Thursday, June 14, 2012

be careful on multi-user paths

This past Monday, an 80-year-old woman died from a collision with a bicycle on a local multi-use path.  The police report described the horrific accident:
According to a witness and the bicyclist, the 62 year old man was heading downhill on his Next Powerclimber bike when he saw the victim ahead of him and attempted to warn her by yelling “to your left” and ringing a bell. This is when the 80 year old woman stepped to her left and turned around to be struck head-on, causing her to fall backwards to the ground. 
Pedestrians have right-of-way over bikes at all times.  But if a pedestrian steps out in front of a bike, the cyclist may not be able to avoid hitting the pedestrian.

If you're a pedestrian, don't make a sudden movement if you hear a bike bell or a cyclist calling out to you.  It's the cyclist's responsibility to avoid you where you are.  Courteous, fine-hearted pedestrians leave cyclists room to pass, stay to the right as much as possible, and don't walk in a group spread across the whole path.  But remember, cyclists have to give pedestrians the right of way wherever they are.  The worst thing a pedestrian can do is move suddenly in response to hearing a bike.

Cyclists should consider the possibility that pedestrians or other path traffic will move suddenly and unexpectedly.  Watch out for persons doing u-turns or left turns without signaling or looking behind themselves.  Sometimes when an overtaking cyclist calls out "on your left," the person moves left, because they hear "left" and think that's a request that they move left (it's not), or they get confused between right and left.  Keep in mind, too, that others on the path may not understand English.  Small children are particularly prone to unexpected movements in response to sound. When passing small children, a reasonable choice is to make no sound, leave as much room as possible, and be prepared to stop suddenly.

Oncoming traffic makes passing more hazardous.  Cyclists should make sure that they have a clear view of empty passing space before they pass.  If you are walking on a path and see oncoming traffic, be alert for a hazardous situation if you sense traffic coming up from behind you.

The muti-use path in Rosslyn between Route 110 and the Arlington Cemetery wall is particularly hazardous for passing.  This is a high-traffic path.  Some cyclists come down the Marshall Dr. section at high speed.  A tree and a slight kink in the path can unexpectedly reduce visibility of oncoming traffic.  Both cyclists and pedestrians should be extra careful on that path section.

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