Runners versus cyclists

RUNNER: Sandra Muir. Photo: Tracy Hardy.

It was fixed stares and phone cameras at five paces. The runner and the cyclist glaring at each other, holding their ground, trading shots.

“What are you doing? How dare you?” said the lean 51-year-old running machine. She will tell you, she was ‘aggro’ that morning.

Both health-conscious, both exercising, both focussed. But the similarities and understanding end there …right there on the gravel track on the stormwater reserve, traversing Papamoa between Evans and Parton roads.

This is a scrap over territorial rights and it’s not just peculiar to this track. Out there on the exercise trails cyclists, runners and walkers can be uncomfortable bed-mates.

“You need to keep left,” snarks back the lyrca’d up cyclist. Then the intimidation begins. Phone cameras are drawn, aimed and fired. Evidence is gathered.

But why can’t runners, cyclists and walkers co-exist? Why do they get prickly?

“Well, because there are some sticklers for the rule which says ‘keep left’,” says the running machine, Papamoa mum Sandra Muir. “But they don’t seem to realise there are another couple of rules which say: ‘Share the pathway, give way and ring your bell’. Those rules count too!”

But the sign also says ‘keep left’ and that’s the rub.

“In the first instance, keeping left is the norm,” says the Tauranga City Council email to Sandra. “Same as on the road.”

“I take that to mean I am in the wrong – but I am quite happy to make a noise on behalf of runners.” And the noise is about all users being courteous and respectful.

Sandra says it’ll take a change of attitude. She wants common sense and courtesy from everyone. She wants peace, understanding and consideration to return to the track.

“I know it says ‘keep left’,” says the running machine. “But listen cyclists’ if I run on the left of the track you just about ride up my arse, just about run me over. Give me a hell of a fright.”

So if rules dictate that joggers have to keep left why don’t the cyclists just ring their bell and sound a warning before passing?

“I can’t believe that when they use a bell they aren’t on your right passing. They’re riding up your arse, ringing their bell expecting you to move right off the track. You are running and twisting around to see where they are and what they are going to do? It is intimidating and dangerous behaviour.”

And why is the onus on runners to move out of the way, off the track? Back to the council email. “It’s a lot easier for the runner to move off the pathway onto the grass. Some areas of path are dual users’ width while others are not.”

“And when you discover they are right on top of you, do you leap to the left, leap to the right or hold your ground. And are they going to go round or over you?”

And with everyone moving at speed, Sandra says it’s hard to judge the moment. “It’s poor behaviour and it’s not community behaviour. It’s aggressive and dangerous.”

So Sandra has opted to run on the “wrong” side of the track, the right side but the wrong side. “It means cyclists travelling in the same direct have a free uninterrupted passage on the left. And by running into the traffic, I can see what I am dealing with.” Then what happens, according to Sandra, is nice, normal, polite people give way.

And when The Weekend Sun went to the Tauranga City Council, the message was clear. The general principle is to keep left where possible and treat each other with patience and respect.

But clearly defined rules help. And in that case paths are sometimes signposted indicating who has priority. Then you need to give way to the priority user but if there are no signs you should give way to the slower user.

The law requires us to use paths fairly and safely and not to hold anyone up.

If riding on a shared path you should keep left, alert pedestrians or runners by politely calling out or ringing a bell, pass on the right where possible, ride defensively and at a speed that doesn’t endanger others.

But, says the TCC, it fields complaints about inconsiderate behaviour from cyclists and pedestrians alike. And while courtesy is not something the council can enforce, it reminds people to keep left.

And a little patience and respect goes a long way.

Sport BOP is also running a free cycle safety course this month. Go to ww.sportbop.co.nz/calendar_of_events/id/775.