Anyone who has ridden the Lakefront Path in Chicago knows to be careful. Mornings are usually OK, evenings are a bear in the spring and summer -- fortunately, with all the wind lately, things have been more sane than usual for May.
For those of you not from around here, here's the deal: every runner (seriously) has headphones on. So do all the rollerbladers. And about half the bike riders. Everyone thinks they have the right-of-way. Runners and 'bladers turn across the path without looking. Triathletes go flying by in their aerobars at 23mph, weaving precariously through crowds. Large people walk four abreast, effectively reducing the path width to about 2 feet. And someone -- if I ever find out who, I will kill them -- introduced double-wide, four-person "pedal buggies" to the busiest part of the path near Navy Pier.
For the most part, though, mornings aren't too crowded, and are pretty awesome when the sun is just coming up over Lake Michigan. I've been able to do some pretty effective workouts out there with minimal interruptions -- intervals at speed, sprint workouts, other fun and painful ways to pass the time. Which makes this morning's events all the more strange.
I rolled down the path, no workout other than to ride, thankful not to have a headwind. With the crosswind off the lake, things weren't too bad ... rolling along in team kit, big chainring, just cruising, not going hard at all. I roll through Belmont, over the bridge, drop down, along the lake, and then, as we come to the very narrow corner by the old convalescent home, there's traffic. I pull in behind a guy and lightly tap the brakes, waiting for my chance to pass once the path opens up. (Heck, even the pavement says "SLOW AREA" in big yellow letters -- this area has been under construction for about 2 years.)
All of a sudden, this guy is looking over his shoulder, juking wide right around a poor runner in the path, and screaming at me! "TELL ME YOU'RE ON MY LEFT," he shouts. "I wasn't going left, I was waiting for my chance to pass," I say. "WELL YOU WERE BEHIND ME, YOU SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME YOU WERE THERE." "I was waiting until traffic cleared, you were fine where you were." "WELL OBVIOUSLY I WASN'T COMFORTABLE WITH YOU THERE." Then, because I had to have the last word, I yelled over my shoulder as I rode away, "Next time, just chill out and stay on your line, and everything will be fine."
This was just too weird. If I had said something, he would have freaked and gone straight into oncoming traffic. But there I am, probably 10-15 feet behind him and very much in control, waiting my turn and getting slammed for it! I hate to tell this guy, but if he's not comfortable with people coming up behind him, he's going to have a hard time on the path this summer. You just have to be constantly aware, assume the other guy is going to kill you, and hope for the best -- but let's not be shouting at each other for it!
(For those of you who are path regulars, consider this: we have quite a conundrum developing. Gas prices are on the rise. More people are riding their bikes to work, often taking the path. At the same time, a very visible, very stupid minority is using the path as their own private workout space. Thus, any of us in team kit are labeled as dangerous, even if we're going slower than the guy on his $200 hybrid. Where is the breaking point? I worry ...)
1 day ago