It used to be you went to the park to relax. Maybe you took a book, had a picnic, walked hand in hand with that special someone. The park was a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Well, not in our ADD society. Whether the culprit is a Dorito-stained stoner flinging discs at your head, or a protein powder swilling, anal retentive bicyclist in ill-fitting spandex, today’s parks are a often a dangerous place for that dying but noble breed of American: the pedestrian.
Yes, I know, pedestrian-friendly downtowns and outdoor lifestyle plazas are reportedly on the ascendancy. The reality on the ground, however, is quite different. The truth is that America still builds its infrastructure around the gas-guzzling automobile, walking confined to modest, acceptably self-contained spheres. To venture on foot past those zones is an act of outright seditious rebellion.
You’re supposed to drive to the walkable areas, dummy.
In Washington DC, the Mount Vernon Trail was an ambitious, promising project. The goal – the ideal – was to create a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly route through the area’s scenic riverside parks and acclaimed national landmarks. And, I’m sure at one time, that’s exactly what it was. A marvel.
The bicycle menace is real! He doesn’t ride a bike like you or I might. For him, it’s a spandex-studded affair against the laws of nature and the realities of aging. He views all obstacles in his path as a nuisance. That includes you. (Original photo by Elvert Barnes.)
That was, until militant fans of Ben Stiller’s character in Disney’s Heavyweights took over with their $1,000 thin-wheeled bikes made out of space age designer materials. Weekends are now unofficially Tour de Vernon. “On the left” or “on the right”, they scream, as the they kick gravel up at neckbreaking speeds of over 25 MPH. As a matter of routine, pedestrians goose step at the trail’s edge, insecure in the knowledge that one false step and you’re a Lance Armstrong pancake.
Because the truth is, these bicyclists want their bikes treated like cars, just as they want their dogs treated like kids. In their warped, liberal minds, you’re walking in the middle of THEIR road. They assume that by yelling, ringing bells, and muttering “thanks” in the most sarcastic tones imaginable, they’re completely absolved of any and all guilt. Forget that the trail is mixed use, or that pedestrians have the complete right of way. You’re slowing THEM down and they’re NOT having it. For all their talk about sharing the road, their true motives are as selfish and as self-centered as anyone else’s.
The sanctimonious speed freaks on Mount Vernon Trail are the same people that drive shiny Toyota Priuses and campaign for cute initiatives like “cap and trade”. They think, foolishly, that they can “save the environment” without changing any of their behaviors. Cutting you off and darting between lanes with a $30,000 tricked out hybrid car? Why not? That’s their contribution to the effort, and they’re damn proud of it.
And you should be, too.