August 26, 2013
The Trouble with Trails
I had passed through this intersection about 30 minutes before the accident. I suspect that both cyclists had a role in this crash. The cyclist at street level is supposed to join the trail at a T-intersection, but it may be possible to merge (at a dangerous angle) by slipping through some posts meant to block the way. Whatever his approach, the street-level cyclist entered the trail without regard for oncoming traffic. The oncoming cyclist, with a view from above, should have been able to see him. Should have been moving slowly enough to stop or yield.
Approaching the T-intersection entrance from Sleeper Avenue one morning, a cyclist flew onto the trail without a glance in either direction, then slowed as he proceeded to ride no-hands. I saw him before he made the turn. I slowed down. We did not collide.
If the trail ahead of me is clear and straight, I will cruise along at 15 mph—and every single day, other cyclists fly past me. They pass me without regard for the solid line. [Tip of the day: Dashed line—OK to pass. Solid line—Do not pass.] They pass me on tight curves, like the one pictured above on the north side of the bridge over Hwy 237.
This morning I slowed behind four people walking two abreast. Two cyclists were approaching on the opposite side of the trail. And yes, another cyclist chose to pass me, over the solid yellow line, threading his way through the narrowing gap between the oncoming cyclists and the pedestrians.
Some hazards are common: people oblivious to their surroundings, earbuds blocking the sounds around them, fiddling with their smartphones, stopping in the center of a trail intersection.
Some hazards are unusual, like the staggering drunk I approached from behind. To ring my bell, or not to ring my bell, that was the question. I darted past him without advance warning, calculating that I was in more danger of being knocked over if I startled him.
Or the woman who emerged from the dark underpass below Hwy 101, pushing a stroller up the wrong side of the trail. Had I been a few seconds earlier, I might have run straight into them.
Just another typical day on a popular multi-use trail. Be careful out there.