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I'm a consulting geologist for a small company in the Denver area. I study problems related to active tectonics, using geomorphology, structural geology and remote sensing.

Monday, August 21, 2006

the plague of the u-grads

today, monday the 21st of august, marks the first day the u-grads return to campus. these undergrads may pay monies to the university that ultimately pay my salary and tuition, but they create plenty of problems too. wandering around aimlessly with confused looks on their faces, they travel in packs and at least for this week are sporting surly looks and parents in tow. they move like schools of fish or spooked rabbits, darting this way and that and have utterly no concept of the idea of a bicycle path.

this rant, in case you haven't guessed it already, is brought on the the two bloody knees and scuffed right palm i suffered at the hands (and wheels) of an oblivious student rider mere minutes ago.

leaving the office today i was zipping through campus on the bike path... moderating my speed when necessary, but also trying to escape the tangles of 18 year olds and parents before i was overtaken like a character in a cheap zombie flick. near the freshman dorms i came upon a fairly common scene; a pedestrian was (wisely) walking up the far left (my left) side of the path ahead... a biker was coming up from behind them (and towards me) and gave the pedestrian an extremely wide berth... so wide that she was in my lane. i, being used to the bike-paths and the fact that most people in boulder are extremely used to and comfortable with bikes, decided to avoid the oncoming biker and pedestrian by taking the only open path available to me... through the middle. i adjusted my line with ample room (read about 50-60 feet) for the other people involved to realize they were totally fine, as long as they stayed moving as they were... in a straight line along their respective paths. oh no... too easy! as i closed the gap between us to about 15 feet, the biker passed the pedestrian and cut directly into my path, cutting off the pedestrian and generally buggering the whole deal.

I set my brakes and threw the bike into a sideways skid, using a little body english to adjust the line of the skid so that i might go wide and avoid the oncoming biker, who was now coming to a halting stop directly in the middle of my path.

if any of you saw the crash in stage 16 of the tour this year (the one that ended in a fractured femur, broken clavicle, and masses of torn flesh) which sent three riders flying either over or into a guard rail, you would have seen basically how this whole thing ended. by the time i reached the other biker they had positioned their very sturdy mountain-bike in such a way that when i slid into its wheel my bike stopped dead and i went essentially ass-over-tea-kettle, over the bars of my very light road-bike, and landed behind them. my first thoughts were, "ok... don't explode... maybe this person really is clueless..." which was quickly replaced by, "jeez, this is the second time i've crashed with my laptop strung across my back... i hope it's still fine" (it is) and then, "damn... now i probably have to talk to this person for a few seconds".

the discussion was short... basically:

other biker: "sorry, are you ok?"
me: "i appear to be... "
other biker: - blank stare -
me: "... i was a little confused when you cut across.."
other biker: - blank stare -

... i just got back up, brushed myself off and left.

the moral? pay some attention to the other people on the path. learn the rules and etiquette of the paths... and for god's sake, when you pass a pedestrian, be aware of oncoming traffic, and if you can't wait to pass (or make it around that person before oncoming bikes reach you) leave enough room in the oncoming lane to allow the other rider to pass. it's identically analagous to passing traffic in a car. if the same thing had happened in cars, we'd both probably be dead. i think i'm going to ride my mountain bike tomorrow.


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