photo by Jay Prasuhn
I received a “Dear Ironmadman” letter the other day, from a teammate, coach and friend. We’ll call him, “Wound Up in Whistler.”
“Wound Up” was a participant in last week’s Ironman Canada event. The day before the race, he was walking his tri-bike to the transition area on a multi-use path with his wife. “Wound Up“ writes, “Maybe four out of at least 50 said ‘on your left!’ or at least ‘good morning’ to let us know they were coming by. Most just blow on by without any kind of slowing and are just dangerous.’”
“’Our sport requires us to invade the space of others all the time and we need to acknowledge that we don’t own the roads and trails.’”
Dear “Wound Up,”
A situation such as the one you experienced would certainly upset me too, especially if my wife’s safety was jeopardized. Far too few of us acknowledge that we must share the pathways we train on – a literal two-way street for motorists, pedestrians and of course, our fellow athletes. “Give me my space!” is a common refrain I see in forums and on social media when entitled cyclists rant about sharing the road. Heck, I’ve said it myself! Yet the point remains, where is the love for our fellow triathletes? We’re not racing when we’re training, can’t we all just be a bit more courteous to each other out there?
Since “Dear Abby” is all about advice, here’s mine…in a roundabout way. And instead of directing it to “Wound Up in Whistler,” this is meant for all of us. My wife and I recently returned from vacation in Bali. (I’m not brag-posting, there’s really a point coming soon.) The food was delicious. The temples were humbling. The monkey forest was…kinda disturbing, actually. I’ll remember the people the most though. When you first meet someone from Bali, they put their hands together in a prayer pose and raise them to their forehead. It’s a simple gesture, but it radiates warmth and a genuine way of saying, “I see you. I acknowledge you. I welcome you.”
That Balinese mentality translated to commuting through the narrow island streets, even in cluttered cities like Denpassar. Imagine a road half as wide as any US freeway. Now, remove all the lanes except for a center divider, and replace 80 percent of the vehicles with scooters. Where I live in Los Angeles, that’s not just chaos…that’s a riot. In Bali, everyone moved fluidly together. While the traffic was fierce, drivers remained calm and pleasant. The only honking we experienced occurred when car drivers would alert scooters in front of them that it was either safe or unsafe to merge into a lane. Everyone had each other’s back, literally.
When we returned from our trip, I vowed to drive differently, going so far as writing “Bali” on a piece of paper and thinking of sticking it to my steering wheel on top of the horn. My peacefulness lasted all of a week, but I’ve been more successful keeping any threats of road rage in check. On the bike though, I’m a changed man. Admittedly, I was occasionally one of those jerks who was apt to buzz a fellow cyclist without saying anything because I was too busy thinking, “You’re interrupting my interval!” Not anymore. I’m embarrassed I didn’t act like this all the time in the past.
So is my advice for everyone to go on vacation in Bali? No, even though it’s an inspiring place to visit. My point is simply this: Why can’t we all envision ourselves as fellow inhabitants of a tiny triathlon island? A world we must all trust each other, look after one another, slow down just a little, and perhaps most important of all, create a welcoming environment for island-goers and visitors alike.