This letter was printed in the Mountain Democrat last week....
Who is responsible for bike trail safety?
When I see all the people out walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, riding their horses, walking the dog, or "wheeling" in a wheel chair, etc, on our latest additions to the El Dorado trail I feel very good. Along with the good feeling, I have a growing concern; avoidable accidents are occurring on the trail. In emergency work, many of us use the term "situational awareness"; it is a term that has served us well and kept us safe in some pretty dangerous situations. Situational awareness requires people to be aware of what is happening all around them and continuously assessing the risks to their safety. Most people practice situational awareness before walking down a dark alley in a strange city.
At this point you should stop reading if you want to follow the herd and subscribe to "what all the other kids are doing it" approach to life. Reading on may challenge you, because I am advocating that all walkers need to walk on the left side of a bike trail or road and face the danger posed by faster moving vehicles. I am saying our mothers or grandmothers were right when they told us "walk on the left side of the road so that you can see the approaching cars" (the danger). She did not discuss treating bike trails as roads because they were very rare.
Here is a test that will help you assess your situation when walking:
1. On which side of the road must cars drive?
2. On which side of the road must bicycles ride?
3. TRICK QUESTION-On which side of a sidewalk should bicycles ride?
(Answer-Bicycles are not allowed on sidewalks, training wheels are OK)
4. On which side of a sidewalk do people walk?
(Answer-Generally folks walk on the right side of sidewalks, but it is not required)
5. On which side of a bike trail are bicycles required to ride?
(Answer-Right, just like a road )
6. Is there a difference between a sidewalk and a bike trail?
(Answer-bikes are not supposed to be on sidewalks-people on sidewalks can walk wherever they want)
7. Are you comfortable with an unseen Prius coming up behind you at 35 mph? A bicycle coming from behind at 15 mph?
8. Are bicyclists required to say "on your left" or sound a bell when passing walkers choosing to walk on the right?
(Answer-No, but trail courtesy needs to be observed by all to help prevent accidents)
So who is ultimately responsible for your safety, ...a 12 year old learning to ride a new bike rapidly approaching you from behind as you walk with the herd or ...???