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What Would Another Mother Runner Do?: Bike Path Woes

Kari (right) and her BRF Michelle on the path where the BIKER lurks.
Kari (right) and her BRF Michelle on the path where the BIKER lurks.

In this occsional column What Would Another Mother Runner Do (WWARMD) we tackle a problem that Kari posted on one of the private Challenge pages. Although the main issue of runners vs. cyclists is a perennial one, especially when trails are involved, the more problematic aspect is the manners—or lack thereof.

We'll let Kari take it from here.

"So there's a popular local running/walking/biking trail in town that I run on almost exclusivelyi. It's paved and wide, well-maintained and fairly scenic, and runs along a lake,, through downtown, a by a river. I don't carry any type of self-protection when I run on; if it's early and I am alone, I take my dog with me. If it's later in the morning, I just go. I often times run with my BRF as well and thus feel like there is safety in numbers but I am beginning to wonder if I need to start carrying something like mace. That said, I do always carry my phone.

This morning my BRF and I were out enjoying about 15 minutes of overlapping runs with one another when we had yet another encounter with THE BIKER. He is an older man—NOT a gentleman!—in his mid to early 60's who cycles along the trail. We've now encountered him at least 5-6 times in the past 2 months.

It's not posted anywhere that I have noticed, but about 90% of the users of this trail, including ourselves, follow the rules of the road... walk/run/bike on the right and pass on the left. THE BIKER always comes up behind us when we are running side-by-side (chatting!), taking up about about 3-4 feet of the trail on the far right side. Our posiiton leaves at least 10 feet of passing room on our left. Even so, starts laying on his bike bell and yelling at us to "share the trails" and then flips us off behind his back as he passes. Every single time.

When he passes us, even though there is plenty of space, he always just barely brushes by me on my left side, like if I stuck my arm out he would hit it, The first few times it happened we were speechless. Now I'm just pissed.   I've been out running alone before and he'll just pass on the left without using his bell or any rude gestures; it's only when the two of us are running together that we have had issues with him.

We get passed all the time by other cyclists without any trouble whatsoever, some might call out "on your left" and then pass by leaving plenty of space between us. I like it when cyclists say something, so they don't sneak up on me. He doesn't say anything; just rings his bell.

The last two times we have encountered THE BIKER I haven't been able to keep my mouth shut and have yelled profanities back at him. This morning I heard him coming (his bell!) so I turned around and faced him, yelled at him that he had plenty of room to pass on the left and to get over himself. He flipped us off and kept going. I watched him go on to pass an older couple who were walking ahead of us without any use of his bell or middle finger. I swear he's doing it just to bully us—two young women—and it boils my blood!

After my BRF left me when she finished her run and I set out for the rest of mine—another 30 minutes—I realized I felt suddenly vulnerable. Even though it was mid-morning and the trail is fairly well used. Still. It irks me to know that this guy is getting under my skin and making me consider taking my runs elsewhere."

Sarah says: Kari, my blood is boiling right along with you! First and foremost: Do.Not.Take.Your.Runs.Elsewhere. You have as much right to use that trail as anyone else, and it sounds like a lovely, tranquil place to run except for this asshat. THE BIKER obviously has a beef with women runners, and he's not shy about expressing it, in very uncouth manner.

Although it's mighty tempting, and I would have done the same thing as you have done, don't sink to his level. Let him pass without acknowledging him or his rudeness. However, the next time he flips you off as he passes, I would take a photo of him because if he ever escalates his harassment (which I highly doubt he will), you want proof of his gross gestures toward you. I don't think he's a risk of intentionally harming you, but if his behavior gets more belligerent, contact the police.

Dimity says: I agree with my sister from another mother runner. He is a bully, and bullies want attention and validation. Don't give him either. Photograph him, though, just in case.

If you want to lighten up the situation a little bit, I'd start a tally of how many times he passes you. Once you get to, say, 10, you and Michelle get to treat yourselves to a post-run pastry and latte—and cheers to never treating anybody that way.

Your turn: What would you do with THE BIKER?

34 responses to “What Would Another Mother Runner Do?: Bike Path Woes

  1. He sounds like a selfish, mean-spirited old guy. Maybe something “deeper” is fueling that behavior, maybe not. Changing his behavior is not likely a “game” you can win. I know that temptation to spew at rude people. I’ve been there and done that. But it’s not helpful and likely to escalate matters. Don’t sink to his level. Your focus is on staying safe. So run single file when you hear his bell, say nothing and don’t escalate are your best strategies. Also, I doubt mace would serve you well, especially with a guy on a moving bike. What’s the likelihood you’d actually hit him in the face? What are the odds of a breeze blowing it back into yours? Run happy, be kind – even to those who don’t “deserve” it. Then reward yourself with whatever pleases your best self – pastries, interpretive dance, new socks.. Be well Be safe : )

  2. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. Scary! Rules of the road usually do NOT apply to biking/running trails. All of the running/biking trails I have every been on specifically ask EVERYONE to stay to the right and to announce when you are approaching and need to pass. Some people here have posted that runners should be facing wheeled traffic.

