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Riding on the crowded paths of the Tama River (and surviving)

Want to conduct an examination of social interaction in Tokyo?

Ride your bike along the Tama River.

The Tama River stretches 86 miles and divides Tokyo and Kanagawa as it runs from Yamanashi. The multipurpose-bike-running-walking course follows both sides of the Tama and is well used.

Let’s call it excessively occupied as people head outside for exercise on weekends and on holidays. The river and parks on its banks are an attractive alternative to the distractions of the big city.

Most of the time, people are conscientious and polite while sharing the tarmac that narrows and broadens throughout the course. (It’s about eight feet wide for most of course with some weed-covered gravel on either side.)

Yet as a runner, I feared for my personal safety as bike riders would speed by me or thread themselves between runners approaching from the opposite direction.

While riding today, there were several occasions where I had to stop or considered driving into the weeds.

A pack of kids were riding two by two and were shocked to hear me take offense to their formation.

A woman with two poodles stood in the middle of the path while her dogs jumped back and force across the track. (This is the type of person who sues you when her pet gets injured.)

A runner watched me approach and took his rightful place in the path right in front of me with every expectation of me braking or avoiding him with superhuman reaction. (We both escaped harm.)

I’m sure these people are great with their family, at the office, and with friends. They are not good citizens on the running path where they have no association with the strangers who share their passion for exercise and the “great outdoors.”

My take away? Get out early or be prepared to use the brakes.

The river path remains safer than the streets, and the fresh air and orthopedically friendly exercise make all the difference as we work our way through 2020.

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