowed by an SUV, write your own blog. Jill is right, and she stero-typed (quite correctly) the three groups of bikers. I like the bell ringers too Jill. Trust me, after 15 miles on the path, my legs are not as agile as your two bike wheels. And bikers, if you think you are going so fast that you can just blow by me and I won't notice, think again, because I really think you are just showing your ignorance. So basically this article reiterates what I have thought all along...92% percent of people are just plain rude, they care only about themselves and God forbid they have to SHARE anything...down to a crummy old river trail.
Josh West July 03, 2012 at 10:44 PM
"92% percent of people are just plain rude" is this your own scientific poll??? go run around your house if 92% of people are rude
Jill Miller July 03, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Jon - after eight years of writing a weekly newspaper column, I've learned never to comment on what my readers comment. I am making an exception just this one time to tell people this. And to recommend Websters Dictionary as a great source for the definition of 'PEDESTRIAN'. I'm sorry to resort to capital letters but it saddens me that so many people do not know the meaning of this word, (as a noun).
karl July 04, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Jill - you shouldbe like Jeff Ward, half the comments on his stories are from him (and stop texting and driving! next time you'll probably KILL a bicyclist!)
frt biker chick July 04, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Guess I'll continue to ring my bell before I breeze on by, as it seems the preferred form of announcement. Thank you to the runners/walkers who do raise a hand and acknowledge that they have heard it.
Jen Marsh July 04, 2012 at 02:02 AM
good thing we live in Geneva and not a third world country. CHILL!
Jimg July 04, 2012 at 02:48 AM
I looked on line the rules of the road and to the person who said that the cyclists are pedestrians. I am so sorry to inform you that you are wrong, look at the rules of the road page 38 and that explains that. Please look at page 41 bicycles. Then I looked up the Illinois bicycles rules page 3 and 4 says that you MUST have a horn or bell that must be heard up to 100 feet. To the person who wrote that they will not have something like that on the bike sorry buddy but YOU are breaking the law. Also the bicyclest must also stop at stop signs, but wait they do right?
Robert July 04, 2012 at 03:31 AM
@Jimg. Yes a cyclist must follow the same laws a motorists follows. As for the 'MUST have a horn or bell.." That is not a LAW. The Illinois biking "rules" also state a helmet is an essential piece of equipment, but it isn't a LAW. The horn, reflectors, "properly adjusted seat", etc. listed along with the horn suggestion aren't LAWS. Failure to wear a helmet isn't breaking the law, although it sure aint smart. Bottom line is whenever people are involved in whatever activity there always are outliers. Unfortunately it's human nature to remember the outliers and not the rest. Trail etiquette is easy, just stay to the right, keep your ears and eyes open, and yes, runners or cyclists may indeed pass you on the left at any time and MOST will announce their arrival. As for the comment about cyclists using the roads, come on, are you serious. We have a right to share the road and you can pass us as we expect you to. Cyclists shouldn't be on the road and then also shouldn't be on the trails, and there are laws stating bikes can't be ridden on side walks, uh, what's left for goodness sake.
karl July 04, 2012 at 03:37 AM
If I want to ride my road bike I drive 45 minutes west of town to get on the farm roads. I won't put my health and safety in the hands of people like Jill Miller. So funny to clip a biker in a crosswalk. Glad you and the Geneva cop shared a laugh about almost killing someone.
Terry Flanagan July 04, 2012 at 04:38 AM
The real problem is that mixed used trails are really no place for serious bikers, some whom are pedaling as if they were trying to best their previous time and don't want to be slowed down by pedestrians. This is not true of all bikers, but it is common enough behavior to cause concern, especially on congested trails like the ones through Island Park. Pedestrian behavior, especially with children, is fairly unpredictable, and the expectation that any pedestrian is going to hear, much less respond correctly to whatever passing signal a biker chooses is unreasonable. People don't normally carry rear view mirrors while walking and don't really pay much attention to what's going on around them. it may be better to dismount and just walk one's bike in congested areas. I used to use the FRT for casual biking and walking, but it's gotten so crowded I stick around the neighborhood now, If I want someone riding my tail looking for an opportunity to pass, I'll get in my car and get on any of the area expressways. More and more pedestrians are being made to feel that they are in the way of avid bicyclists whether that is the cyclist's intent or not. The recent death of a cyclist on the Batavia portion of the trail suggests that things are only getting more dangerous and that perhaps not everyone is practicing trail safety and etiquette.
