Thursday, April 30, 2015

Greenways 101

   Every Spring I start writing this post, and every Spring I don't post it because I think it's too snarky and self-rightous. However, I've finally had enough, so I'm finishing it.  
   
   Spring is here, and while I'm happy for the warmer weather, there is one thing that really irks me about this time of year. It's the large amount of people who suddenly remember that we have parks in Nashville and all decide to use them at one time. As someone who uses the parks throughout the year, this is more than just the annoyance of not being able to find any parking (for the record, I do think that year-round park users should get some kind of reserved parking since we're there all of the time. Just kidding...kind of.) No, the real annoyance is not only are the parks suddenly crazy crowded, but that many of the people completely lack any greenway etiquette. In a large park, this might not be a big deal or even noticeable, however, my usual park is small and in a densely populated area. You'll pass the same person on the greenway several times if you're running laps. So, in an effort to make everyone's visit to the park a little bit more pleasant (and safe), I'm going to take this opportunity to lay out a few guidelines.

Rules for the Greenway on a Busy Day:

Rule #1: On greenways - stay to your right, pass on your left.
This is so easy, yet so many people don't do it. Unlike running / walking on a road, when you go against traffic, walking on the greenway is like driving a car - you stay to the right, and pass on the left. This does not mean wandering in the middle of the greenway so I have to wonder what direction you're going to go when I pass you - it means staying to the right.

Rule #2: If you have two or more people in your group - you still stay to the right.
Please do not take up the entire greenway and expect people who pass you to leave the pavement in order to accommodate your large group. Yes, this means that you might have walk closer to each other or even walk single file for a few seconds while people are passing.

Rule #3: Give a head's up.
When passing a walker / runner on a bike or rollerblades, verbally acknowledge that you're going to do so. You don't have to yell - just a polite "On your left" is fine.

Rule #4: Realize you are not the only person in the park:
Y'all, seriously. Pay attention to what's going on around you. Yes, I'm talking to YOU, Mr. "I'm looking at my phone and have my headphones on and I'm aimlessly wandering on both sides of the greenway and don't have any idea where I'm going." This is not only dangerous, but also kind of sad. Why did you even bother going to the park if you're not going to take your eyes off of your phone? And for the record, I learned from experience on this one. One time, I had to turn around on a run and ran smack into a cyclist who was passing. This was back when I ran with music and I just didn't hear him coming. Fortunately, we were both OK, but lesson learned.

Rule #5: When stopped, move off the greenway.
This is related to Rule #4. If you need to stop on the greenway for whatever reason (shoe becomes untied, you run into friends, etc.) and there are people running / riding around you - move off the greenway. This also applies to your stuff. Please don't leave your bike / chair / stroller blocking the greenway while you go look at a squirrel.

Rule #5: Cyclists - slow down!
Greenways have a speed limit of 15 mph for a reason.

Rule #6: Mind your kids.
This is the rule that is probably going to get me into the most trouble, especially since I don't have kids, but it's also the most important. Look - I understand that I'm in a PARK. By design, it's a place for recreation and fun. And kids can run like wild when on the grassy areas! But crowded greenways can be dangerous. There are walkers, bikers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, people with dogs or strollers, etc. out on the greenways. Maybe letting your barely-walking toddler wander freely down the crowded greenway alone isn't the best idea if you don't want your child to be hit. I know I've had a couple of close calls with kids and I'm paying attention to what's going on. You get Mr. Eyes-On-His-Phone wandering down the greenway at the same time as your child, and your kid is going to get run over and hurt. Yes, the adult should have been paying attention, but your child is still injured.

Minding your kids applies to off the greenway, as well. I can't tell you how many times I've run by a soccer field to see all of the parents lined up watching the game, while a younger child is meandering unsupervised a field away. For the record - I'm not referring to kids that are 5-10 years old. I'm talking still-in-diapers toddlers. I think people get in this mindset that "I'm in a park, nothing bad can happen." Or maybe they assume another adult is watching their child. Well, here's an example of why assuming doesn't work. Last year, I was at Concord Park in Brentwood. I got out of the car and saw a cookout going on at the nearby picnic shelter with about 20-25 people, with about half being adults. As I'm walking over to the trailhead where I'm going to start my run, I noticed several of the women from the cookout standing there and they are visibly agitated. A little girl (four years old) was missing.

A few other runners happened to be around, so we got a description of the girl were about to take off looking for her when we were notified that she (thankfully) had been found safe at the nearby YMCA. Y'all - this child had crossed a over a bridge, walked the distance of a football field and crawled through a hole in a fence into the pool area of the Y, where she was found by a Y employee who happened to be walking through. That child had to been missing at least 10 minutes before anyone noticed she was gone.

   So that's it. Hopefully, this didn't come off as too preachy. I know some of you might be expecting something about dogs, but I honestly haven't had any issues with dogs on the greenways. Trails, maybe, but not on the greenways. If you have anything you wish to add, please do!