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Interesting article in the Washington Post yesterday:

It's a read but here you go:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52836-2004May24.html

A Trail of Rage
Sure, Mountain Biking on That Path Was Against Park Rules. But Then, So Was What the Jogger Did to the Rider

By John Briley
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 25, 2004; Page HE01

My friend Bill and I look up a steep, heavily wooded footpath in Rock Creek Park. We're finishing an hour of fast mountain biking on a crisp Saturday. We figured we'd have one more lung-burner before heading home. Not today.

We are riding slowly, almost at walking speed along a flat, wide path that runs along the creek about a half-mile south of the U.S. Park Police's Rock Creek substation. Bill and I know mountain biking on these trails is illegal and we therefore don't do it often, although the dirt, root-bridled paths are ideal for high-speed rides.

"That's the same guy," Bill says. I glance up ahead and see a shirtless runner slowing, about 100 feet in front of us.

I think little about this. We had passed the guy earlier in our ride on another trail and he apparently had said something to Bill about not biking on the trails. Such minor exchanges between hikers, joggers, bikers and dog-walkers are common, and Bill said this guy had been neither incendiary nor especially adamant.

I pedal onward. Bill drops back. But as I approach, the runner is standing still in the middle of the trail. I begin moving to my right -- conscientious lawbreaker that I am -- to indicate that, hey, we may carp at each other, but we're all out here to have fun.

In the 1990s, I frequently rode my mountain bike illegally on Rock Creek Park's hiking trails, especially after learning while researching an article in 1994 that biking does no more trail damage than hiking -- at least on dry trails -- and far less damage than horseback riding. Older and at least slightly wiser, I now do most of my biking on the legal trails of the Schaefer Farms trail system in Germantown, Patapsco Valley State Park in Ellicott City and Gambrill State Park, west of Frederick. But every now and then, when I crave a ride and am pressed for time, I duck into Rock Creek for a quick hit.

Park Police don't have an estimate of how many people pedal the trails. Based on my observation over 15 years (since mountain biking began flourishing) I'd call it no more than a few dozen. Whether biking, running or walking, I rarely see another rider on the trails, but I do see numerous mountain bike tire tracks that I know are not my own.

I also know from experience that many Rock Creek Park walkers and joggers view trail bikers with disdain, and thus I am always polite -- slowing down when approaching people, ensuring they see and hear me before I pass, offering a casual greeting. That is my strategy today.

But the jogger steps to his left, toward me. I move further right. He shifts further left. We are now three feet from each other and it now appears he wants to do more than talk. Aside from being a generally peaceful guy, I have another issue: I am still clipped into my bike pedals (damn high-tech shoes!) and have slowed to a crawl.

It is suddenly clear from this guy's body language that he has decided to attack me. But deep down I still don't believe it will happen. As I move yet further to my right -- off the trail and into the brush -- he starts coming at me.

"What's the problem, Ashcroft?" I ask, but he is already lunging, leading with his shoulder. I turn my shoulder in to meet him and just like that, we are fighting. I roll with my bike and somehow click out of my pedals. Looking up, I see the jogger in full flight above me, headed for my torso with a pointy knee and fists flailing.

I also notice something odd. This grown man has not a single hair on his body, like some alien attack mannequin. Nor does he appear to have much in the way of muscles, an observation confirmed when he punches me in the face. I barely feel it. But I do feel his knee as it connects with my ribs.

Still on my back, I repel him with two kicks and spring to my feet ready for a real brawl, the type I haven't engaged in since high school almost 25 years ago. My heart rate is up, pupils dilated. The fight-or-flight verdict is in. I start to charge.

But I am stopped in my tracks by a stream of burning spray -- do I taste cayenne? -- that floods my eyes and nostrils. I pause just as Bill sprints up to help out; he too is blasted with the pepper spray. Even as my eyes sear with the fiery pain, I realize that this confrontation was not unplanned.

