Why I’ve decided to turn off my Garmin on the multi-use pathway

Tonight I’m logging on to the Garmin website to manually enter my bike commutes to the university campus where I work.

Usually I connect my bike computer and all of my rides appear complete with lots of pretty data–heart rate, speed, elevation, cadence, etc.

But my time on the bike path is different. I decided not to use my Garmin.

Why enter it at all then? I’m trying to track how far I ride in a given year and for that purpose all the kilometers count. Last year I rode 3675 kms but I didn’t count commutes. I’m aiming for 5000 this year. See How much do you ride in a year? But I might need to be more ambitious. So far this year I’m at 1,811.9 km and I’ve got a cycling holiday, the bike rally, a MEC century and a Gran Fondo or two ahead of me.

I’ve written before about my conscious decision to put safety before speed on my morning commute. See When is a race not a race. But the problem is if I’m using the Garmin I’m aware of speed and I’d rather set the numbers aside. I don’t even want to see my average speed. Nor do I want to know how I fare on some of the silliest Strava segments out there.

The spray painted “Banana Kingdom” on our pathway is a Strava segment. Great. It’s also the section of the path with the most off leash dogs. The bridge to the university is a segment, all 100 meters of it, complete with buses and students on skateboards.

Unlike Tracy who likes the ride to work on the multiuse pathway (you can see her reflections on commuting versus road cycling here) I’m always a bit nervous. There’s small children learning to ride bikes, geese (see Animal hazards to cyclists), off leash dogs, electric bikes, and classes of new mothers running with strollers (see On yummy mummies and post baby bodies).

I’m not officially complaining. It’s a multi-use pathway.

(My favorite story. I say “on your left” without thinking, to a very young girl on a bike. She wails back, “But I don’t know my left from my right.” “Just stay right where you are. It’ll be fine.”)

We’ve all got complaints. My friend Julie, a very serious runner, was injured when she was hit by a bike. One of the two times I landed in hospital because of a cycling incident I was hit by another cyclist. But my pet peeves are those expanding dog leashes (see why here) and also runners wearing headphones who can’t hear my bell or my yell.

I’ve “come off my bike” as cyclists say (why we say that is a whole other blog post, it implies “didn’t crash and I’m really okay” and it reassures our worried partners) a few times over the many years I’ve been riding a bike and all of the serious ones were either on my commute or on the pathway. (I blogged about the worst one, knock on wood, here.)

One even happened when I was riding with Tracy. I’ll let her tell the story:

“We set out on our ride, heading first to the long bike path from downtown to Byron.  It’s a multi-use path actually, not just for bikes.  Shortly into our 50K (!!) ride, a dude on a skateboard lost control of his board and it crossed the path right into Sam and her bike. She went down hard and fast, no time to unclip.  Ouch.

It turns out the path is not actually the safer place to be if you’re on a bike.  There is much more unpredictable stuff that goes on there — dogs or kids darting across in front of you, skateboards, pedestrians taking up more than their share of the space, roller bladers who are struggling up hills and are impossible to pass, other cylcists blasting past with no warning.

Shaken but not deterred, Sam assessed the damage as surface injuries only (she’s so tough!) and said she’d continue.”

Tracy’s full report on the rest of that ride is here.

Ever since that day long boards have made me nervous. I slow down and give them a wide berth. I know lots of cyclists who ride quickly on the pathway. Not me. I tend to noodle along, being passed by young men in flip flops who seem to delight in flying past the woman on her cross bike (my commuter) with clip in sandals.

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