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Columbus Day Ride On Harlem Valley Rail Trail

Fri Nov 4th, 2016

A beautiful sunny day, a little on the cool side, I decided I would take a leisurely bicycle ride. I started out in Amenia taking a ride to Millerton having a brief rest in my favorite gazebo in Millerton, to prepare for my return trip home to Amenia.

I have been cycling for the last thirty years averaging five hundred to a thousand miles a year. Depending on weather and road conditions, I use a mountain bike or road bike, and recently have been riding the HVRT because of its safer travelling route, when compared to the open road.

I still have a residual reflection of an accident I had in 2005 when I struck a raised culvert that had been lifted by the frost and had formed a dangerous diagonal barricade across the entire trail and had no warning announcing its presence.  It was a life threatening experience, and landed me in Vassar Hospital for brain surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma. The experience has clearly reminded me to be more cautious and ride at a reasonable speed and protect my cranial cavity with a helmet.

As I was riding along this past Columbus Day, I came to the rock cut after returning from Millerton and suddenly felt myself being hurtled to the pavement after being thrown over the handlebars! I careened along the pavement sliding on my helmet and one knee and finally realized what had transpired. I had struck a rock that was camouflaged in the pile leaves, that formed a formidable obstacle the brought my front tire to an immediate stop. This was a terrible shock to say the least! 

This incident brought to mind my past accident, but more importantly it brought to mind that no one is paying close attention to the dangers on the HVRT as they inevitably do occur. Otherwise these flaws would have been corrected

Leaves being removed at frequent intervals along the entire trail is a relatively simple process that makes avoiding a multitude of serious accidents that I have had conveyed to me by many other people. Better warnings at road crossings for both drivers and cyclists, repair on the trail itself or at least warnings of hazards facing trail-users, and intersection posts that have broken off and have sharp protruding bases facing trail users that have caused a series of accidents to other trail-users. These issues need attention ASAP.

My recent encounter with a rock, the size of a cobble stone, warranted my letter to alert Rail Trail Enthusiasts that due diligence in travelling the Harlem Valley Rail trail is not as safe as it may appear.  Be forewarned to wear your helmet, and be aware of hidden dangers that lurk in the leaves.  I was very lucky, only a broken hand with this accident, but certainly, I am more aware of the dangers that may be out there in this otherwise “safe” environment.  Be aware, be careful, and wear your helmet, it may save your life.