  3. Reading one of these comments brought up a question for me: On a road, I would run AGAINST traffic (which I believe is the rule), however bikes would ride WITH traffic. What are the rules on a shared run/walk/bike trail? My instinct is that everyone using it would stay to the right, but are runners supposed to be on left like they would be on a road? I’m just wondering if this guy thinks runners are in his way when they’re on the right (not that it gives him the right to behave that way anyway. I would be FUMING!) Just a thought/question.

  4. I’m sorry you’ve experienced a rude and aggressive cyclist. This is very timely for me as we’ve had so many people on our trails trying to go as fast as they can (a race in a few weeks) and don’t bother to either give me the Groucho horn or bell. I would just go single file, he might be uncomfortable passing on the extreme left even though he can find the energy and balance to flip you off. Our trails have major supports systems in place: Facebook pages, websites, boro buildings. I would race a complaint but I would not agitate him by photographing him from the front. He sounds too squirrely. Good luck. You have the right to feel safe.

  5. I only run on a bike path occasionally (more in the summer when I am in WI, than the rest of the year, when I am home in OR). I have rarely had problems with cyclists except that they rarely, if ever, respond to me saying “hello” or “good morning” to them – rude!
    A friend says she runs with others along a bike path and they usually run 3-4 abreast and if a cyclist yells at them, one of her friends yells back. I ask why they run 3- 4 abreast if they know a cyclist is coming? That seems rude to me. But 2 across really doesn’t take up much room so the guy is just being an ass. Most others have given you some very good responses.
    Another friend was rung the local bike path with her husband and when they turned around to go back, a cyclist struck my friend’s wrist and broke it. He just kept biking! So she was stuck with the emergency room bill, the bill for the surgery, and 6 months or more where she could not work (she is a PTA and massage therapist)!

  6. Smile and wave and run on the other side of the trail…he’s a “cyclist” (maybe)- if he was a biker he’d be on a Harley and you would have gotten run over a long time ago.

  7. I would just be kind and document everything.

    That said, about 2 or 3 years ago I was running early one morning on my city’s running/cycling trail (very populated and busy) and was by myself, but way off to the right side (like an army of elephants could pass me on the trail) – and I had a male cyclist stop and yell at me in a very threatening way for being in his way. I told him I didn’t hear him coming but was way off to the side and didn’t think I was in his way. He continued yelling about how he didn’t believe me (actually – I am almost deaf in one ear – so me not hearing him is entirely possible!). He finally got on his bike and rode off. I ran home very shaken and told my friend that is a retired policeman. My friend told me if anything ever happened like that again to tell the perpetrator that I was calling the police and begin dialing 911. I didn’t run that direction on the path for weeks and weeks after that. To this day I’m still not sure what caused him to come back and yell at me.

  8. It frustrates me that runners don’t follow the old rules….walk/run toward oncoming traffic. If you did this, you could see vehicles coming at you…the intent behind the “rule.” It is dangerous to run in the same direction of wheeled vehicles. Hard to share the path when you can’t see what is coming at you from behind. Beyond that, I would guess this guy would flip you off anyway. Just laugh and move on.

  9. I probably am in the minority, but in the interests of de-escalating a situation that has already escalated, I wonder if simply going in single-file while he passes would make him more comfortable and solve the problem. Whenever I’m on a trail with another person, we always shift to single file if anyone passes. It can be a simple, courteous way of sharing the trail. Everyone has different expectations and it is when expectations collide that tempers flare. In my book, it would be worth having one person drop back to not give a clearly agitated person reason to get upset.

  10. I had a similar situation. I run with a group of girls after work. A portion of our route is on a 2 lane street, but we always go single-file at this point. This strange unkempt looking man on a bike kept coming around, it seemed he knew the days/times we ran. Would yell to us we “deserved to be hit by a car”, etc etc. One time a policeman drove by and we stopped him. The officer rode off and caught up with the man, and apparently lectured him. The officer then came back and told us the man was drunk, and had been seen sleeping in the woods, and said we needed to be careful. We never saw him again after this, but you need to be careful. You never know who is on that bike.