Now standing about eight feet away, our adversary methodically shifts the spray from Bill's face to mine, alternating the blasts for about 20 seconds before sprinting off.

We are bewildered more than anything. Bill and I yell unprintables at the fleeing coward and walk over to the creek to rinse the pepper spray from our faces. I don't feel injured (though after the adrenaline recedes, I realize I have a bruised rib and a jammed thumb from rolling off the bike). We pedal slowly to the cop station to file an assault report.

Can't We Get Along?


This is my first physical encounter in 30 years of use of dozens of trail systems in the area: Rock Creek Park, the C&O Canal towpath, the Billy Goat trail along the Potomac River, the Cabin John trail, the multi-use trails mentioned above. My activities span the gamut, from mountain biking, jogging and dog walking to taking photographs and strolling to relieve a hangover.

I have had words with other trail users -- spawned by my illegal mountain biking or by someone's failure to control an aggressive dog -- but I rarely feared that any of those verbal snipes would escalate to a real fight. And I never imagined that, out there along the woodsy paths with the chirping birds and docile deer, were trail users so hostile or imbalanced that they spent their Saturdays armed with pepper spray, looking for trouble.

The police who take our report are flabbergasted, too, saying such outbursts without a robbery (or more sinister) motive are unheard of. U.S. Park Police in Rock Creek issue "no more than three of four" citations a year for illegal mountain biking, said Sgt. Scott Fear, the force's public information officer. "We rarely get calls about it; it is not a big issue." Park Police give verbal warnings to most trail riders because, Fear says, "most people don't know they're not supposed to be doing it."

The National Park Service bars mountain bikes from unpaved trails in Rock Creek Park "for the protection of park resources and to reduce conflict among visitors," Park Service spokesman Gerry Gaumer explained.

Fear noted that police in Rock Creek Park get many more calls about unleashed dogs, and they do reprimand people for violating the leash law. "That is a big problem -- much bigger than mountain biking," he said. Still, police issue "only a handful of tickets" per year for such breaches.

Many trails in the Washington area are multi-use, including the C&O Canal towpath: all non-motorized users are welcome and dogs must be leashed. The park does mandate that cyclists dismount when in the presence of groups of pedestrians, but the policy is rarely observed and almost never enforced. The paved Mount Vernon trail in Virginia, also non-motorized, has a stay-to-the-right policy and a 15-mph speed limit. In-line skaters, with their wide arm swings, pose the biggest problem there, said Audrey Calhoun, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which oversees the trail.

But Calhoun, like most local trail managers, said serious conflicts on the paths are extremely rare. Most users of local trails understand that the land is public. By my observation, they do what they can to peacefully share the space.

Still, trail use has risen dramatically over the past 20 years, and that means more potential for conflict. Authorities do not keep statistics on the number of fights that stem directly from trail-use disputes, but local park managers acknowledge the potential.

"I spent a Saturday on the C&O Canal towpath pulling my granddaughter out of the way of bikers," said Naomi Manders, volunteer coordinator for natural surface trails for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. "Weekends are just too busy on that trail," she added.

Bill Justice, chief of interpretation for the C&O National Historical Park, noted a "tremendous increase in use" over past 10 years. Visitation to that park, which runs from Georgetown to Cumberland, Md., peaked at more than 4 million visitors in 2000 and has dropped only slightly since then. "Any time you have that volume, there is a potential for conflict -- between fishermen and birders, joggers and bikers, all kinds of groups." But Justice said he could not recall one incident of a physical fight erupting on a trail.

Share the Road


Scott Scudamore, president of the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE), a 350-member mountain bike club for the Washington area, said shared-use trails are a necessity. "There is only so much real estate," he said. "If we gave every [activity] a separate trail, there simply wouldn't be enough to go around."

At the same time, Scudamore does not advocate what I did -- i.e., pedaling on trails that are closed to mountain biking. "We really try to discourage people from poaching. When [mountain bikers] poach, we lose credibility." He's right and I know it, but I meekly remind myself that I only do this on occasion and only in Rock Creek Park.

