Friday, September 18, 2015

The Dangers of Bicycling in Westerville

Westerville, Ohio is certainly the most bicycle-friendly town we have ever lived in!  It has a well-designed system of bike/walk trails that reach nearly every place within the city and some scenic areas outside of town.

Fortunately for us, our new condo is located just about half a block from one of those trails! So, of course, we had to get out our bikes, dust them off, put air in the tires, and try out our local bike trail.  It is great!  Nice road surface, protected street crossings, no major hills, and absolutely no vehicular traffic!  Despite a few muscles painfully protesting being roused out of retirement, we thought we had found The Promised Land for bicyclists.

"Our" trail runs along the edge of Westerville South High School athletic fields, behind the post office, along the back side of the city building and the library. We ventured out a little farther from home each time we rode.  I always followed Bruce since he seemed to know his way around on the bike trails and I hadn't yet found time to study the map of them.

One evening we explored a little neighborhood park a mile or so north of home.  On another ride, we exited off "our" trail and rode along a trail beside a very busy street.   Another two-wheeled excursion took us across town to the Westerville Community Center several miles from home.

On one fateful afternoon we rode north toward a shopping center.  I had no idea of where we were or where we were going.  I just blindly followed my guide.  At one point, Bruce left the bike trail and crossed the street to the opposite sidewalk.  "That's dumb," I thought "when you have a perfectly good protected bike trail to ride on!"  So, I did not follow his lead but continued on the bike trail on "my" side of the street.

At the corner, I had to wait to cross because the traffic light was red.  I lost track of Bruce amongst the orange barrels of construction at that intersection, but I assumed that he was waiting for me to cross and join him.

As the light turned green, suddenly I saw him, red T-shirt, jean shorts and bike helmet, riding toward me, speeding past me and on down the trail behind me!  By the time I got turned around, remounted my bike seat, and hit the pedals, he was far ahead of me.  "How rude" I thought, "not to even slow down and give me a chance to catch up with him."

The faster I pedaled, the madder I got, as he steadily pulled away from me, almost out of view!   At the next intersection I lost sight of him entirely!  I stopped, angry and entirely confused: I did not know where I was or how to get home and I had no map either on paper or in my head!  Now what?

I was reaching for my cell phone when I heard a familiar voice behind me. "Do you know where you are?" it asked.  "And where in the world were you going so fast?"  It was Bruce!

"I was trying to catch up with you," I retorted.  "Don't you ever do that to me again, lead me out to an unfamiliar place, then take off so fast I can't catch up with you, in a totally strange place with no way to get home!"

"What are you talking about?" he asked with a very confused look on his face.

"I'm talking about what you just did to me, leaving me in the dust, lost and alone in a place I've never been before!  Don't you EVER do that to me again!"

There was a lengthy silence.  Then he asked, "Who were you following?  It wasn't me because I was waiting for you back at the traffic light when I saw you turn around and take off like a bat out of hell.  I couldn't figure out where you were going, so I followed you, and I could barely keep you in sight, you were going so fast."

"Well, then, who was I following?" I asked perplexed.  "I was sure it was you.  He had on a red T-shirt, jean shorts and a bike helmet, just like you.  But, I confess, it's not like you to go so fast as to lose me in a strange place.  So it really wasn't you after all?"

"No, my dear, it wasn't me," he reassured me as my temper cooled.  "And I'm so glad that you couldn't catch that strange man in the red T-shirt that you were chasing.  If you had, I might have lost you forever!"

Yes, biking in Westerville is great - if you follow the right person!