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I should start out by saying I LOVE The Monon. Couldn’t live without it. When I first moved to downtown Indy from Chicago a few years ago, I wasted no time and rode the Monon constantly, not to mention The Cultural Trail. Downtown Indianapolis has spoiled me forever with its ease of getting around via bike and I can’t imagine being a person stuck in a sad, sidewalk-less or trail-less neighborhood.  I love that I can ride from the Cultural Trail that is basically at my front door, to The Monon, and up to Carmel without ever having to veer off the trail.

So- to clarify; regarding my list: “10 Things I Hate about The Monon”.  I don’t actually “hate” the Monon by any stretch of the imagination. The majority of the path is peaceful, serene and enjoyable, utilized by the uber-conscientious. The words have more to do with some safety issues and antics of some individuals on the Monon, and less so about the trail itself. Keep in mind this is a brutally honest cyclists’ perspective.  It is meant as a (somewhat) humorous look at the flipside of cycling on The Monon. Not meant to offend.

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I really enjoyed Robert Scheer’s article in The Indystar “10 Things I Love about The Monon”  I more or less agree with every last number on his list.  I am an avid cyclist and runner.  I run downtown and along the Cultural Trail, but when I bike, I hit The Monon or The Central Canal Towpath.

For leisurely rides I take out my mountain bike and head to The Towpath, but when I want to ride hard and a little fast I break out My RedLine Cyclocross, with it’s double-walled Kevlar tires (haven’t had a flat since I left Chicago, and I ride A LOT) and hit the Monon.

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Being a Chicago cyclist for 15 years, that has probably spent the equivalent of three months time (probably more) riding along the Chicago Trails, specifically the Lakefront path. Anyone can attest, that has ever had the opportunity to ride on Chicago’s lakefront path, with it’s sheer volume of runners, cyclists, clueless tourists, segway riders, rollerbladers, and lake effect winds, a simple bike ride requires the strategy, foresight and prediction of human behavior equal to that of a Special Forces military operation, and less so an enjoyable ride throughout the city. Especially if you are trying to ride the path anytime between noon and 7pm on say, a Saturday or Sunday.

The Monon is a sanctuary by comparison. In general, we don’t have to deal with as many of the issues of the Chicago Lakefront path, at the level and volume as we would in Chicago. Some of my favorite parts of the Monon are the places that the “northerners” of Broad Ripple and Carmel tend to avoid out of fear, like the lonely little stretches of the path from downtown up to 38th St. That’s just fine with me. I love that part of the Monon. There, it is like my own private bike path.

Now for That List:

10 Things I hate about The Monon:

1) Cars and Confusion.

Sorry Indianapolis. This is one area where Chicago gets it right. Chicago motorists are always expected to yield to cyclists on the bike path period.  No questions. No confusion as to who stops. On The Monon, cars do not have to yield to cyclists or runners. Strange. The fact that cars do not have to yield to pedestrians and cyclists but then Indiana law says all cars must yield to pedestrians is really strange and contradictory. The reality: if you are riding every day  it becomes a crapshoot as to whether any car at any given time may/may not stop.We are at the mercy of their moods as to whether they will stop and wave us on to proceed.

The Monon clearly states and warns cyclists that cross traffic does not stop. Despite this some do, to be nice. This results in a strange gray area that can be confusing and dangerous for everyone.

I always stop if there is a car anywhere near as I aproach an intersection. And if one car stops, the traffic from the other direction may be oblivious and choose to barrell on and not stop, as happened in a case here.  While I think it’s nice that some cars stop for trail users, it also causes confusion for other motorists, especially those following behind that may not be aware the car in front of them will suddenly come to a stop, and rear-end the car, which I have heard of happening.  Not good.

2) You are not wearing a helmet.

And even worse, your children are not wearing a helmet. We have all heard-or at least I have the stories of people that have had horrible bike accidents and weren’t wearing a helmet. On a recent trip up the Monon, we came across a cyclist that had just had an accident. From a distance I was really worried that it was a bad accident. He was with his mom,and was maybe 8 or 9. We stopped to help and offer a band-aid from our first aid kit. Crying uncontrollably, his lip was bleeding. He was visibly shaken but otherwise ok, no doubt because he had a helmet on.

