07 April 2011

That's my story
and I'm sticking to it.

I've enjoyed the bikeways and trails around Dayton ever since the first loop around the Miami River was developed. Even before that, I used the city streets and rural roads for commuting, running errands, and athletic training. Back then, some 30 years ago, I lived in Fairborn and on Wright-Patterson AFB, and the bicycle was my sole means of transportation. I used a good-sized leather backpack for my trips to the supermarket, I rode to work daily, and I rode my bike often to Yellow Springs, Xenia, and Dayton—even during the winter. On occasion, I took city streets to the Miami River and enjoyed the much calmer and safer biking down below the busy city. I wished then that I could have the same safety far away in Fairborn and Greene County.

I lived in Los Angeles for a couple years around 1985, and one home was pretty close to a bikeway along the Santa Ana River. The L.A. bikeways at that time were actually an afterthought, an opening up of the maintenance roadways that paralleled the open concrete drainage systems that are called "rivers" there. The access points were very distant from each other, and often hard to find. The bikeways passed through rough neighborhoods, and the many underpasses along the bikeways were homes to transients or meeting places for neighborhood gangs, dangerous on occasion. But the bikeway also passed near where I worked as a technical writer, in Anaheim. It made great sense to me to avoid the freeways—and the streets—by biking to work.

In comparison to the Los Angeles bikeways, the Dayton system was better engineered, well maintained, with better access, and the security was absolutely superb. When I returned to Dayton in 1987, I was ecstatic to see the further improvements and added mileage in the bikeway system.

Around 1989, I decided to compete in cycling events in the 1990 Gay Games that were to be held in Vancouver BC (Canada). I joined the Dayton Cycling Club. I started training with their racing team. I joined the United States Cycling Federation (USCF) and applied for a competitor's license. And I competed in regional cycling races. Perhaps the most arduous was a 100-mile race that started in Spartanburg SC and ended near the top of 6684-ft Mt. Mitchell, near Asheville NC. I competed in Vancouver in 1990, including an nine-mile hill climb up Mt. Seymour that I silver medalled.

Part of the training for races included long group rides that passed through the many rural areas and small communities around Dayton. We never used the developing bikeway system in the training, even though our favorite rides passed over or along the developing bikeways between Xenia, Spring Valley, and Corwin. The bikeways are very level, with long, low-change grades. That's not what a competitive cyclist wants, but rather challenging hills, plenty of opportunities for pack sprints, and occasional easy sections for recovery after a hard one- to three-minute interval. The rural roads are perfect for that training.

I was training for cycling in the 1994 Gay Games, a week away from going to New York City for the competition, when a car hit me during a training race on roads north of Middletown. The driver sped away in some state of flummox, but returned to the scene; but all the racers and race organizers fled, since no local authorizations had been sought for the race. A resident on that country road called 911, and an emergency van took me to Middletown Regional Hospital for trauma care, two surgeries, and two weeks hospitalization. Because all the riders had left me on my own, the emergency center was uncertain of my name and completely unaware of whom to contact as my next-of-kin. I was unconscious, or drifting in and out, and a nurse was able to reach my partner Chuck a long four hours after the collision, just before I was wheeled into surgery to relieve bleeding in my brain. He arrived while I was in surgery, and friends he called arrived sometime before the surgery was complete. But though he referred to being identified in a signed medical power of attorney, he was required to show the paperwork the next morning after he could call our attorney, who had the original documents.

It took several years after the collision for me to feel comfortable on a bicycle. Since then, I've shied away from roadways. I make certain that I carry a cellphone and emergency contact information on every ride. Both Chuck and I carry a miniature copy of both of our medical powers of attorney, and I always wear my RoadID bracelet. This bracelet has an internet address that I maintain with all my important medical and contact information.

The bikeways have greatly expanded to over 300 miles in the Dayton area, but the development has taken 17 years. Finally around 2002, bikeways nearly linked my home to my office in Research Park. With the opening of the Iron Horse Trail, my route by bikeway is 85% of my commute, except in times of river flooding that covers the bikeway. I have about two miles of cycling in lightly-travelled residential areas near my home and only a quarter mile on streets in Research Park.

I commute by bike 12 miles each way nearly daily from March through November, except for the few days when icy conditions make a ride unsafe or heavy rain makes a ride uncomfortable. Although my ride begins in a residential area of inner northwest Dayton, I join the bikeway system at either Wolf Creek or the Monument Avenue Bridge. The bikewayMetroparks staff, and city and park response is attentive to the need for improving the pavement after seasonal uplifts and washouts.

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