MORE works with land managers at 24 trail sites covering more than 300 miles of single-track trails. Only one of those trail systems -- Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station -- is bike-only; the rest are multi-use, although some of those reserve a few individual trails for pedestrians only. The group estimates that roughly 10,000 mountain bikers are active in the Washington area.

The best shared-use trails, Scudamore said, "have good sightlines and no blind corners or really steep fall lines," two features that facilitate surprise encounters between bikers, hikers, joggers and equestrians -- a recipe for conflict.

Scudamore cited the Schaefer Farms trail system as an example of a well-designed network.

"There are hills but not a lot of screaming downhills, and there are great sightlines," he observed. Schaefer Farms is popular with local bikers because it serves a variety of skill levels, with many log piles that more-advanced bikers can ride over, tight single-track trails and nice stretches of fairly flat dirt routes. The trails wend through scenic forest and open fields and across streams.

Patapsco State Park, south of Baltimore, is also fairly well designed, he said, although it has longer hills than Schaefer Farms and thus encourages more downhill speed.

Even in poorly designed multi-use parks, most conflict is avoidable, Scudamore asserted. "You see very few problems when everybody acts like they were taught to in kindergarten -- share the space."

Pete Webber, communications director for the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), said physical confrontations on trails almost never happen.

"The perception of conflict is far greater than the reality. A study in New Zealand found that people who don't use the trails -- like a lot of government regulators -- believe it is happening, but when you ask trail users they say, 'No, I don't really ever have conflicts on the trails.' "

To minimize potential for clashes, Webber advises focusing on the moment at which two trail users pass each other.

"That is the key interaction. People are not having problems when they are in there alone, and they're not having problems at the trailhead." At the moment of truth, Webber said, cyclists should "say 'Hi,' don't startle people, move to the side and pass at a reasonable rate of speed."

By his formula, I did everything right, though he declined to say whether calling an attacking jogger by the name of a government official violated protocol.

To Each, Etc.


From a trail management standpoint, IMBA advocates diverse trail networks where, for example, an expert mountain biker would not be on the same path as a parent walking a child in a stroller.

"You get seven miles into the woods on a technical, single-track trail and anybody back there will be an experienced trail user. So even if you have a hiker and a mountain biker on that trail, they both should know how to treat each other," he said. Standard trail etiquette: Bikers yield to hikers; hikers yield to equestrians.

Manders said trail users need to be especially considerate around horses, which might not recognize a cyclist or even a backpacker as a human being and thus might get spooked.

"When a horse gets unsettled it starts pumping hormones. Once that happens, you're in trouble because the animal could bolt and throw the rider," Manders said. She recalled an encounter on the C&O Canal towpath where her horse started to freak out upon seeing two people wearing big backpacks. "Luckily they were smart and quickly took off their packs. Then the horse let a big sigh -- like, 'Oh, it's just people' -- and we went along. But for a moment it was pretty scary."

Manders cites loose dogs in local parks as the biggest conflict issue facing trail users. "Even a nice big friendly Labrador can be a problem if it runs up to someone who is afraid of dogs," she said. "We have had a number of issues with horses and dogs where we were sure the dogs were going to attack. Dog owners need to show some etiquette."

That's probably true for all of us trail users. For me, it means sticking to bike-approved trails, which I have done since my memorable encounter with the jogger. And now I realize this will lead to better political footing for mountain bike advocates who say we deserve dedicated bike trails.

Either that or I'll start carrying a Tex-Mex picnic lunch -- you know, something that calls for a lot of cayenne pepper.

John Briley is author of the Health section's Moving Crew column and anchor of the Crew's bi-weekly chats on washingtonpost.com.
 

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Your Customer Sales Rep
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What an idiot. Pepper spray? Any responsible jogger would have been packing heat. D.
 

