An 80 year old woman, who was knocked down by a cyclist on a shared walk and bike trail in Arlington has died from head injuries. Incidents like these make me both sad and angry, because it could have been avoided if the cyclist had just slowed down.
Here is a lady who had lived to be a great age only to have her life ended abruptly, and unnecessarily; and the cyclist himself 62 years old now has to live with the fact that he killed someone.
I ride on a shared bike path during the week, weekends I ride on the road. I accept that it is a “Shared” path; people riding bikes, or walking with or without dogs, and others running, all have an equal right to be there. If I cannot accept that; I should not be on the path.
I regularly see a twenty-something girl, probably a triathlete as she is always down on her aero bars riding very fast. She will sometimes pass me without any warning, and I gave up waving to her long ago as my acknowledgement of a fellow cyclist is always met with a blank stare.
I was talking to a neighbor of mine who regularly walks her dog on the trail, she told me this same girl shouted abuse at her for being on the wrong side of the path. It is this attitude of superiority by some cyclists that annoys the hell out of me.
People walk on either side of the path; they sometimes walk in groups taking up the whole path. They often wear ear buds or head phones and can’t hear my warning. They let their dogs run loose when by-laws state they should be on a leash.
It would be annoying if I allowed it to be, but this is the nature of shared path.
Cyclists on the road would not be annoying to motorists if they would just accept the fact that they have a right to be there and just deal with it.
If I hit someone and fall I could injure myself; it is in my own interest to ride with caution around other pedestrians and cyclists alike. The onus is on me as the faster trail user to watch out for more vulnerable persons on the trail.
Is this not the exact argument we have on the public roads? The ones driving automobiles are the ones with the potential to kill or injure others; therefore the responsibility for our safety is largely up to them. How is it when the position is reversed and cyclists are the fastest, the rules change?
I always ease off the pedaling as I approach someone else on the trail. If there are dogs or children I will coast and be prepared to stop. I call out a warning, “On your left,” or “On your right,” depending which side they are on.
If there is more than one person and they are not clearly on one side or the other, I will shout, “Coming through,” and let them decide which way they want to go. Sometimes to shout on your “Left” or “Right” confuses people. I always say “Thank you” as I pass.
Most people riding bikes on shared trails are doing so for one reason; exercise. It is not a race with prizes for the fastest time. Actually by slowing down and speeding up again, I am actually increasing my rate of aerobic exercise.
If you ride on a shared walk/bike path, expect other people; deal with it. If you can’t, stay off shared paths, ride on the road and deal with motorized traffic.
Just because as a cyclist I am faster than most other trail users does not mean everyone else should watch out for me. It is the other way round; I have the potential to seriously injure someone, or even kill them. It is my responsibility to ride with caution for my own safety and that of others.
In the case of this unfortunate Arlington woman, one could argue that the cyclist was not at fault because he called out a warning and rang his bell, and then the woman stepped in front of him. How would any of us feel if a motorist said, “I didn’t slow down, but I sounded my horn and the cyclist turned in front of me.”
We all know that sounding a car horn can startle a cyclist and cause him to swerve. It appears that this elderly lady may have been startled and somewhat confused, as she turned around and stepped to the left. The cyclist has to be at least partially held responsible because he should have slowed to a speed where he could have stopped.