Like any normal commuter, I sometimes encounter acts of mindless selfishness from other travellers. As a pedestrian, or on my bike, people can just be a bit self-unaware sometimes.
Difference is with my bike, even if I carry the bad mood with me, I'm still less than 100kgs of grudge pedalling along. Not a two-tonne metal murder box capable of killing entire families in a single sideswipe. I say that, we've had one pedestrian death caused by a cyclist since 2006. Which is awfully sad, but doesn't compare to pedestrian and cyclist deaths by car in the same time period.
This particular day was during the recent school holidays, so the roads were delightfully clear, and I didn't expect to meet many peds around the grounds of the university, forgetting as I had, that uni and primary/high-school holidays schedules can differ somewhat.
So I'm tootling along the shared bike path alongside the uni, and I see a professionally-dressed woman with a little girl in a tutu, and I think "Ah, childminding issues during school holidays." and I slow down a bit. I pass them, we wave, I thank them, smiles all around.
Lovely encounter, and I have so many of them.
Twenty metres on it was Dad's "take your kid to work day" and I approached a professorially dressed man (baggy tweed blazer and daggy briefcase), with his little boy. I called out "bike" they turned around and saw me, we smiled, they moved to one side of the path.
Technically this path should be great, it even has a middle line marked out, pictures of bikes and walkers periodically painted on it to remind people it's shared, and do most of the pedestrians give a fuck ? Do they heck. They wander along four abreast, they step out into it without looking blah blah blah - all the usual stuff. I go slowly here anyway as there are often ducks and ducklings, and more than once I have seen a pet cat strolling along.
Anyway, this father/son combo move to the left, and then as I am level with them, the kid decides to deliberately run into my lane - i slam the brakes on, hurting my hands in the process as the full weight of me and backpack are thrown onto the handlebars and watch in disbelief as this father roars with laughter as his little shit deliberately runs in zig-zags and circles so I can't pass by.
Fuck me, I had no idea how to counter such behaviour. It seemed wrong to employ the airhorn on a little kid - although I was rapidly revising that assessment as time passed - what we needed here was some actual parenting.
If I had hit him there wouldn't have been laughter, and I would have been the bad guy. So I stopped and just waited for the circus to end, and when I could see an appropriate gap, I pushed through slowly. Making sure the kid wasn't listening, I directed some choice words towards Dad, and I was off again.
Would he have encouraged his brat to hold up someone walking, with a pram, in a car, on a motor-scooter ? Run onto the train tracks ? One can but hope.
So with this bemusing encounter in my head, I rode on, and three minutes later encounter another block of professorially dressed men, who are taking up the entire path, four or five abreast and four or five deep - its' an entire men's store of tweed on the move !
They look up, the see me descending the hill towards them. They do nothing. I get closer. they see me. They do nothing. I draw level with the lead walkers who are four or five steps ahead of the main pack and I turn to them and bellow, with my best former hockey goalkeeper voice "IT'S A SHARED PATH MOVE OVER !!!!!!!!!!!" I blast the airhorn, they scatter, and I am grimly able to continue without having to come to a complete stop.
At this point I'm wondering when I will inevitably hit some arsehole who's entirely to blame, and I grimly think I'll probably enjoy it on some level.
Gah, so I continue my ride, quite bitterly now, and five minutes later I see a couple on the path ahead, walking in the wrong lane, eh, but whatevs, and draped all over each other. She's swinging her arm about as they stride along, but the left lane is clear and I keep up the pace and blow me down, as I draw level with this pair, she decides to fling her entire arm into my lane. There's a god awful sharp cracking sound, and I brake on the spot, because I'm actually not going that fast as I overtake them.
It turns out her umbrella smacked my handlebar and scared the life out of both of us; we checked the other was ok, we did that thing which women do which is pat each other on the arm to ensure the other is alright and to mutually assure good intent. We laughed, we apologised to each other and off I went. Mood altered.
All my grumbling about pedestrians and when I actually do hit one, even glancingly, I feel terrible about it.
But some days I wonder if I wouldn't be better off in the traffic.
And that is my little essay why shared paths are no good for either party.