Please, Thank You, and On Your Left!

Posted on August 1, 2012

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My morning ritual consists of being awaken by two adorable toddlers, filling up a mug of coffee and 2 sippy cups of juice, then slipping on flip-flops while still in our pajamas to go outside and say hello to the day.  The kids run outside yelling “Hello!” because everything is literal at that age, and then list the things that make them feel happy.  While we are out there getting in touch with nature, it motivates me to take the temperature of the day, plan an attack, and get us back outside as quickly as possible.

I am so fortunate to have miles upon more miles of beautiful running and biking trails right outside my back door.  I grace them with my presence daily, every chance I get.  We can see the morning crowd across the fence and through the trees jogging, biking and strolling along. The kids yell “Hi!” to everyone that goes by.  It is truly a beautiful thing to be in constant presence of like-minded folk of all spectrum of fitness levels who want to ‘be out in it.’

This morning was atypically cool for this summer of ‘the greatest heatwave of all recorded time’ (don’t quote me on that, but the news says something along those lines.)  I was a little more refreshed than usual as well, having recuperated from finals (hooray!) and having slept for more than four consecutive hours. (My fault, I’ll probably confront that demon in a future post.)  So getting right back out there was a must.

***breakfast/potty/dress/shoes/dog/garage/stroller/waterbottle/headphones***

And we’re off! We walk two doors down to “our exit” and I push the double stroller over the gravel hump to the path.  We always look both ways before entering the path, because of cyclists on the trail. Even when the kids are unfettered by strollerdom, they know, just like they know to hold hands and look both ways crossing the street, that they must wait for Mommy and look both ways before entering the path.   I think it’s important to teach my kids to be safe each and every time as a habit.  All the time, even when there’s only crickets. Just in case. (You should see my overcautiousness in parking lots, or even on my own small closed street, it’s a wonder I don’t have them bubble wrapped.)

I set my Pandora station and start my Runkeeper app, and head out for a morning four.  We always stay on the right side of the center line, just like on the street.  My kids know this as well when they are on foot.  They even let me know if I cross over the line to pass someone. “Mommy, stay on your side!”  Speaking of passing, we have gotten to the heart of the matter of this post.

“On your left!!”

It’s a simple courtesy. No one wants to be snuck up on, and they might be about to step to the side for who knows what reason.  Alert them that you are passing.  Just yesterday, I was pulling a wagon with my two kids along the trail when a Mom on a bicycle with a tandem/piggyback unit and two kids quickly approached. One of mine was having a meltdown and trying to jump wagon, the dog was pulling me in the other direction, and although we were technically on “our side” I wasn’t aware she was there until she was right on top of us, and she wasn’t exactly giving us a wide breadth. She gave absolutely no audible warning whatsoever.  I have a pretty weak bladder, and these types of events do me no favors.  There is no scarier place on Earth than a Mother’s vivid imagination.  I tell my kids loudly that it is a good thing they know how to stay on their side, because you never know when a bike might sneak up on you.

This morning, jogging along with the double stroller, I heard the familiar cry of “On Your Left!” I replied with a simple ‘I hear you’ wave with my left hand as I tightened myself to the curb a smidge. The cyclist passes and then slows down to ride beside me. He asks if I can hear him since my headphones are in and I tell him, yes, I always leave them low enough to hear around me.  Then he tells me, “Thank You!” “Thank you for waving to me that you heard me. I just passed a rollerblader who almost took us both out while zig-zagging obliviously across both lanes. It’s very unsafe!” I told him “Thank you for hollering on your left!” It’s a bit more rare than it should be, despite the posted signs.  We continued discussing the semantics of trail courtesy for about another 20 yards, then as he pedaled onward with an exchange of have a nice days, both my kids shouted and waved, “Bye!” enthusiastically. (Now that’s a ‘your welcome’ with a pretty adorable big bow wrapped around it.)

So here are a few rules that we should abide by. Some are definitely measures of absolute safety, and others are just plain politeness.

1- Shout “on your left!” Pass ONLY on the left, and make sure the opposite lane ahead is clear before you enter it.

2- Stay on the right of any bike or jogging path. Heck, I even stay on the right in hallways and on sidewalks.  Three weeks ago today a dear friend was just taken down by a cyclist going the wrong direction who just completely plowed her over. She was doing everything right and had nowhere to go. She had just put together the most adorable rollerskating outfit and facebooked to the webiverse all about her new-found fitness hobby.  Now, she has a giant metal plate in her arm.

3- Would it hurt to smile as you pass other runners? Maybe just a slight nod or even moment of eye contact? It’s just us two passing in the morning air, I know you can see me.

4- Please don’t test the boundaries of your lane. I can’t tell you how many times a fast cyclist rides that yellow line when my two year old is bobbling by close to center. (She likes to Pac-Man the line, despite my constant efforts)  I swear they are doing it to claim their space, but are you really trying to “show that kid a thing or two?” Child in sight, cheat to the right!

5- Respect cyclists! I have heard so many complaints from people I adore about how much they hate cyclists on the road.  Is your anger toward fitness so overwhelming that human life becomes trivial to you? Control your road rage and learn the rules of the road. That cyclist actually has the right to ride right down the center of the lane, so treat them as you would a vehicle and get over yourself. I drive a car too! For a cyclist, your disapproval is like a loaded gun, so just chill.  Here’s a link for cyclists http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/roadrules.php Check your state’s DMV for regulations regarding automobile laws around cyclists. (Note: Berkeley has just passed legislation allowing cyclists to be able to sue motorists for harassment and endangerment.)

6- Scoop your Flippin POOP!!! Do you think it is easy or fun for a Mom with two toddlers and a dog to carry bags and scoop the inevitable while maintaining order among the troops? Well, it is second nature, and I do it EVERY SINGLE TIME!!! Dig poop out of stroller tires and shoes before a two year old gets their fingers in it and tell me how easy and fun that is. Same goes for gum, BTDubs. If you’re that desperate and don’t have a trashcan, just swallow it.  It does NOT stay in your system for seven years, I promise!!!

7- Can you please spit to the side? A lovely glistening puddle of your saliva is just the treasure my kids are looking to investigate. Shoot for the curb.

8-Signal your intentions.  I always do a headcheck, look both ways, and point to the direction I’m running off to when I have the stroller in tow.  It helps everyone to know what that crazy chick (who is running SOOOO fast!) is thinking when she is wildly looking around at an intersection.

9- If you are in a car that is at a path crossing, be cautious.  If you can slow to stop, always allow joggers and cyclists the right of way.  If you are the pedestrian/cyclist, do NOT assume a car is EVER looking out for your best interest.

Allright, enough preaching, I really just want us all to get out there and be able to have fun without a big hiccup in our day. Now go back to step 3. Do that to everyone you see today (or tomorrow).  Smiling is free and getting one makes your day.  Don’t you want people to see you and think, “There’s that nice person I see on the trail!”  Viola, your karma in the universe is SOLID!

Happy Running!

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Posted in: Get OUt There