3)Dogs that are walked on the left. 

Please let me explain. In the direction of travel on The Monon, cyclists typically pass on the left, and pedestrians/runners are typically on the right side, hugging the edge of the path.  Almost everytime we go out we see someone walking their dog with the leash, cluelessly letting the dog meander over to the middle of the path, right in the way of cyclists.  Really?

Honorable mention for the cyclists that think it’s cute to ride a bike and walk their dog simultaneously, kind of dragging their dog along on a leash. Not exactly safe and doesn’t look too fun for Fido.

You will get side-eye from me on behalf of your dog.

4)”Weebles”.

Yes weebles.  These are the people that seem to almost forget that they are on a bike path and are swaying all over, looking around, talking to their companion and turning their heads to do so.  I think 90% of the human race has difficulty keeping their bikes straight while performing the feat of turning their head.

They are completely unaware that they have crossed over to the center line and into oncoming trail traffic while turning their heads to look back.  When they finally turn back around and realize they were about an inch from smashing into you, they often then say douchy things like “my bad”. This also includes people that are on their phones and texting.

5. Junior weebles.

See above. It’s not their fault they have clueless parents. Even worse, because they are just little kids and already their parents are unable to provide them with adequate supervision.  While we don’t hate the junior weebles, as they are too little and cute, we still find them pretty annoying. I am most afraid of riding around junior weebles as they are often the most unpredictable.

6. Cyclists that think they are in The Tour de France.

They speed through even the most crowded of areas such as Broad Ripple and The Carmel Arts and Design District. Yelling “On the left!!” at little kids and tearing through busy sections is just stupid.  There are so many long stretches where trail traffic is light enough that you can get a good workout in without tearing through Broadripple at 2PM on a Saturday going 22mph. The bikepath is for everyone guys.

7. Trail Hogs.

Somewhat related to #4, except they are completely aware and looking right at you. You are coming towards me, two across, nearly or overlapping the oncoming lane, and you are not moving over an inch. If I am riding two across and we are at a narrow part of the path, I always drop back to single file, or at the very least, allow room.

8. Rolling roadblocks.

Clueless pedestrians/larger groups that walk across the path. Please see the first photo in Bob Scheer’s article, which I borrowed from The Indy Star for purposes of this article, and have provided for you below. It so perfectly illustrates this conundrum.

You have a beautiful family and it’s great that your kid can now ride a bike. I am super happy for you all, but the people in this photo are an an absolute nightmare to cyclists. Inevitably encountered at a point where you cannot pass them, e.g., a bridge, or when oncoming trail traffic is heavy. Ditto the occasional rollerblader, whose wide and swaying side-to side motion can hinder other users. Ugh.

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9.The complete lack of drinking fountains.

Especially downtown section and going into Broad Ripple. Not a super big deal for when I am on my bike, as I usually bring water and just put it on my bike’s bottle cage, but for running this can be tough, especially in the summer. This is an issue at all Indy trails and parks, not just The Monon.

10.”ON THE LEFT!!”  

I use the term when passing, mostly when I am trying to pass a “weeble”, large group, or someone that seems unpredictable/clueless and/or I am in a narrowing/crowded part of the trail.  Sometimes I say hello, or good morning instead just to let people know I am passing, or if I say on the left, I say it to gently warn people, and in general I don’t shout it at anyone.

There are, occasionally, people that use it unnecessarily, decimating any hopes of serenity or Zen-Like moments I may be having as I ride.  I don’t get passed much to be completely honest. Sometimes I do, and if I am on the stretch of The Monon coming from the north, back into downtown, say somewhere between 38th and 16th St., and there is no oncoming trail traffic, and I am riding so as to give you plenty of your own real estate on the path, you do not need to scream as loud as humanly possible “ON THE LEFT!!!” at The top of your lungs. This usually occurs here:

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Again, I want to reiterate that I am not some crabby curmudgeon that rides the bike path and gets annoyed with everyone and everything. More often than not, it is a great experience. Just wanted to share my thoughts and opinions, mainly in the name of safety. I love it and wouldn’t ride it all the time if I didn’t.

Ride safe and see you on The Monon!

~Deborah

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