Lakefront bike path etiquette

I love the lakefront bike path, and unlike many people, I just find it more exciting when it gets crowded. Remember the gargantuan space battle at the end of Return of the Jedi, with a billion ships flying in every direction, zipping past at breathtaking speed? That’s the lakefront trail at its best. Bobbing and weaving, zig-zagging a path through elusive and short-lived gaps, shouting warnings, slowing and accelerating, the kchunk! of shifting gears — I love it.

North from Ohio Street Beach

But as much as I love the thrill of it, safety and etiquette have to come first. And so, I have few words for my fellow bicyclists:

1) There is a time to lay on the speed, and a time to hit the brakes. When the path is clogged up with pedestrians, slower bikers, roller bladers, etc., etc., that is the time to hit the brakes. This is a multi-use recreational path, not a velodrome. It won’t hurt you to slow down for a moment till the traffic clears (though not slowing down just might.) You will still get your exercise, you won’t lose any race, and nobody would’ve been impressed with your blazing speed anyway, just annoyed at your rude behavior.

2) You are not mute. “ON YOUR LEFT!”, when properly used, is your friend. It’s rude to blast by people who’re only marginally in your way without giving them some kind of warning. Yes, there are lots of clueless people wandering with their head in a cloud. That is no reason to be rude. You haven’t gotten used to this by now? You should.

3) It is rude to pass a fellow bicyclist who’s slowed down for one of the aforementioned masses of pedestrians, bladers, etc. Believe me, we all want to be at the front of the line, and that goes double for people like me who actually belong there. So just take a number, get in line, wait patiently like the rest of us, and if you have any business passing me (you probably don’t*), you can do it once we’re in the clear.**

North Avenue beach and bike path

* Yes, I am confident of my biking skills to the point of arrogance. What about it?

**Heck, that’s good advice for a lot of Chicago drivers, too.

Unsurprisingly, I’m far from the only resident who has something to say about the bike path.

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