Vulnerable users

Cyclists usually think of themselves when it comes to vulnerable users, but there’s another class I’d like to mention: pedestrians!

Like the recent death of Lauren Huddleston tragically reminded us, pedestrians are the vulnerable users in interactions between walkers/runners and cyclists.


Bike path sign: Bikes yield to pedestrians

As you’ve probably already read about, Lauren was jogging on the Katy Trail in Dallas, Texas when she abruptly turned in front of a passing cyclist. Notwithstanding Lauren’s contribution to this collision (she was wearing headphones and walked directly into the path of a moving bike), you have to wonder how fast the cyclist was moving to cause a serious head injury to another trail user.

I’ve been on shared use trails like this and been passed by cyclists going better than 20 MPH. I have some pretty strong opinions about people who bike like this because crowded trails are no place to cycle fast. If you want to go fast, hit the open road. If you’re on a multi-use path, go slow.


15 mph bike path speed limit

I was reminded of Lauren early this morning as I biked on a trail. I approached an intersection and saw an oblivious woman coming from an adjacent trail. I could see she wore headphones, and she wasn’t looking where she was going. I came to a dead stop short of the trail intersection and waited for her to walk around me, and still she walked right into me!

Do walkers need to pay attention? Sure, but as cyclists we’re the ones operating the more dangerous vehicle, and we’re the ones who should take care around the more vulnerable users.

Your thoughts and opinions?

25 Comments

  • October 25, 2010 - 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you on this one. While visiting my father in Northern Virginia last year, I took my bike on the Mount Vernon Bike Trail. I noticed a fair number of cyclists using the Parkway and couldn’t figure out why until I came up on my first “herd” of walkers. Between the earphones half were wearing and the conversations going on, none of them heard my call that I was coming up behind them. Didn’t take me long to move over to the road.

  • October 25, 2010 - 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but there’s no excuse for someone wearing headphones and turning in the path of an oncoming anything. The only tragedy here is the stupidity of the jogger. Cyclist should sue the family.

  • Richard
    October 25, 2010 - 5:52 pm | Permalink

    we all have to yield to the more vulnerable in the situation. We have the same thing in Indy on the Monon – riders that are going way too fast, don’t slow down to pass, almost cause collisions. Is simply dangerous and not proper trail etiquette. If you “have” to ride that fast and “can’t” slow down to be safe around other cyclists, walkers, joggers, kids, etc then you shouldn’t be on the trail.

  • October 25, 2010 - 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Where was that 15mph photo taken. How common is it to have a speed limit on MUPs? How are they enforced? This is something I think we need in Dallas.

  • Matt
    October 25, 2010 - 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I use a bell. Very handy thing, not expensive, can be pretty piercing if I need it to be!
    I live near a popular multi-use trail, and people go fast on it all the time (including me). However… I do so on my way to/from work, when there aren’t tons of people on it. The guys who go out midday on a sunny Saturday and expect to be able to go fast are the true idiots…

  • Matt
    October 25, 2010 - 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I use a bell. Very handy thing, not expensive, can be pretty piercing if I need it to be!
    I live near a popular multi-use trail, and people go fast on it all the time (including me). However… I do so on my way to/from work, when there aren’t tons of people on it. The guys who go out midday on a sunny Saturday and expect to be able to go fast are the true idiots…

  • Jack
    October 25, 2010 - 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I see irresponsible pedestrians everyday. Usually they are wearing headphones and can’t hear warnings from cyclists. The worst are mothers pushing their baby in a cart while listening to their headphones followed closely by dog walkers with plugs in their ears. Speedy cyclists can be a problem but are rare in compared to the more common problems.

  • Jack
    October 25, 2010 - 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I see irresponsible pedestrians everyday. Usually they are wearing headphones and can’t hear warnings from cyclists. The worst are mothers pushing their baby in a cart while listening to their headphones followed closely by dog walkers with plugs in their ears. Speedy cyclists can be a problem but are rare in compared to the more common problems.

