Pro tip: You can anticipate this stuff

Do they still talk about “Defensive Driving” in driving school?

Last Thursday, I posted this seconds-from-disaster photo of a kid who stopped directly in front of me on the Beach Street cycletrack in Santa Cruz, California.

This kid sprinted across Beach Street then stopped right in front of me

He ran across two lanes of motor traffic without bothering to check for approaching traffic on the two lanes of cycletrack in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

As far as I’m concerned, this popular tourist destination is a pedestrian realm, and I travel at a speed appropriate for “unexpected” incursions like this because, well, it’s not at all unexpected. This kid freaked out and stopped directly in front of me like a startled squirrel, which was kind of stupid, but I still braked in time to avoid hitting him.

Let’s look at another situation: you’re flying along at 25 MPH on a mostly empty path when you see a jogger up ahead on the right side of the path. There’s no turn or other obstruction, so I honestly expect the jogger to continue straight. Still, I’ve seen these guys dart immediately left without looking just like in this video, so I’ll probably ease up on the pedals. If children or pets are in the vicinity, I’ll likely cover my brakes, too.

If I crash spectacularly into a jogger, I too could get 90,000 views on my bike-vs-jogger crash video, versus the measly 250 views for my handlebar cam view of me avoiding the kid on Beach Street. In spite of the possible Internet fame, I think I’d rather avoid the pain and damage when possible.

While I’m on the topic of path riding safety, here’s another pro-tip: If you see a group ahead of you suddenly slow down, consider that they might be doing so for a reason. During one of our bike trains last month, a large-ish group of us slowed and bunched up on the trail. Aggro rider in full kit approaching too fast from behind yelled profanities and flipped us the bird as he passed closely, without bothering to check why we slowed. Another rider ahead was stopped on the side of the trail with tire and tube in his hand. It was a narrow spot near a blind turn, and the front of the group offered assistance as they slowed.

Sure, we can rant about what the other guy should do, but the only behavior I can control is my own. Ride defensively, my friends.


  1. If nobody used hand signal or verbal alert to indicate your group was slowing/stopping, then I don’t blame the rider behind for ‘commenting’ on your disregard of riding etiquette. Flipping the bird was over the top however.
    Also 25mph on a MUP seems excessive, especially as you correctly note the unpredictability of trail users. I’m glad it’s rare for me to achieve that on the flat without wind assistance. Many MUPs have a 15mph speed limit for safety reasons.

  2. As noted, we came around a turn and *boom* cyclist on the ground ahead of us; there wasn’t time for a hand signal. We had sufficient distance to brake, however, and so did the guy behind us. If he expresses a little frustration out of ignorance, fine, but there’s absolutely no excuse for him to pass like he did.

  3. Hand signals are for your peloton. They aren’t for people coming up from behind. They are not part of the traffic code and for good reason. Most of the time you are stopping you have hands on the brakes. Aggressive riders are like aggressive drivers, it doesn’t matter what you do they will always be pissed off.

  4. In my neck of the woods, this is Mean Canada Goose season as the adult geese are overly protective of their young. The MUPs have a ton of geese around them, for whatever reason. The other night a little boy, maybe 4 years old, decided to chase one and ran onto the path right in front of me. Fortunately I was going very slowly because of people and geese, so I was able to stop. I rode off wondering who on earth allows their child chase wild animals in the first place, but that’s a different topic.

  5. Thanks Richard,
    All you can do is look after yourself. There are a lot of distracted people out there. While we always have the right of way, that does not mean that the teen listening to Justin Beiber with her four friends is looking out for cyclists. The laws and regulations are there, and I am sure they are fresh in her head from the mandatory driver’s ed course she just passed, and in that moment, it’s all about the music.
    So we just have to ride with our heads up. Assume that they don’t see us. I know you are sporting your new strobe headlight at 10:00AM. Keep your head on a swivel. Just like Richard says, people always manage to do thoughtless things while we are out riding.

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