Bike Paths and Walking
I am often asked why my novels involve bike paths. In A Step Ahead of Death the murder victim is found just off the trail as it leads from town. In Witness in the Window (Here for Amazon) the novel begins with an attack on the bike path at night and the attacks continue, always on or near the bike path.
I don’t really have an obsession with my community’s bike paths, but I am deeply grateful for the miles of trails and paths developed in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live. The trails in Lincoln traverse over 130 miles and connect to softer surface trails that extend to many other communities. The trails are shared by casual strollers to dedicated bike racers, so there are times when they almost seem congested.
I was never slothful, but until my mid 40’s I didn’t really do much regular exercise. A cousin of mine gave me the “slap upside the head” pointing out that I needed to get my act together. I also thought back to a scout leader I once had, Mac McClannahan, who walked nearly everywhere. He was a photographer for a local newspaper and I always admired his stamina. I began walking during my work noon hours and could often get a 30 minute walk in before my afternoon schedule began. That initial burst helped me to lose 30 pounds and I began to pay more attention to my own fitness. I continue to walk on bike paths, sidewalks, roads and find this form of exercise to be very satisfying. I don’t enjoy running and my knees don’t like it either, but walking does not cause me any physical discomfort.
I used to write descriptions of my walks along the paths. Just for my own enjoyment. Eventually I began to think about what it might be like to just keep walking. One day I asked “what would happen if I found a dead body in the ditch?” This led me to begin my first novel, A Step Ahead of Death. This was accepted by Comfort Publishing and published in 2011. It has done well, but I have recently purchased the rights to republish this novel. I hope to make it available again later in the year.
The idea for the novel Witness in the Window occurred one day when I was walking in my neighborhood on the bike path. As I walked by a house I saw an older man sitting in the window looking out. I waved and he waved back. He became a character in the novel. I imagined him to be a Korean War veteran, unable to speak for several years. He is the witness in the window.
Before I began walking I used to see people, from the window of my office, on the path and think, “I should be doing that.” It just takes a little push sometimes to accomplish great things. I have walked thousands of miles since I began my “journey” in the year 2000. I’ve worn out shoes and watched the landscape change, but I can still walk as well and as fast as those first years. Walking relaxes me. When I get on the path, my day gets brighter and worries ease away. Whatever it takes to motivate you to action, do it. Get started. Don’t wait or say, “I should have been doing that.”
Bike Path Etiquette and Safety
Despite the health benefits of exercising on bike paths there are some genuine risks involved. While there are no motor vehicles allowed on bike paths, bicycles whiz by regularly. Walkers should stay to the right side of the path as often as possible. Bicyclers, likewise, should give adequate warning to the slower walkers and runners they may pass.
Bikers – please use a warning device such as a simple bell or horn and yell “On your left!” as you slow when approaching a slower path sharer.
Racing down paths shared by walkers and runners can lead to deadly collisions. Save the racing for wide paths and out of town paths.
And, by all means, wear a helmet for your own sake
Walkers and runners – tune down your headphones and use “situational awareness” watch out for faster moving bicycles. Listen for approaching bikes and don’t cross roads without looking. Staying to the right will help as well.
Don’t walk the paths alone at night and stick to better lighted sections for safety.