Don’t call him a cyclist

Conway Twitty released a great song in the late ’70s or early ’80s called “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy.” The lyrics stated, in part:

Don’t call him a cowboy until you’ve seen him ride.
That Stetson hat and them fancy boots don’t tell you what’s inside,
And if he ain’t good in the saddle, then you won’t be satisfied,
So don’t call him a cowboy until you’ve seen him ride.

I thought of this song this evening after taking Songdog for a training run on the river trail.

At least a half-dozen times, I watched people in spandex outfits and color-coordinated helmets send Song into a blind panic by flying past him on their bikes at top speed with no warning whatsoever.

These so-called cyclists were obviously trying to project an image. They had their fancy racing bikes and their fancy helmets and their fancy outfits, and they were trying their best to look like serious athletes … but it was painfully obvious that they hadn’t spent enough time on the trail to learn even the most basic concepts of etiquette and safety.

If they had, they would have known that three little words — “on your left” — will do wonders to protect a pair of joggers (one on two legs, one on four) from potential injury and certain annoyance.

Three little words would give me time to put just a wee bit more tension on the leash and say my dog’s name in a firm tone to calm his lingering fear of having wheeled objects speed past him at close proximity (a fear that has been with him since the day almost three years ago when a car hit him and sent him rolling into my neighbor’s yard).

Three little words would help me keep Song at heel where he belongs.

Instead, the staunch refusal to utter those three little words sent my sweet collie mix slamming into me in raw terror, tripping me and sometimes knocking me off the trail, every single time anybody on a bicycle passed us from behind.

Here’s a clue: You can put on your fancy “serious cyclist” costume and ride up and down the busiest half-mile of Tulsa’s 20-some-odd-mile-long trail system at top speed to show off your high-end racing bike all you want, but if you’re not going to follow that trail’s universally accepted safety procedures, you might as well have baseball cards clothespinned to your spokes, because it’s obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to have to share the trail with you that you are nothing more than a silly poser in a silly outfit.

I’m sorry, but I’m not calling you a cyclist. I’ve seen you ride.


3 thoughts on “Don’t call him a cyclist”

  1. We’ve been walking both morning and evening as part of Harry’s recovery program since his heart attack.

    We’ve noticed a rudeness in some walkers that has us puzzled. We live in an urban area, so our walking is mostly on sidewalks. We ususally walk side by side. However, when we are approaching an on-coming walker, or a pair of walkers, we drop back to single file, the same with a faster walker coming up behind us.

    What we have noticed in virtually every pair of walkers that we’ve encountered, is a failure to follow this same practice. This has actually led to a few bumped shoulders. The first time it happened we were shocked, but now we expect this discourtesy. Do we move off the sidewalk for these rude pairs? No, but Harry at 6’2″ and 207 always goes first.

    Actually, the people that we’ve found to exhibit the most sidewalk courtesy, are those with dogs.

  2. Tulsa’s dog walkers, on the whole, tend to be a pretty sensible lot. I think when you’re dealing with people who care enough about their animals to take them out for leash walks, you’re generally dealing with people who care enough about their animals to learn how to take care of them properly.

    I would, however, like for someone to explain to new pit bull owners that retractable leashes are NOT sturdy enough to keep a strong, enthusiastic puppy under control on a trail full of wildlife (the flywheel breaks easily, the leashes are prone to pull away from the handles, and it’s too easy for the plastic handle to slip out of the owner’s hand if the dog suddenly decides to bolt after a squirrel), and chain-type leashes are only as strong as their dyed-leather handles, which typically aren’t very sturdy. A heavy, relatively short (four- to six-foot) nylon leash is a much better choice for walking a strong dog on a trail that runs parallel to a busy street in an area full of exciting distractions.

  3. Emily,
    I just stumbled across your post. First of all, I could not agree with you more about cyclist saying “on your left” as they approach a pedestrian on the river parks. I ride my fixed gear bike about 25 miles round trip to work, usually about 100 days a year. Most of the “cyclist” I know are just using the river trail as a warm up or cool down for a 50 to 100 mile ride. If I am not going to work I am going on a very long ride and average 20mph +, once I am off the river trails. Most of the people I encounter are considerate and take up half of the trail. Every day I encounter people that will not move and take up the entire trail no matter how courteous I am. I get yelled at on a regular basis for saying “on your left”. They say I scare them. I say take up only half of the trail and it won’t be a problem. I only ride fast if people are not around and I hope most “cyclist” do the same. I find it interesting that most of the time the people that will not move are women joggers in groups and minorities. There is one African American family that I pass frequently near 21st that take up the entire trail and will not move over. Every time I have to ride off the trail, into the grass. They just look at me like “what are you going to do about it?” I don’t really mind riding off of the trail into the grass, I just think it is incredibly rude and arrogant to take the whole trail. In the mornings I pass an older couple with there dog in about the same location. They will not move and walk three abreast, taking the whole trail. The other day, as I approached them going the opposite direction, it was clear that again they were not going to move. I stopped in the trail on the far right side and said “good morning” they replied back “good morning” I said, in a very pleasant tone “we really need to find a way to share this trail”. I am not kidding, they just laughed and kept walking. The next morning, as I approached I said “heads up!!” They moved over just enough so we did not hit but very close and I was using about 6” of the trail. Most of the men I encounter wave and say thanks, or good morning, or good afternoon. That is really a whole other topic on psychology. I read your other posts about a six mile ride kicking your but, so I guess you are not a real cyclist ether? If you ever ride any distance at any speed you will quickly learn why we wear those “silly costumes”. I guess my point is that the problem goes both ways. The joggers and cyclist have to share the trails. The river trails are a wonderful thing if people would use some courtesy. Maybe the river bill will pass and two separate trails will become a reality. That is a whole other topic. Keep running and riding on the river and share the trail. Maybe you need to train your dog also.


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