Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Zen Bike Path Combat Alert Technique

In an effort to alert pedestrians on the canal path to my approach on my bicycle, I have adopted the following flexible approach, which I adjust to suit specific circumstances. The foundation of this approach is an increasing scale of alert technique, similar to what the U.S. Marines refer to as the Continuum of Force, except in a harmonious, non-combative sort of way, perhaps more in the vein of aikido. In a Zen sense, it is combat which is not combat. I fight by not fighting. I alert pedestrians by not startling them.

The Continuum of Zen Bike Path Combat is as follows:

Level 1) Slow down and choose a line which will support safe passing no matter what happens. This sometimes involves slowing down very far indeed. The line chosen must allow at least three to five feet of passing clearance. Take note of whether or not the approach and slowing is enough of an alert in itself, particularly, for example, if a White Industries Eno freewheel is in use. If the pedestrian is not alerted, proceed to level 2.

Level 2) At this point, I take note of whether or not the pedestrian is equipped with earbuds in both ears. I still proceed step by step through the levels, but earbuds may cause me to escalate to level 4 sooner. Level 2 involves a distinct yet pleasant* DING-DING on the bell on the handlebar. A semi-alert pedestrian will typically be able to hear the DING-DING, and be suitably alerted to my approach. If the pedestrian is not alerted, proceed to level 3.

Level 3) At this point, I am approaching fairly close to the pedestrian, near enough such that raising my voice just sightly and saying "On Your Left," will usually do it. If that works, I time it with a "Thank you!" just as I pass, and all is well. If, however, no notice has been taken, and I have any concern or question as to the safety of passing, I will proceed to level 4.

Level 4) The Zen Bike Path Combat kiai. This is a powerful verbal tool to be employed only in the circumstances described: when levels 1-3 have not succeeded, and an alert is still required. An alert is not always required at this point. If the pedestrian may be safely passed without going all the way to Level 4, I will do so, with a sense of exasperation combined with hopefulness and harmony. You rock on with your bad self you ear bud-wearin oblivious pedestrian, and I wave at you in hopes that an ear bud-wearin oblivious cyclist doesn't cross paths with you thinking that you will hear him and move just in time.

If I have any doubt of passing safely and courteously, I will generate a powerful burst of sound from deep inside which gathers deep, balanced ki forces, focuses them, reverberates off my diaphragm, and sometime knocks earbuds out of ears with its mighty decibels as it resounds off the urban canyon walls. I've frozen bunny rabbits in their tracks with this technique. It is not a yell. It is not that loud. It is simply very, very powerful. Seldom does a Level 4 Zen Bike Path Comabt kiai fail to alert the intended recipient of my passing. Here, check it out (props to Jay Gluck and Morihei Ueshiba). 

*or should it be, "pleasant yet distinct?" Requesting a word order ruling on this one from native English speakers in the blogosphere who have an infallible sense of such things. I believe I prefer the latter, although it is not a strong or unmovable preference, unlike "big, fat tire" instead of "fat, big tire" (which is just wrong), or, for example, "lycra menacing horde" which is totally off, compared to "menacing lycra horde," which you definitely don't want anywhere near your neighborhood, as we have established previously.


  1. I yell out "en garde!"
    Sort of a French "kiai!"

  2. It's ironic that blogspot won't accept comments from my iPhone, but happily accepts them from Microsoft Explorer and a laptop.

    That being said, my default is level 5; a combination of JRA level 3 AND an offroad excursion to ensure no pedestrian wrong-way move results in a collision. It's the equivalent of making a full lane change, though paths result in that becoming a cross country excursion. Cyclocross rules!

  3. Be careful out there. I've called out "On your left" and the pedestrian moved quickly to the left. Which sometimes causes braking and a slight dance to ensue.

  4. limom, vraiment? I've also tried whispering loudly, "pardon me, sir/madame," but those sorts of approaches tend to freak out your conventional in-the-box path users around here.

    Steve A, blogspot has its shields up. No iphone photon torpedos will get thru. Go to phasers first. I concur with the full lane change approach, of course, except along the canal in situations where that would require swimming.

    Unknown, always good advice. And you never know who's going to fade right in front of you when they hear something behind. That's what's behind the "go slow and choose a wide, safe line" is the setup for the pass, always. I would rather ride at a snail's pace than startle a pedestrian, and I mean that.

  5. Sounds like the Cookie Monster. I tend to just yell "on your left" pretty loud when I am about 4 seconds away. "Bike" might be better. Or to ride on the street.

  6. Big Clyde, yes! I'm surprised no one mentioned CM earlier. In my way of thinking, when it comes to path alerts, there is the following hierarchy:

    Cookie Monster > The Count > Ernie > Fozzy Bear. I don't think Fozzie would alert anyone.


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