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Rolling
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LOL, now that everyone is posting the actual text, maybe the second two people can edit theirs out!! I like reading it but not that much :p
 

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Reader's Digest Version:

"Two bikers are illegally riding a trail. Come upon an upset and irrate hiker, who attacks one of the bikers and pepper sprays them."

I'm not a violent man, but if I was one of them bikers, I would have beat him senseless (or at least told my friends I did after asking how I got the black eye).
 

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"Mr. Britannica"
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Hmmm, kinda like when people keep the quotes, and you get the same race reports/stories complete w/pics, several times over?
 

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Basura Blanca
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A matter of degrees,...

but the writer seems not to be accepting the consequences of his actions. Like when a thief breaks into a home and files suit 'cause he got shot. "Hey, I was only after the silver - I was no threat to the homeowner, and he shot me anyway!" Sure the jogger overreacted, but when it's your own transgression that got you in that fix, best just to buck up and take your licks, extreme though they may be. Or at least that's the side of the argument that occurs to me initially.... Just glad I live in a place where there's no shortage of trails, and the users are few.
- Joe
 

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bleeding eventually stops
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Got off easy...beware of clones

Poaching trails on a saturday in the most popular park in washington d.c is really just silly, bound to at very least p. off people. Try a moonlight poach on a tues night for something interesting.
Now this was in Washington and he could have been a powerful man. Then again he could have been chief arsehole at the CIA and there would have been a black van waiting for you. Maybe he was an alien, a shapeshifter for that matter, apparently one with no hair. Taking on his human form for a bit of R and R from the colonization of the middle-east with evangelist cyborgs. That wasn't pepper spray, my god man he was trying to mate with you! You have been artificially inseminated by a farsi speaking evangelist cyborg. He was saying, "oh me so horny, love you long time" in farsi. Only one cure, cannabis, and lots of it. Only way Clinton escaped the clones, smoked da reefer. If your breasts start swelling, and you start puking, you may need to get on the horse (heroin that is.) Call with any questions.
 

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Wait a while

skinny-tire said:
Reader's Digest Version:

"Two bikers are illegally riding a trail. Come upon an upset and irrate hiker, who attacks one of the bikers and pepper sprays them."

I'm not a violent man, but if I was one of them bikers, I would have beat him senseless (or at least told my friends I did after asking how I got the black eye).

Here's what you do:

Wait about a year. He'll return to running those same trails. He'll get comfortable again and think, "I taught those guys a lesson." Select some "tools" to get the job done. Then, on a daily basis visit the trails on foot and wait. He'll come along eventually. Then you take care of that fool.
 

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He did seem a little dismissive of his own transgressions, but he did mention that he doesn't poach there anymore. I'm still not sure if he hinders or helps the share the road/share the trails idea. He seems to say, bikers have our places, hikers have their places, we don't need to share too much. My point? I'm not sure, but I'd like it if he clarified his.
 

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Fixeyfreeride said:
Interesting article in the Washington Post yesterday:

It's a read but here you go:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A52836-2004May24.html

I also notice something odd. This grown man has not a single hair on his body, like some alien attack mannequin. Nor does he appear to have much in the way of muscles, an observation confirmed when he punches me in the face. I barely feel it. But I do feel his knee as it connects with my ribs.
If that guy tried to attack me, he would be boneless in addition to being hairless.
In fact, I don't let anyone even get that close to me. If someone starts to come at me, if they come within three feet that's it I unleash hell.
 

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Since when is it warranted to pepper spray somebody for poaching a trail? Would the jogger "not being accepting the consequenses of his actions" if the biker got off his bike and beat his ass?

No offense, but it's not the jogger's responsibility to police the trail, it's the land managers and park rangers.
 