Hercules M. July 04, 2012 at 01:32 PM
On many other trails, and on roads, runners are supposed to run on the left, instead of on the right. This way, they can see oncoming traffic. If you truly believe that bikers are not pedestrians, then I guess they have to be considered vehicles, and the mixed use trail is the same as a road. So why don't more runners and yourself run on the left?
Jimg July 04, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I re-read the section about Jill turning left and the person was on the side walk and not in the crosswalk yet. None of us were at this crosswalk to be making and kind of comments about who was right and who was wrong. I looked up all of my comments on my first post from the rules of the roads website, then the section on bicycles said there is a anther group of rules that bicycles need to follow and go to this other website. The rules of the roads and the rules for bicycles all rules that we all can and do get tickets for and we only choose to follow and defend the ones we all like. I do not use the FRT because I have heard all sorts of stories about everyone using the trails, my pet pev is the bicycles on the roads that ride on the sidewalks, ride in the middle of the road and my favorite one going thru stop signs then getting td I am number one because I stopped and they did not.
Jim Gore July 05, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I just read about a person who was ridding a bike in the middle of the road, they side swiipped a car, they got hit and passed away and guess what no tickets were issued against the driver. To the person who said that every time there is a accident between a car and a cyclist the person driving the car ALWAYS gets the ticket. Not in the case and I have spoken with a friend who is a police officer in Streamwood and said that in MOST cases the cyclest are the ones getting the tickets., but not in ALL cases. I also asked him about the bell or horn on a bike, tthe answer to that is YES you are suppose to have one, but he himself does not have one. The issue about the officer not doing a ticket and everyone having a issue with it, get the his badge number or his name and issue a complaint with Geneva Police Department, he also said he would not have issued a ticket either because 1 he did not witness it and no one else came forward to agree with cyclst or even the driver. I think this should clear up everyone's complaints almost getting hit.
Fozzie Dabear July 05, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Jimg, in pointing out that by law, bicycles (at least on roadways) are legally the same as autos is quite correct. It also is true that many bicyclists don't feel all that safe out on the middle of the pavement and take a number of maneuvers that are forbidden to autos as a result. The law really isn't quite adequate for the situation. I will agree also with Mike in not taking the tone of "LEFT!" being yelled personally. Many walkers are indeed listening to headphones, friends, or an internal personal reverie and hefty bellowing is indeed usually needed. As for the non-yellers - well, yea that ain't right. However it is also true that many pedestrians respond to "LEFT!" by wandering back and forth across the path a few times before realizing what is happening. There is a certain temptation for the cyclist to just leave the pedestrian unaware in order to prevent this. Basically, many pedestrians don't think of the FRT as a multilane highway. Can't say I blame them, but on a sunny weekend day, that really is what it is! Even ignoring those dim-witted cyclists who fail to realize, as Terry quite correctly points out, that Island park is no place for a cyclist to get a serious work out, there is still a lot of traffic on those paths.
Len July 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
"The cyclist demanded an apology from me. My neighbor told him not to push his luck." You nearly run over some guy on a bike and you can't be bothered to apologize? Disgusting.
Jim Gore July 05, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Len, we're you there? Did you witness what happened? If not then I believe you should not have made the comment you did. I read that he was on the sidewalk and not the cross walk you forgot to copy and paste that on your comment. I am just sayin
Len July 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I he was on the sidewalk, I doubt Jill would've nearly hit him (unless she's an even worse driver than she seems) When a 3000 lb vehicle meets a bike, the bike loses. I think she could've defused the entire situation by doing what any normal person would do after nearly hitting someone stop. make sure they're okay and apologize, Instead she writes an article boasting about how she and the cop laughed at this guy and she didn't even apologize. I repeat, I find her behavior disgusting
Jim Gore July 05, 2012 at 08:25 PM
I repeat you were not there and neither was I. She said and I repeat she said the bike was on the SIDEWALK not in the CROSWAlLK. You all can file a complaint with Geneva police department about the officer . If everyone who is responding would all like to pick a stone and throw it at me to prove you all are perfect like Christ was I'll meet up with you on the FRT sometime.