  11. Be careful but proactive. At the end of the day, if he is inspired to bump you or gets too close and causes an accident, it’s going to hurt you more than him. Contact the appropriate authorities, take a video of him coming and a picture of his very classy wave goodbye. I would even invite a police officer or deputy to join you on your run if you can predict when you might encounter him. Sounds like he’s looking for a fight and intends to win. Show him that bad and unsafe behavior never wins. OR…join him by wearing tshirts and with his picture on the back flipping you off with the title “right back at you!” But that’s just too much fun…

  12. I know one of these ladies, and as soon as I read this story I knew exactly who this man was! I run on the same trail 4-5 times/week, and have encountered him as well. (Also, I can vouch for the fact that this is a really wide trail with plenty of room for several runners and cyclists at the same time!) This man has never spoken to me, but he rings his bell obnoxiously as he approaches me and glares at me as he passes too closely. He’s always stood out to me because he’s the only cyclist (or runner) I’ve ever encountered on that trail that hasn’t been friendly. This trail has beautiful scenery and has always been very safe, it makes me sad that this man has tainted that =(

  13. find out who the local jurisdiction is over the trail/park — the park police? county police? sheriff? and contact them for help. this is harassment that has the potential to escalate to physical injury (it sounds like he’s days away from actually running into you) and they should be able to step up patrols along the trail, particularly if you give them times when it is most likely to occur. good luck and be safe!!

  14. Definitely document who this guy is. You never know, there could be multiple other complaints against him, and you would provide another source for the organization that runs the trail to finally stop this guy. I also love the idea of the 9 peaceful response and the 10th get you a well deserved pastry. (Anyone else also now really want a pastry in general?!) Additionally, maybe decide to do interpretive dancing with wide arm movements when he rings the bell. Really make him move around you. What can he say against you? You took up too much space the trail when you danced and flailed your arms about? He would have no grounds, and you would peacefully and amusingly respond to his mean nature.

  15. Don’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction. He sounds a little crazy as it is, that could spark something more from him.
    Do take photos, and especially take video! If necessary run with your phone in hand for a while, and when you hear that bell turn around and start filming! I had some issues with a certain car of a teen driver (I live by a high school), but as soon as he realized I was filming he took off and it’s never been an issue again. If it’s possible, strap a go pro on and wear it backward so that it’s on before he even approaches.

  16. I would turn around and face him when you hear him coming, and video him. Make sure he sees that you’re recording him– covert recording is illegal in some states, plus you want him to see that you’re standing up to him in this way, and you want a good picture of his face! He may not harass you if he sees he’s being recorded. And like the others suggested I’d go to the organization that maintains the trail first. Give a copy of the video to the police as well, so they have a record of the public harassment going on. I’d only turn to public shaming via Facebook (or maybe posting “warning” signs around the trail) as a last resort.

    Ugh, why can’t people just play nice?? The irony is that cyclists often face this same kind of harassment from drivers when we’re (I’m a cyclist as well as a runner :)) out on the roads. It has forced me off of the roads because it’s become a safety issue at this point– don’t let him force you off of the trail!

  17. We have rude cyclists on our local pedestrian (elderly walking, dog walking, kid walking) trails as well! They scare the crap out of me, as they almost hit me, and I worry about all the others more vulnerable. Please, please update us as to what works and what solution you find….I’ve been searching for my own as well, and so far, only yell back at them that this is a “pedestrian trail, and if they want speed, to get on the road!”

  18. When my BRF and I run in the street (but near the curb), drivers will sometimes honk, yell, and curse at us, even though the streets have little traffic and there is plenty of room for cars to pass us. We respond by waving back and calling out, “Hello! Have a nice day!” just to make them look even more ass-ish. Others suggested this; it really can be an effective way to make people reflect on how ridiculously they are behaving. Of course, we then spend the next quarter of a mile cursing about the person to each other!

  19. I vote for killing him with kindness. Throw out a “have a nice day!” or “lovely day for a run” or “so glad we can all share this path” or “isn’t this a wonderful day for a bike ride.” Going the extra mile with kindness for someone who is clearly pissed off for some reason never hurts! In my opinion, yelling obscenities back just drops to his level and increases your own stress level.

  20. The rules of our trial are clearly drawn out. Bikes are to ride on the right (like a car) and runners are to run on the left like into oncoming traffic. They do this so you can clearly see the bikes as they come towards you and those going the same way as you do not need to do anything since you are on the other side of the road. They also say if running more than one wide one runs on the dirt next to the trail and the other runs on the pavement. They are pretty serious around here and will run runners over :/ So as long as everyone follows those rules everyone stays safe.

    He does sound like a jerk though….

  21. I agree w/others. Take photos, but start to. Carry mace/pepper spray. Also get creative w/your comments back “are you offering your finger cause it’s bigger than your penis or it works better old man?!” “Hey look it’s small penis man again that has no manners, his mom would be so proud of his behavior!” Yes I go for the jugular when insulting men. No profanity-save that for my kids. I wish you the best of luck.

