A comment on an older post...
(Image from David Byrne)In a response to - Is Tulsa Bicycle Friendly? - which appeared here on May 15th, Natalie wrote the following:
Bikes belong on the road... Pedestrians have the right of way, but unfortunately, bikers forget that fact. Hence, kick them the hell off of the paths where they don't belong anyway. My kids are terrified of bikes because of the way the "racers" force everyone to move out of their way on the paths. New ordinance: No bikes on paths... PERIOD! Pedestrians are tired of being harassed!
(Image from Fyxomatosis)
Bikes belong on the road. I couldn't agree more. But as for prohibiting them from using paths, I have to disagree. Far too many cyclists are terrified of riding on the road. They prefer the presumed safety of a separated side path, and in some municipalities, they are legally obligated to use such a sidepath when it is adjacent to the road. Tulsa did away with this restriction some time ago. Good riddance.
Sidepaths provide the illusion of safety, but as pedestrians and cyclists mix, the probability of a crash increases. That's why anyone with an interest in going fast, training at high speed,or riding in a pack, will avoid riding on a multi-use path. One of the most popular in Tulsa is the River Park trail system which isn't really suitable for speed due to its many curves and elevation changes. It's difficult to judge which side of the trail an oncoming cyclist or pedestrian is on, and the gravel running track on one side makes that judgment even more problematic. Furthermore, the present trail is actually too narrow by current design standards.
That will change soon when the River Park Authority constructs a new trail parallel to the existing one. Users will be segregated - cyclists on one trail and pedestrians on the other. Will this eliminate conflicts? No, because the clueless will be with us always. Peds will walk on the bike trail and cyclists will ride on the pedestrian one. Unless we can find a means of performing some fundamental change on human nature, the conflicts will continue.
I attended a meeting with the River Park folks some years ago. The biggest area of conflict was near the Full Moon Cafe, because it had the greatest usage. Their temporary solution was to paint lines on the trail and put up some speed limit signs.
Even my son, who was about thirteen at the time, noted that the River Trail isn't a place to go fast. And this from a kid who had only two speeds - stopped and full speed ahead. Why is it difficult for an adult to comprehend?
I get very nervous when overtaking pedestrians, especially children. They can change speed or direction in a single step. Skaters, with their side-to-side motion, can be difficult to pass too. And I think there should be a special place in Hell reserved for those people walking their dogs on 25-foot retractable leashes. The dogs get a pass. The owners, no.
Now, I may get all maudlin for a moment. Natalie would gladly prohibit cyclists from pedestrian trails. Motorists would gladly prohibit us from the public roads. Hmm...I'm feeling distinctly unwanted. If I weren't such a steely-eyed macho kinda guy, I may shed a tear or two and get all weepy. I hate that. So let's re-visit that first statement - bikes belong on the road.
Bicyclists really do belong on the road. We have just as much right as anyone else on the public way. Note that I said just as much, as in equal, not more and not less. For that matter, since a sidepath is also a public way, we have an equal right to use it, provided we share it safely with other trail users.