ccw July 05, 2012 at 08:27 PM
"My neighbor offered that it might have been a service to humanity if I had killed the cyclist. The officer began chewing his lips in an effort to keep from laughing." If you think that's funny - this site is a real side-splitter http://www.everybicyclistcounts.org/
Jim Gore July 05, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I went to the above mentioned website. 1st I am sorry about the list of life. The evening crash the story does not say if the person had a light on the bike so they could have been seen. Yes it was wrong for the driver to flee. The story from IL I read this on line Wed night and my question is why would the person side swipe a SUV? The story of the director getting killed yes the truck driver was at fault 100% The other truck accident sorry if a big big truck passes you and it has it's turn singal on common cents would tell me to slow down or stop because. I am on a small bike compared to the big big truck. These articles seem to be favor the bicycle riders that's fine but make sure all of facts are reported correctly like if the bikes had lights on, etc, etc
ccw July 06, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Jim, whether or not the cyclists had lights, etc. isn't really relevant, I take issue with the fact the Jill Miller (and apparently the Geneva Police Dept) thinks it's funny to joke about killing a cyclist. She seems to gloat about the fact that she sent him on his way without so much as an apology. Every dead cyclist on that site (4 killed yesterday) is someone's daughter, father or brother. Think about that the next time you are so damned convinced that you have the right-of-way
Jim Gore July 06, 2012 at 02:22 AM
CCW then go to the Geneva Police Daparent and file a complaint about the way the officer handled that situation.y friend who is Streamwood Police Officer said that most police departments will look into it. The right of way comment, yes I damn will remember it the next time I see s whole group of bike riders in Wayne going the stop sign on the corner of Smith and Powis. I will also damn remember it when I see bike riders blow thru the stop signs off of the bike trail on 31 in Saint Charles. CCW how about if you and I meet up sometime grab a few lawn chairs and sit by the bike trail off of 31 in Saint Charles and lets count how many bike riders stop at the stop verses how many do not and how many accidents that are almost caused by the ones that don't stop. I betcha my number will me much higher then yours. You know the ones that are someones father, mom, daugher sons. The case of the bike rider that was killed at night sorry to disagree with you but if there was no lights on the bike that could have made a difference of that person making it home that night to there family, so please do not poo poo it way. I have seen plenty of bike riders in the fall with the time change and they have some pretty bright lights that if you as car driver can not see them then the car driver should not be driving I am pretty impressed with today's lights on bikes compared to when I was kid and rode my bike at night.
ccw July 06, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Jim, I'm not going to file a complaint with the GPD. I wasn't there. In all likelihood Jill Miller (or whatever her real name is ) made up the bit about the officer struggling to stop laughing about killing a bicyclist. I know a few GPD officers and they have a little more compassion and respect for human life. Yes, I ride - but I'm not a militant rider about my rights. I'd rather come home alive to my family than be "in the right". All I'm saying is that cyclists get killed every day by people like Jill. Even if they are "in the right'. I hope to God that neither you nor Jill have to identify the body of your child in a morgue because they were killed by a motorist. I'm checking out of this thread, but please think about it.
Jim H July 06, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Boy- Reading the last comment Looks Like Jill Miller is an Ignoant ass along with you Jim Gore.. Maybe if you two stay off the sreets! they will be alot safer.
Jim Gore July 06, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Jim H hmm must be all of correct facts that got to you. So how about you and I pulling up a lawn chair and let's sit at at 31 and Moore in St Charles and lets count how many different times a SAFE bike ridder goes thru that stop sign and almost causes a accident. If not then STFU.
Ken July 06, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Um, Jim? There is no '31 and Moore'. I think you might be talking about 25 and Moore, where the Fox River Trail crosses Rt 25. You know, the one with the marked crosswalk and the caution signs with the picture of the bikes? I pity the cyclist that assumes drivers will yield to them in the crosswalk.
Jim Gore July 06, 2012 at 08:06 PM
You are correct. I think there is a stop there. I am going to have to look tonight or this weekend and if there is not one then I will apologize about a stop sign on the path and I will see if on 25 there is signage for cars to be alert for bike riders,
Kel July 14, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Jill Miller wrote: "My neighbor offered that it might have been a service to humanity if I had killed the cyclist. The officer began chewing his lips in an effort to keep from laughing. The cyclist wanted a fine levied. The officer refused. The cyclist insisted. The officer declined. The cyclist demanded an apology from me. My neighbor told him not to push his luck." I saw a young woman lying motionless on the pavement of the State St. bridge this morning, 7/14, after she was struck by a car. There were several grim faced Geneva officers rushing ti the scene. I wonder if the officer who could barely conceal his laughter about killing a cyclist was among them. It was a terrible sight and I hope she makes a full recovery. Any info on her condition Patch reporters?

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