Sunday, August 6, 2017

Neal Smith Trail Along Pennsylvania Ave


As a cyclist I often find myself as the spokesperson for the bicycling community.  And this often occurs when I am the only cyclist in the room or the area.  I was reminded of this today as I was riding to Union Park to photograph the rocket slide.  I just climbed up from Lutheran Hospital and made the left on the pathetic excuse of a trail in front of Riverview Oaks Apartments when I saw a man on a hybrid cruising north on Penn Ave at speed.  I was a bit envious of him as I knew that I would have to worry about collisions with cyclists and walkers and cars coming out of driveways.  He only had to worry about the car behind him.  Sure enough, a microsecond after jealousy hit a black SUV was flying toward the street leaving the apartment complex.  I squeezed both brake levers and lost whatever speed I had in time for the climate changer to stop on the trail.  Not that close of a call but damn somebody is going to get hurt here one of these days.

Narrows after the apartments.

Thinking back a few months ago the conversation with muggle who was upset at cyclists.  It was at my local barber shop and I was known as "the biker."  The man getting his hair trimmed was an elderly gentleman, probably a veteran of WWII or Korea or both.

"How come bikers ride on Penn Ave itself instead of the trail paid by my taxes?"  "How come bikers think they can go through stop signs and red lights"  ect, ect

Now I could have hit him over the head with the truth of the matter concerning taxes.  "Guess what Pops, your car does not pay enough taxes for the roads anyway and my bicycle does not damage the roads in the first place.  Now tell me about the time in France when you faced the Kaiser's best troops and liberated Paris."

The whole climate change discussion was ignored.  But I told him that he should get a chair and sit out on a street corner and count how many car drivers break the law by not coming to complete stops.

But I did tell him that the trail there is bad and in need of work.  Today only reinforced my opinion.


First of all it is narrow like most trails.  And being an older trail it is more narrow than most. Basically it is a sidewalk.  The risk of head on collision with other trail users is high.  And this is an important and busy trail as it connects downtown to places north.  It is also in a residential neighborhood and thus more foot/bike/skateboard traffic.

Second, the trail is in rough shape.  Cracks run most of it.  Most cracks have vegetation growing in them.  Some parts have been dug up and left a mud hole for months on end.

You could grow crops in that crack!

Third, there are three major driveways along it.  Takes a lot of faith in humanity to believe that every vehicle will stop before the trail and look both ways both at the street and trail before crossing.  Takes a lot of awareness to look out for them.  Right hooks and left hooks.  Add in the fact that people tend to look at phones more than the road and we got trouble.  Safer to be in the street to begin with.

The new looking portion of the trail was a mud hole last year for several monts.

Finally, winter.  Although the trail is to be plowed and home owners on top of Penn Ave are to clear their sidewalk (trail) of snow this is not a successful endeavor.  City snowplows continually bury the cleared sidewalk/trail/sidepath with street snow.  I'd give up too.  Not everyone puts their bicycle away after Ragbrai and pull them out for the Mayor's Ride.  More and more people ride all year round.  Penn Ave becomes the only choice.

Now I am not asking for a handout to address these issues immediately.  I just want those that do not ride, muggles, to know and understand that there are legitimate reasons that cyclists take to the street.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post with important information. Thanks so much for posting it.

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