The more time I spend riding this 3.5 mile trail that runs along the boundary of what is known as Uptown in downtown Dallas and Turtle Creek/Highland Park, I have encountered all types of people. The trail is like a beautiful cross-section of all things Dallas.
There are, however, 3 basic types of pedestrians (peds) that bikers come across as we share this public space.
The Casual Walker (Medium to High risk)
This person is out for a purposeful walk along the path. Typically, using the ped-only portion of the trail, they press on, focused on an unseen finish line. Frequently they make predictable left turns at defined markers along the trail. Given their deliberate pace, when they make an unexpected course change it can be dangerous.
The Purposeful Runner (Low to Medium risk)
The runner is a bit more predictable to follow and pass. Given their purposeful stride and position on the trail (running to the far right side) they are experienced in trail etiquette and are on a mission. Sudden stops or turns are infrequent and easier to spot given their speed. Seeing a runner slow his/her stride is a easy giveaway of a possible course change. Rarely does this elite group run with headphones as they are focused on the surroundings. Their overall appearance says, "I have been here before, and I know what I am doing". Additionally, you see them more than once and usually during off-peak hours.
The Trail Rookie (High to Extremely High risk)
At first they blend into the crowd. They dress the part (most of the times) of other runners blending into the background of landscape. This group is the most dangerous group of all. Normally, you can hear their music in their ear buds from 20 feet away. They have an awkward cadence with a drifting stride that takes them from side to side on the trail. While to some degree they look the part of the Purposeful Runner, they are far from any set mission other than not collapsing from a cramp or heart attack. This is the group that shows up in long gym shorts with a well slept in concert tee-shirt and shoes more designed for the super casual walker. The probability of this ped changing direction is very high...approach with great caution.
As a fellow occupant of the trail I have encountered each of these individuals on each ride. Over the miles I have discovered some important lessons for life on the trail.
Look where you will be, not where you are.
The ever-changing scenery of the trail is inspiring as it is in all of life. But we need to look ahead rather than spending all our time making observations about conditions in the moment. While there is a need to be present in the current conditions of life, it helps to understand the appropriate time to look up and when to look down. It has to do with speed.
The faster you are traveling, the further out you must be looking. Being in the moment is for those times when your speed is at a slow to full stop. At that moment you should take in all that is around you. Noticing every detail of life. Drink in the moment as if where a possible last opportunity for such an experience. But when your speed picks up, your eyes should be trained far ahead on the course.
Prioritize the disrupters.
When looking ahead your first priority is the greatest disrupter. The peds with the biggest potential risk to you should be identified early. These are normally the rookies and sometimes the super casual walkers (especially the groups of two or more).
Who are those people or organizations most likely to do something unpredictable like turn in front of you or stop in your path, creating a epic collision in your career, your family, or your personal pursuits?
When in a crowd speed is important.
Some of my fellow bike riders believe in the philosophy that more speed is the answer for most obstacles. To this is say, Ouch! While the theory of getting out of the way holds some water, the one-size-fits-all approach to riding the trail only ends in skinned knees or worse. And the larger the crowd, the greater the risk.
Life is no different. It is okay to slow down your plans in life if when the crowd builds and you have identified high risk disrupters in your path. The bigger the crowd the more possible distrupters there are to watch. The risks grow and appropriate speed becomes critical for safe passage.
What I have learned, the hard way, is that our need for acceleration is most often linked to pride. Our internal voice has convinced us that slowing down is a sign of weakness and failure. All the while setting us up for potential risk in life. Appropriate speed given the future conditions and the disrupter priority will provide the quickest route to success.
This simple lesson applies to your career, your relationships, your finances, and your health just to mention a few. Where in life have you gone to fast in a crowd and paid the price?
Life on the Trail
I have encountered the Casual Walkers, Purposeful Runners, and Trail Rookies all throughout my life. Truth be told, I have been each of these people at some point in time. We each must be aware of the role we play on the trail of life.
There are certainly times, as we grow and take on new challenges, we find ourselves moving at an even quicker pace on the trail of life...the proverbial bike. It is at those times, when life seems to be moving with an ever increasing speed such as in a promotion in your career, a marriage, becoming a parent, or starting a new business.
It is during these times the pace of the trail picks up from your fastest pace ever as a purposeful runner to a level that is scary at times. During these times remember the three simple lessons from the Katy Trail and you will always find yourself moving...
photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net, by Vlado