Wednesday, July 28, 2010

News from the (Bike) Trail...

Took a ride on the Capital Crescent Trail this morning and met up with a member of the Maryland National Capital Park Police. While we were riding and interviewing, a cyclist shot up alongside us to flag Officer Donald Brew: there'd been a crash on the trail, not far from Massachussetts Avenue and Little Falls Parkway.
It was just before 8 a.m. We cycled back and found a cyclist down, blood near his ear and side of his face, and a runner sitting up, resting with her back against a companion, her face, palm, elbow, wrist and hip bloodied. Both were clearly shaken.

Initial eyewitness accounts indicate that the runner and cyclist were originally headed in the same direction, with the cyclist behind the runner, when the runner suddenly stopped and did a U-turn. According to one witness, she did this just as the cyclist was swinging wide to pass her, and the two collided--hard. The witness I spoke to could not recall hearing the cyclist call out to the pedestrian that he planned to pass her. All of this is preliminary information...Officer Brew will be filing a police report.

Expect to hear the interview with Officer Brew on WTOP soon...and in the meantime, be safe out there.

Both cyclist and runner were treated and released according to Officer Brew.


  1. Was the runner wearing a music player? I've seen MANY people running or walking on rail-trails. I don't bother calling out to them; what's the point??

  2. A good question. It appears she was not--the issue here was the sudden turn she made into the path of the cyclist who was trying to pass--that's according to one witness.

    I wonder if you wouldn't consider this: You can't be sure they can't hear you. What do you lose by calling out?

    Me: I'm awfully fond of staying as intact as I can on--or off the bike. So I always call out. Sometimes a little louder when I see earbuds or a cell phone in someone's hand.

    That said, I get as annoyed as anyone by what looks like clueless behavior on the trail...or on the roads.

    Stick with me, I'll be filing reports on WTOP and here on the blog on my interview with Officer Brew--he does address this issue. And yes, it's a pet peeve of his.

    Here's something I do when people do call out to me: call out "Thank you!" I figure it does two things. It tells you I heard you and that you can expect me to allow for your passing. And it's just what my mom taught me. So if you call out to me, you will get my thanks. Stay safe out there and enjoy the trail.

  3. As an avid walker/commuter on the trail, I will admittedly soooometimes wear my cellphone headset with the radio very quietly on in one ear so I can hear the bikes coming up behind me with my other ear closest to the trail, etc. I cannot tell you how infuriating it is when bikes do not call out when passing. They are putting both of us in danger. When bikers do call out, I always make a point to say thank you loudly and raise my hand to acknowledge that I heard them. Sometimes with the sounds of the bike and the wind and my face pointed in the other direction, I think it must be hard for them to hear me say thank you so I think it helps to physically show you hear it. It takes half a breath to say "on your left" and a whole lot of stitches/concussion to say nothing. Safety first! I think its very easy for everyone to share the trail if people remain attentive and respectful. Don't walk 5 abreast, pay attention to your surroundings, don't let your toddler walk without attending to them, don't go 900 miles an hour in crowded spots, and always announce when passing (bikers, walkers, runners, etc). Really easy rules that maintain that everyone stays happy!

  4. I like your hand signal! I see walkers/runners do that and it's very helpful to me as a cyclist knowing they are aware of my presence. So thank you for that.

    The other thing I've found as a former teacher/dog trainer and student, is that there is 'wait time' after an instruction/information is given, and people (and animals) react differently to that wait time and instruction.

    Here's what I mean. Tell someone "On your left!" They immediately have to do that mental calculation...of which is 'my left' vs 'your left'. And a common reaction is for a walker/jogger to move to the left instead of to the right or stand still. Why? They are simply reacting to the last word they heard: "Left!"

    So the cyclist, when calling out, has to factor that in to the maneuver of passing someone. There's almost a 3-second rule: watch to see how long it may take someone to process the info you've just given them, and think about how you process info yourself.

    Also, keep this in mind. One reason police on bikes can be so effective? Suspects tell them over and over again, they never heard them coming. It's possible to roll right up on someone before they detect your presence...another reason for the cyclist to be generous with the response time.

    Sure, there are times as a cyclist it kinda grinds my gears that I can't just cut loose,that I have to break my (usually plodding, sometimes swift) pace, but um, it's a shared trail. We all contribute to making it a great or a lousy experience.

  5. I am a runner and a cyclist. I was a runner way before I became a regular cyclist.

    It just amazes me that runners will either stop or make a U-turn, without looking over their shoulder, on a trail that they are sharing with other people. On a track, where there are no bikes, you are trained to step-off before stopping. Otherwise you might get run over. Yes, runner on runner violence does occur.

    Yes bikes should announce their presence when appropriate, but runners and walkers need to be aware of their behaviors that can be deemed erratic.

    I'm going to propose a new trail rule for pedestrians/runners:

    "If you stop, step-off the trail to the right."

  6. Good suggestion. The very morning I was out with Officer Brew I have to say I saw something that was unusual...and a positive: two women had come from one of the 'feeder' trails for a walk, and as they approached the trail, they behaved just as pedestrians at a crosswalk would: looking both ways, waiting until it was safe to 'take the lane' they were trying to enter. Refreshing.

  7. I run and cycle on the trails (but not usually the CCT). When I'm on the bike, I always call out "Passing on your left."

    Unfortunately I see a lot of unsafe behavior on the trails, from both runners and cyclists. The vast majority of runners that I see with earphones on, do not seem to be aware of their surroundings, at all. When I call out the passing warning, none of them respond. Some get completely startled when I pass because they didn't hear my warning. This always frustrates me, precisely because of the situation described in this blog post. I've seen some runners and walkers veer off suddenly to the left, without looking over their shoulder to see if it was safe to do so.

    At the same time, I'd estimate that about half of the cyclists do not call out a warning when passing. Some of them will also cut it very close, zipping right by and pulling back over to the right even when it is unnecessary to do so (clear visibility for 100 ft. ahead and no oncoming bike/run traffic). And I've actually seen a few cyclists with earphones on, and some that are actually using a cellphone while on the bike! One guy on the Mt. Vernon Trail was riding on the wrong side of the trail, sitting up and not holding the handlebars of his hybrid bike at all, and talking on his cellphone. Incredible. And he was coming straight toward me. I had to shout to get his attention and tell him to get over onto the right side of the trail.

    I really don't think it's safe for anyone to be using earphones on a crowded trail. And I think cyclists should also do a better job of calling out a warning when passing. Some people seem to think this is not necessary (regardless of whether the runner is wearing earphones), but it is. It is also a requirement of the trail rules for the major trails in the region (CCT, Mt. Vernon Trail, Washington & Old Dominion Trail).

  8. I commute on the CCT every day, and run on it on the weekends.
    I agree with Tom, trail safety is a two way issue, both the cyclist and the walker/runner need to signal or look for traffic at all times. Cyclists signal when passing, walker/runners look behind before turning around. In our society we tend to follow the rules as we often do on the road: Drive on the right, pass on the left. When you're driving, you normally signal when you want to turn or pass, and look behind you if you wanted to make a u-turn in an area where crossing the yellow line is allowed - that's what needs to happen here on the trails as well. In the absence of turn signals on our bodies, we need to look behind us when walking and running, as well as staying as much to the right when possible while traveling at any speed, whether on the bike or on foot.
    I also feel that if walkers/runners are going to walk their dog on the trail, keep the dog to the right of you as you walk as far right as possible. This avoids the dog walker from having to yank the pet quickly in case a cyclist does warn for passing.