Sunday, March 05, 2006

Bedlam on the Bosque

Today it was a beautiful Sunday in Albuquerque with the sun shining, sky clear and blue and the temperature hovering around 65 in the “heat” of the afternoon. The wife and I went out for a bit of an easy ride along the Albuquerque bike trails that I use to commute to work on. She has never been along that particular route and will be ridding it a lot this summer when she starts attending summer school at Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute (TVI). We looped out of the Rio Grande valley onto a trail known as the North Diversion Channel Trail and headed to the University of New Mexico and then on to TVI. On the way back we dropped down through town and caught the Bosque trail in the south valley and headed north back along the Rio Grande to where we had parked. Let me tell you, the Bosque trail was PACKED with all manner of people. People on bikes of all stripes, people running, people walking people with dogs, people with kids, people on roller blades people people people. Because of the congestion, we were traveling slowly, maybe 14 mph, which is adequate for safety so long as you are using good trail etiquette and slowing to pass etc…

So we are coming up on a line of about 5 roller bladders in a group that included wobbly kids and I slowed a bit to go on by. I saw a guy on a mountain bike behind the roller bladders and he was going very slowly and there definitely was not enough room for him to pass prior to my wife and I pulling along side. But all of a sudden he swings out into my lane and heads straight at me. There was still time for him to do one of two things, he could have pulled back into his lane and wedged himself between the lead skaters and the rear skaters, which would have been rude but possible, or he could have pulled out of my lane and onto the dirt trail that runs alongside the bike path. Because he was on a mountain bike and he was in my lane and my wife and I had the right of way, I figured he would pull off but instead he headed straight at me going slow and looking straight ahead. I had to hit my brakes and slow rapidly in order to avoid one of three options, running headlong into a group of kids on roller blades, running headlong into the mountain biker that was headed for me in my lane or pulling off the path onto a sand and gravel road where I would have immediately done an endo into the dirt. When I slowed my wife didn’t notice and she ran right into my rear end hitting her front tire on my rear sprockets, flipping into the dirt and tearing a hole in her tire. She was laying flat on her back gasping for air having had the wind knocked out of her and I was trying to see if she was ok. The guy who had caused the accident stopped and asked if we were ok and offered to let us use his cell phone but there really wasn’t much to be done. Besides, I was too angry to really even look at the guy. I just focused on my wife and her bike. He ended up leaving without me noticing without so much as an apology or explanation, which may have been for the best anyhow because I probably would have ended up ruining my bike on his body.

We couldn’t repair her flat because the tire was torn and she said she felt ok, like nothing major had been damaged, but she was sore and scraped up a little. I ended up peddling hard back to the car, about a six mile ride, to bring it back to a place near where the wreck had occurred so I could pick her and her bike up. On my way to the care there was a group of cyclists off to the side of the trail right at the Montano bridge underpass and another cyclist flat on his back with the paramedics carrying a back board down to pick him up. I just kept speeding along trying to get to the car to go back and get wife. Then a pair of mountain bikers were ahead ridding side-by-side, one in the correct lane and one in my lane just ridding straight at me and smiling. Now for those of you who are not from my neck of the woods, these are paved trails with two lanes and each lane in the area I was ridding is wide enough for two people to ride abreast heading in either direction. In addition, the trail is flanked on one side by a nice hard pack dirt road. It’s not a small area. I had to yell ahead to get this numbskull to move. I did get back to pick up wife and when I found her a couple of folks from our triathlon team, “Grumpy” and “The Queen”, had found her and were walking along with her keeping her company.

We took the bikes to the shop, ABC bikes on Coors, to get a damage assessment. The rear derailleur on my bike was misaligned and needed to be straightened out and wife’s bike needed the front tire replace but, more ominously, there was a slight bit of sticking when you tried to turn her front wheel. The suspicion is that a couple bearings in the headset were crushed or knocked out of whack so they are going to have to pull it apart to find out what ma be wrong. I asked them to go ahead and keep both bikes to give them a good once over, we have a race this coming weekend and I want to make certain nothing falls apart on race day.

The thing is, I love springtime in New Mexico because the weather is beautiful but the downside is that every one else also loves spring in New Mexico and so they hit the bike trails. The problem is worst on the Bosque trail on weekends after about 11 am, which is usually fine because most serious cyclists are off the trails by that time. However, if you do end up on the trails during peak mob usage time, look out there are lots of people who don’t know anything of shared trail etiquette, cycling etiquette or, apparently the simple common sense that is required to prevent you from ridding headlong into something that is traveling in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.

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