A conversation I had last night has me thinking about one aspect to our trail video project that I haven’t said much about yet, the production of a multi-use trail safety video. Just as I’m looking to shoot enough video to get some “you had to be there” glimpses of nature, I will surely also end up with plenty of footage of people doing thoughtless things that could hurt (or kill) themselves (or worse, innocent others).
That “killed” part sounds a little dramatic for a multi-use trail doesn’t it? But, just last night I was telling a fearless mountain biking teenager I’m very fond of that the 15 MPH speed limit on Big Creek Greenway was important to follow, especially because of the huge variety of users on the trail. I said that falling when you are 90 could be a life altering event. I wasn’t reaching him with that. Maybe he can’t relate to the age difference, so I looked for an article about a fatal head on collision I remembered on an adjoining trail. Until you hear of it happening, people don’t really think about cycling collisions with other cyclists on fairly flat multi-use trails ending in death.
While looking for the incident I knew about, I found one that was more recent and actually on the Big Creek Greenway itself. There’s a small “s” curve on the Greenway. I slow more at this location than any other place on the entire Greenway because of exactly what happened to the woman that died. She couldn’t see that people were riding through that short curve in her lane, probably just shaving the curve to straighten it a little. They all had a head on collision and the woman riding in her correct lane died. I didn’t reach my favorite mountain biker with the story. He was set in his argument and unmoved, except for his mouth. That kept moving.
I love that kid. I don’t want him to assume he can break the rules because everyone else will follow them, or even that they’ll be predictably moving while he’s passing, Seriously, you can only assume that you will be the only one breaking trail rules, and, or moving predictably when you’re the only one on the trail, and following the rules is the only thing that helps trail user movements to be somewhat predictable. I go intentionally to some pretty remote areas, and I’ve never been the only one out there. That other person shows up just when you thought they wouldn’t, and wasn’t anticipating seeing you either.
Multi-use trails that are busy have a lot going on, with as many perspectives as people. Cycling groups can be the definition of cliquish, complete with derogatory slams. Experienced cyclists of all kinds can be the worst about thinking they’re in control, and while they may act like they think they are, they’re not even close to being the only trail users out there. Every kind of wheeled device that’s allowed shows up, all of them, and some that are not. And there’s foot traffic too, lot’s of it. Walkers wandering because they’re too young, or too old, or too distracted, or too invincible to walk straight-ish in their own lane. And oh, look, a butterfly, or a copperhead, ar an alligator snapping turtle that’s HOW BIG? Wait! somebody liked my post.”OMG Will that (foot long rat snake) kill me?” It doesn’t happen all of the time, just often enough to catch you unawares each time it does happen. I don’t want him (or anyone else) to be the vehicle through which someone commits suicide by selfie.
Few trail users will look up safety rules or even glance at the ones posted. And, even fewer will look at things from the perspective of other users.
All of the users of all kinds, in all of the age brackets with all of the different interests, perspectives and languages belong, but so many use the trail from inside their bubbles. There’s a self-fulfilling bubble for every user. It’s like Facebook, only on the trail we’re not bumping into each other virtually.
I had different conversation with a mountain biker while on the trail some time back. I grimaced. He not only noticed, he stopped and said “Wait a minute. What did I do?” I told him. He apologized, and it made all the difference. He took the trouble to pay attention and make a connection.
I’d like to create a safety video from a multi-user point of view with humour and connection that pops some personal bubbles. People aren’t going to read the safety rules, but some of them might watch a funny video that shows a little of what it’s like to walk or ride in the other guy’s shoes. There could be interviews, maybe not. We’ll have to see what works. Don’t worry. Russ will narrate, he’s the comedic tallet between us. We’ll put it on youtube and if we come up with something salient, I’ll promote it actively.