Monday, August 03, 2009

Wolfeboro Rail Trail Sends More Victims on Express Train to ER

Over the weekend, Wolfeboro's problematic recreation trail claimed at least two more victims, sending one of them to the emergency room with a broken hip. That rider is one of the leading kidney disease researchers in the United States. The other victim would have gone to the emergency room, but said he was vacationing with a relative who is a doctor, so he would get patched up by her.

Earlier in the week we had repaired a hybrid bike for a rider who said the rear tire jammed in one of the rail crossings while she was towing a trail-a-bike. Apparently the bike sufferd the serious injuries in that case. The rear wheel was ruined.

Dr. Kidney is a very benevolent human being and an experienced road rider. He and his companions usually ride the road when they visit. For some reason he decided to check out the path. We did not know he was headed that way, or we would certainly have warned him about the trail's peculiarities.

I've joked that we should cross-promote with the hospital when we do bike rentals. We could offer a discount coupon or a gift basket of first aid supplies. But Dr. Kidney's injuries are no joke. He has been extremely helpful to people near to me who are in research studies for polycystic kidney disease. He and the other study doctors can't do anything about the fact that we have no health coverage, but it somehow feels a little better just being able to talk to him.

When we heard about the crash a couple of us really felt like heading over to the tracks with sledge hammers. It wouldn't fix the many treacherous spots designed into the trail, but it would help us pound out our frustration at it. It's basically a tantalizing trap, an illusion of a trail. We warn every rental group.

Wolfeboro's trail is certainly one of the best examples of so-called biking infrastructure that is actually harmful. We make do with scraps of money and awkward mergers. In this case it's a rail car club that insisted the rails be left or the trail could not be built at all. Perhaps one or more of their members should be required to pull a shift every day to help evacuate the injured.


Anonymous said...

I feel bad that someone got hurt, but...

Rails have been there since 1872 and operated by various railroad companies until 1986. To blame the "rail car club", is ridiculous. Don't they help maintain the trail.. clearing trees, fixing bridges? In fact... blaming anyone is ridiculous. How about taking some personal responsibility?

cafiend said...

Oh, Anonymous, Anonymous. It hasn't been designated as a BIKE TRAIL since 1872.

I don't blame the club, although their predilection does complicate the trail's use for recreation as advertised. It's more of an example of the strange bedfellows shoved together in the quest to find a place cyclists can be segregated where they won't bother more productive citizens. Also, the rails in this case are unbelievably treacherous. I don't know a single regular path user who hasn't been "railed" at least once. My own wife suffered a near-separation of her shoulder. The impact partially collapsed her lung.

Just another day on the trail.

Anonymous said...

The rail trail club has been there longer. they knew the risk when they put the rec trail there. so if anyone gets hurt all they have is the blame of them selves.

cafiend said...

Thank you for coming clean about your allegiances, Anonymous.

Personally I do not recommend anyone ride the trail. It is a tempting trap because it offers what appears to be a traffic-free riding venue. I use it myself in the fall when no one else is riding on it. I can go a long way toward home in the darkness without having to deal with visibility issues on the road.

In the grand scheme of economic values (the only values that matter) it's hard to say whether the relatively small number of rail car users or the much greater number of cyclists represents the greater financial benefit. When it comes to apportioning resources, no other measurement counts. Since, in all likelihood, neither demographic fattens the local coffers to any great extent, it's just two trivial subcultures squabbling over scraps and bones.

Anonymous said...

just cause you like to ride your bike on that trail. that all the rails should be pulled up well i like to run my motorcar on them. so what right you have saying your biking is more important then me running by motorcar. I can only run it on two lines. bikes can be rode anywere. tracks were there frist and the cotton valley rail trail club as well. I drive a hour and a half just so i can.

Anonymous said...

that small number is around 90 how are in the club and there are others that arnt. people how buy gas and food from Wolfboro and sanbornville. ask the miss wakefild dinner. people all over new england come here to run there cars cause they have no were else to

cafiend said...

Anonymous, you sound ticked off. It's all cool. I'm not in the way out there except after dark in late fall.

The trail has proven to be an interesting experiment. Many riders enjoy it with all its peculiarities. In fact, they come from other states because they've read in guide books that a trail exists.

Obviously the rail car club isn't going away. Nor should it. The trail is just a bizarre merger of user groups.

Anonymous said...

i posted the last three i didnt do the first one that was someone else. not so ticked off just saying how i felt im going to end it though dont whant to start any bad blood. have a good one

cafiend said...

I agree. All the best to you as well.

Anonymous said...

I spent 8 years traveling close to 2 hours to Wolfeboro in developing that path. In that time I came to see that Route 28 heading North out of town was/is not a good place for pedestrians or bicycles. Beyond my railcar, I bought equipment for the cause. Now I might of felt better if I saved the thousands I spent, especially when someone wishes to bash my blood, sweat and tears.
The subject is a double edged sword for me as I'm sure it is for others. WE tried to get the best for all. Just as most physical features of any traveled way, age and develope problems this one has also.
Aren't there places in any bicycle ride when it is advisible to walk the bike?

cafiend said...

Clearly the rail car folks feel far more invested in the path than I realized. Sorry for the cyclo-centric point of view. I just end up hearing about the injuries and dealing with the repairs year after year and it gets frustrating.

Fit cyclists with moderate riding skills find repeatedly stopping to dismount and push or carry past an obstacle breaks up the rhythm of the ride completely. In addition, passing in opposite directions on the sections where the path runs between ther rails is equivalent to jousting or playing chicken.

In the interest of honoring the rail club's commitment we simply have to accept that the path is mostly suitable for walkers and for people who cycle at a walking pace. Even then, anyone on two wheels needs to be warned that the rail crossing points will be tricky.

The path is a very nice gesture on the part of well-meaning folks. We should be only appreciative, since it is what it is and it will never be any different. Any critique is wasted when no improvement is possible.

Sorry again to have ruffled feathers.