We share the same streets and trails, seeking much the same thing: a bit of exercise, a moment to ourselves, a short respite from phones and e-mails and supervisors. Yet there is undeniable tension between runners and cyclists, two groups who would seem to share common ground.
My friend Matthew Rennie, a cycling commuter, weekend road warrior and deputy editor of The Post's Sports section, recently agreed to a frank exchange of views on the subject.
Me: I’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. What’s up with those outfits? Do you HAVE to look like a pack of flamingos lost on my street? Is there a rule that when any three of you ride together you have to wear the exact same clothing? That’s so … precious.
Matt: Yes, yes. The ol’ spandex indictment. Didn’t have to wait long for that. Because it’s SO fashionable to prance around in shorts that show more thigh than Lady Gaga’s meat dress. But the headbands are definitely a nice look.
Me: You want substance? You come flying up behind me and scream "ON YOUR LEFT" or something less printable from three feet away. Then you get mad when I can’t get out of the way. Or you ring one of those bells I had on my tricycle. Can’t we all get along?
Matt: How would you know what anyone said? I mean, anyone other than the person whose voice is blasting through your headphones. You tune out the world and then take your half of a “shared-use” path out of the middle. Don’t get me started on the dog-walkers on one side while their dogs are on the other, with a leash in between. Isn’t that how Carlo got it at the end of "The Godfather?"
Me: Whaaat? Have you been the 30th car stacked up behind a cyclist “asserting his right to the road” at 10 mph during rush hour?
Matt: This is D.C. Like you’d be going any faster than 10 mph during rush hour anyway. The last thing anyone on the road here should be complaining about is people who choose NOT to drive on a weekday.
Me: Uh huh. I’m 56. I’ve never actually seen one of you stop for a stop sign. Think it’ll happen in my lifetime?
Matt: I can’t defend that (not with a clear conscience anyway). But sometimes you do what you do just to get a stretch of pavement to yourself. The drivers don’t want us on the road, where we’re legally entitled to be; the pedestrians don’t want us on the sidewalk.
And don’t mention the bike lanes and cycletracks; just this week, I watched a cyclist crash on the 15th Street cycletrack because someone coming the other way lost control of his skateboard! Is this any way to treat folks who are benefiting the economy, the environment and their health?
Me: Technically, being pulled downhill for a mile by gravity doesn’t qualify as "exercise." I can put wheels on my recliner and do the same thing.
Matt: You’re just jealous because cycling is actually FUN, something running will never be confused with. You grimace through a summer’s worth of training to run 26 miles. I can cover that before my first Clif bar on a Saturday morning.
Me: Well, at least you’re not a motorist. Or a dog.
Matt: Hey, now we can agree. Let’s be clear: There are irresponsible drivers and there are irresponsible cyclists and pedestrians (and in all cases, they are the exceptions). But whenever there’s an incident – no matter who’s at fault – the driver is going to walk away. The others might not.
Do you have a pet peeve about cyclists or runners? Leave it in the comments section below.