  • Matt
    October 25, 2010 - 6:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s true, there are distracted, less responsive trail users out there, bike or ped. However, just like I expect a car to act cautiously around me when I’m on the road, a cyclist should slow the heck down and avoid pedestrians at all costs. Even if this means coming to a complete stop at times, there is no excuse to hit or run off other users no matter whether they have headphones or baby strollers. I think this issue really speaks to the over crowding of existing trail networks, especially in urban areas and the need for more.

  • Wuss912
    October 25, 2010 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

    thats why i have both an airzound and a bell
    everyone hears the airzound….

  • Andy
    October 25, 2010 - 6:46 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s simple. If people are walking on a shared path, than don’t bike fast there. We have plenty of roads to use, where the assumption is that things will move rather quickly in a more or less straight line. On MUPs and sidewalks, the expectation is people will move moderately slow, mostly for recreation, and not in a rush to get somewhere.

    While it’s definitely a very bad idea to be on *any* shared space zoned out from your surroundings, the cyclist simply shouldn’t be flying down the path. I’ve been on separated paths where cyclists and pedestrians are split, but even on those, I was riding past people on hybrid upright bikes going <10mph. While I don't mind going fast on trails that are totally open, I try to never pass anyone going more than 5mph faster than them.

    If you can't have common courtesy on a recreational ride, than you don't belong on a shared space.

  • Matt
    October 25, 2010 - 6:47 pm | Permalink

    BTW I am a cyclist, almost never pedestrian.

  • MarvinK
    October 25, 2010 - 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Paulo’s comments are ridiculous, rude and insensitive–they don’t belong here.

    I see stupid motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all doing things they shouldn’t–whether it is listening to headphones, texting, eating or speeding. Cyclists hope that drivers are cautious and careful when it comes to driving near cyclists (even the stupid ones, as Paulo puts it). We should do the same when it comes to walkers, other cyclists (ie: kids riding much slower on a bike path). What percentage of spandex-wearing cyclists really ride under 15mph on bike paths?

    The tragedy here is that cyclists like Paulo will go on thinking pedestrians are dumb… motorists will continue to think cyclists are dumb… and everyone will continue to do dumb things.

  • October 25, 2010 - 7:26 pm | Permalink

    @Stuart: That’s the Los Gatos Creek Trail in Santa Clara County (“Silicon Valley”) California. I’ve never heard of any enforcement here. Denver paths have similar speed limits (put in place after a bike-vs-bike fatality) and those are occasionally enforced.

  • Seth Vidal
    October 25, 2010 - 7:32 pm | Permalink

    10% of the population is hard of hearing or severely hearing impaired. Just b/c there are no headphones, don’t assume they can hear you.

    1 out of every 10 people.

    Ride slow, be careful, be courteous.

  • Murali
    October 25, 2010 - 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Clearly the same problems exist with bicycle/pedestrian interactions as exist with automobile/bicycle interactions. In both cases, better law enforcement and proper judicial action is needed.

    Passing too closely and at unsafe speed can be deadly. And have you noticed that the faster of the pair always believes it’s the slower person’s fault?

  • Seth Vidal
    October 25, 2010 - 7:43 pm | Permalink

    They really don’t. My partner is profoundly deaf. Your airzound will not even begin to phase her.

  • madblatherer
    October 25, 2010 - 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Speed limits are very common! 15 MPH on the beachfront paths in southern CA. In summer there are so many people there’s no way you could go that fast anyway. Some state parks also have speed limits on MTB trails – enforced by radar.

  • October 25, 2010 - 11:37 pm | Permalink

    vulnerable road users have to be protected, period. so the responsibility is on the cyclist to make sure they don’t run over/kill anyone. there are exceptions in the other direction, but they are exceptions.

    as far as speed, i think it could be, and probably often is, a contributing factor, but it takes almost nothing to push someone over when they’re not expecting it, and once someone is headed for the ground, unexpectedly, the amount of head/brain damage done can be severe (based on practical, first-hand experience to myself and friends, and from reading comments of others).

