Rage on the Bikeway

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The Boston Globe ran a front-page story yesterday about confrontations among users of the super-popular tree-lined Minuteman Bikeway in Boston. Police have already filed more reports of clashes between users of the bikeway this year than the previous two combined. As the Arlington Police Chief noted, "We have road rage, and now we have bikeway rage."

"It’s a good thing that it’s used so much," said David Watson, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. "But in some ways I guess you can call it a victim of its own success."

There are cyclists in full-body spandex suits, aerodynamic helmets, and titanium bikes that go fast enough to leave roadkill in their wake. There are roller bladers, swaying back and forth to music playing on headphones. There are dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, and frequent choruses of "On your left!" screamed by cyclists as they whiz by pedestrians.

On weekdays, some subway commuters take the trail to Alewife Station in Cambridge. Pedestrians can be seen reading books as they walk, and a few cyclists chat on cellphones, one hand on the phone and another gripping the handlebars.

This type of "modal conflict" is familiar to users of the West Side bike path and the Central Park loop. And as the New York Times reports in an article this weekend about clashes between dog owners and cyclists, there can be conflict between species as well:

The city Parks Department does not keep statistics on collisions between bikes and dogs. But almost every cyclist and every dog owner seems to have a story about a collision, and there is no lack of finger-pointing as to who is to blame.

"It’s the owner’s fault," said Alex Rodriguez, race director for the Road Club Association, which has been holding races in the park since the 1920s.

Nancy Kramer, a 59-year-old interior designer who lives on the Upper East Side, says most of the people she sees on her park walks are collegial. "Except for the bikers."

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