  22. I agree with the photo/ video comments completely. Borrow a go-pro and keep it running for the length of the run. I also agree that you should contact your police department and/or the parks department if it is under their perview. The DO want to know about these things. A bell is a perfectly appropriate warning on a trail, however his other behavior is harassment.

  23. Take photos and send them to whatever group maintains the trail. Most trails are run by some sort of organization. They likely will not be able to do much of anything, but you want to document the harassment. As others have suggested, you can contact your local police department and document the harassment there too.

  24. Like others have mentioned, I would take a picture, I would continue to yell (but not obscenities) when he gets too close and also take several pictures. As an added measure, I would share this story with ALL of the other walkers/runners/bikers out there and let them know he is harassing runners. Awareness by everyone out there and hopefully some peer pressure might be the best defense!
    (My mom and I run and we find the bell is the most effective in making us aware of an approaching biker.)

  25. I’m with Elyn. I’d snap a photo and just go to single-file whenever I heard a bell. This path sounds different, but, in general, that is the polite behavior anyhow. Don’t let this guy get to you!

    As far as bells go, I think they’re a perfectly acceptable warning. Cyclists do workouts, too. Imagine you had to pass dozens of people in the middle of your speedwork or in the last few miles of your long runs!

  26. I agree the bell itself isn’t bad, but the rest of it sounds like harassment and potentially assault (based on how closely he passes you) to me. Video and/or photograph several times (video would be better) and if it continues, take it all to the police. You shouldn’t have to do that — I know getting your phone out is a pain–but I know I’d feel better if I reported it.

  27. So aggravating! I had a guy on a bike scream and yell at me for about a quarter mile on a bike trail once. He actually slowed down to berate me for running on a “bike” trail. I called the cops on him. They didn’t do much, just tell him to play nice, but I felt better!! Definitely snap a photo of The Biker and call the cops if it continues!

  28. i have dealt with this! Only I’m on a singletrack track trail with a leashed dog who almost got run over. He actually tried to run over the leash between me and the dog. Seriously! Are you rushing to do emergency brain surgery?! And they were a line of 3 Mt. bikers. Believe it or not that worked for me when I confronted them. I feel you acted appropriately by making him aware that you’re both on the same page with the “rules” of the path. Don’t know why, but runners running abreast sets people off and he’s letting that hot button reset everyday. (his issue) Can you switch directions and run against him for a bit and see if he does the same? You can still flip him the bird when passes. I do agree with SBS & Dim, be obvious when taking the pic/video (better!) Stop by the police station and ask if an officer can stop by. They may ask you to file a report, just to have it on record should something escalate. Not a bad idea. Let this dude see you talking to the officer and don’t be afraid to be obvious in pointing him out. This is part of their job and I’ve found that they’re happy to help especially if you’re a woman who feels threatened. You have to rattle his cage and let him know you mean business as well. Don’t back down and find another place to run. Worse comes to worse, the officer will stop him and chat with him and possibly you. Then you can determine if he’s got all of his screws. Also, maybe your friend can let some air out of his tires while he’s distracted. Let us know what happens.

  29. I like the idea of taking a picture of him–especially if you can catch him giving you the finger! I encounter a lot of rude bikers when I’m out running, especially on the 2 mile loop path in the town where I live. I just do my thing and ignore them. I always run with my hands loosely cupped and maybe I let that business finger out a little bit more…not enough to let anyone notice…just to make me feel better…

  30. Take a photo but don’t react to him beyond that. To be honest the bell doesn’t bother me….I prefer that to having someone call out “on the left” etc. Were it me and my buddies, I’d try falling into single file when you hear it and see if he is still rude and brushes too close….if so…definitely take the steps above. If not, I’d just do that in the future and let him “win”….worth it for peace back on the trail.

  31. I’d take video. I’d consider posting to local FB page, making sure there was PLENTY of context as to how much room he had, etc.

    I’d also likely yell at him to get off his bike, trot his backside home, and repeat exactly what he just told us to his wife, mother, daughter, sister. And if he wasn’t willing to do it, can it.

  32. This story made me mad too! I almost want to pull and Adam Sandler and throw a stick in his path! (Big Daddy, style.) I understand your vulnerable feelings too. I agree with what Sarah and Dimity said, snap a photo. I might also start talking louder when you hear his bell coming, like you can’t hear him. LOL!

  33. Photos and videos are a great tool because then you can file a report with your police department. If nothing else, it might result in a police visit and conversation that helps him decide it’s not worth targeting you. It might also be worth posting to a local message board to see if others are also having this experience (provided there is such a thing). And for that matter, I think I’d start by calling the police to explain the situation–particularly the rude gestures and brushing against you–and ask them what next steps you should take. Or just see if you can get video of the situation. More likely than not he won’t be willing to continue the behavior on camera, but if he does, it’s something you can share on Facebook (in hopes of identifying the culprit) and with the police.

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