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Not Foreseeable

NuMexJoe said:
but the writer seems not to be accepting the consequences of his actions. Like when a thief breaks into a home and files suit 'cause he got shot. "Hey, I was only after the silver - I was no threat to the homeowner, and he shot me anyway!" Sure the jogger overreacted, but when it's your own transgression that got you in that fix, best just to buck up and take your licks, extreme though they may be. Or at least that's the side of the argument that occurs to me initially.... Just glad I live in a place where there's no shortage of trails, and the users are few.
- Joe
I disagree with your analogy. Getting assaulted and battered by a crazy muscleless albino jogger is not a consequence of illegal trail riding. To me this situation is more like when a parent attacks an umpire at a kids sporting event for making a bad call or a neighbor breaking my skull in for illegally parking my boat on the street. Yes, there was an act that was '"improper" or "illegal", but the resulting attack is not foreseeable unlike your thief analogy. Next time you walk your Chihuahua without a leash be prepared to get shot and then buck up and take your licks even if you die.
 

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skinny-tire said:
No offense, but it's not the jogger's responsibility to police the trail, it's the land managers and park rangers.
I completly agree. Its just like when im driving my car and road bikers tell me to slow down, fu[k j00 buddy ... its up to the cops to decide if im mobbin too quick.
 

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dr.dirt said:
Poaching trails on a saturday in the most popular park in washington d.c is really just silly, bound to at very least p. off people. Try a moonlight poach on a tues night for something interesting.
Now this was in Washington and he could have been a powerful man. Then again he could have been chief arsehole at the CIA and there would have been a black van waiting for you. Maybe he was an alien, a shapeshifter for that matter, apparently one with no hair. Taking on his human form for a bit of R and R from the colonization of the middle-east with evangelist cyborgs. That wasn't pepper spray, my god man he was trying to mate with you! You have been artificially inseminated by a farsi speaking evangelist cyborg. He was saying, "oh me so horny, love you long time" in farsi. Only one cure, cannabis, and lots of it. Only way Clinton escaped the clones, smoked da reefer. If your breasts start swelling, and you start puking, you may need to get on the horse (heroin that is.) Call with any questions.


Now that was funny sht!


But really you need to organize the bikers to get up early and picket the trailhead till you get access. We deserve equal rights. No bull , you need to hook up with ( or start) a advocacy group. A petition should get the trails opened with the sympathy of the land manager and the Cops already.

Now that would be the ultimate payback for what the Hairless Vigilate did.
 

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"Poaching trails on a saturday in the most popular park in washington d.c is really just silly, bound to at very least p. off people. Try a moonlight poach on a tues night for something interesting."

Well! We tried a moonlight ride last Thursday night. Rode the one-way loop, then decided to do it backwards.

Only about four other bikers out that night (two pair) and us three. We're very consciencious (sp?) riders, aware of the issues and proper trail etiquitte. We'd never opt to do a lap in reverse during the day. At night, there are fewer people and we can see lights coming our way, so it's safer.

One of the other riders seemed gruff when we first passed him, complaining that we were riding the wrong way on a one-way trail. We were like, yes, we know, and you could see us coming. It's not like we crashed.

Second lap around, he and his buddy were headed towards me and one of my pals. He blocked my pal and started getting on our cases about how riding the wrong way causes trail erosion. I snapped back that we do trail maintenance regularly, are aware of the issues, and that by riding at night, we were minimizing the potential for head-on crashes.

He kept throwing the "trail erosion" argument at us, and I believe he meant that by having to pass oncoming riders, it widens the trail. However, each time we passed these guys, there was plenty of room to pass w/o trampling the vegetation. Finally I got fed up with his arrogance and we rode around them (his buddy seemed embarassed.)

I'm glad other riders are so concerned about trail issues that they speak up in defense, but this guy was just belligerent. I haven't seen HIM volunteering any time at work parties. I got the impression that, for all his concern about the trails being closed b/c of wayward mtn bikers, he'd be the first to run to the police and report us. Go figure!!
 

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if there was a one way trail and some people came at me going the wrong way id be pissed off too. Not because of trail erosion or any logical argument, just angered that i gotta now look out and slow down for people. I guess cars should go the wrong way on one way streets too as long as its late at night to minimise the chance of a head on. :p
 
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