  • Jamesmallon
    October 26, 2010 - 12:13 am | Permalink

    Along the waterfront in Toronto we have a lovely boardwalk, and a decent MPT parallel to each other within spitting distance, and even so there are witless peds all over it: witless because of headphones or witless due to no excuse. The city is in error not signing the MPT as cyclist-only, and not directing peds to the boardwalk, which is closer to the scenery, besides. As usual the MPT is 2/3 the width it should be.

    As for putting responsibility on cyclists, I am a little tired of being the whipping boy, because:
    - cyclists take the MPTs because drivers are witless or agressive
    - the same idiocy that drove the cyclist to the MPT, is exhibited by the witless pedestrian who drover to the MPT to meander on
    - the number of pedestrians killed by cyclists, compared to the number or people killed by cars is the proverbial ‘forest for the trees’.

  • Jamesmallon
    October 26, 2010 - 12:13 am | Permalink

    Along the waterfront in Toronto we have a lovely boardwalk, and a decent MPT parallel to each other within spitting distance, and even so there are witless peds all over it: witless because of headphones or witless due to no excuse. The city is in error not signing the MPT as cyclist-only, and not directing peds to the boardwalk, which is closer to the scenery, besides. As usual the MPT is 2/3 the width it should be.

    As for putting responsibility on cyclists, I am a little tired of being the whipping boy, because:
    - cyclists take the MPTs because drivers are witless or agressive
    - the same idiocy that drove the cyclist to the MPT, is exhibited by the witless pedestrian who drover to the MPT to meander on
    - the number of pedestrians killed by cyclists, compared to the number or people killed by cars is the proverbial ‘forest for the trees’.

  • Wombatgrrl
    October 26, 2010 - 2:52 am | Permalink

    I agree that bikes should not be going fast on MUPs when there are other people on them – I generally only ride on them when I am in a meandering sort of a mood. Otherwise, it’s just too frustrating. Also, I only ride on them if I have a bell on my bike and I ring it like crazy and yell often, “ON YOUR LEFT…..” If the walker doesn’t respond, I ride extra cautiously past them.

    I especially like the paths when the temps dip down in the Fall and the football games start – the paths as totally deserted on the weekends in Ohio!

  • October 26, 2010 - 8:39 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know the history of why bell use isn’t standard in the US?

  • October 26, 2010 - 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Here in Waterloo (home of venerable BlackBerry maker Research In Motion) the most vulnerable are the smartphone users. It’s comical that when you’re walking down Phillip St. in this town, your safer on the road than on the sidewalk. Search for Rick Mercer’s BlackBerry Helmet.

    In seriousness though. You have to give pedestrians a wide berth. And don’t ride faster than a quick runner.

    And I also have to agree with MarvinK, somebody has to be the first to not be dumb. Who better than cyclists? A good number of us can also walk and drive, so there’s no excuse.

  • October 26, 2010 - 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Try to fake at least some respect and:
    1) spell correctly the name of people you respond to, thank you.
    2) do not misconstrue what they are writing. I never said “pedestrians are dumb” nor would I make general statements like that. One pedestrian in my judgment *was* dumb, and paid for it. If she did it on a bikepath or on the highway 101 little does it matter. She did something she should not have done, cut in front of a vehicle without looking. If I did the same on a road I would a) expect to be likely hurt and b) would NOT blame the motorist for what has obviously been my mistake.

    I think everyone who is mentioning the “vulnerable user” here should think about it a little harder. V.U. does not mean a license to do anything you want because you can get hurt: quite the contrary! Any V.U. should show to have *taken all the possible precautions* not to get hurt in the first place. It’s pushing this kind of idea that will perpetuate the doing of dumb things. Simply take responsibility for your actions.

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