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City of Eugene Reminds Users to Share the Paths

City planners recently released a PDF notice aiming to remind cyclists and pedestrians to share Eugene’s many “shared use” paths.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that the Fern Ridge, Amazon, and River paths – as well as many other “bike paths” in Eugene – aren’t really bike paths at all.  These paths are meant for everyone, including pedestrians and emergency vehicles.  The message is a response to a very small–but constant– trickle of complaints to the city about bicycle and pedestrian crashes and conflicts.  No doubt it also comes from personal observation, as many city staffers, including the author of the PDF, are frequent bike commuters and riders.

This is something I feel strongly about as well, and before I post the full PDF I’d like to offer a bit of perspective taking.  I’ve written it in the form of a “social story;” a method that I use to help teach perspective taking to students with autism.  When people divide themselves into groups  (cars vs cyclists, cyclists vs pedestrians) I find that these groups tend to behave just like children with autism.  Forgive me if this is preachy, but I’m often ashamed of how other cyclists ride on the paths.  We must end the groupthink that allows this behavior.  Notice which words are interchangeable:

When I’m (riding/walking) down the (street/path), I hate it when (cars/bikes) buzz past me. It makes me feel very unsafe and unwelcome.  I wish they would understand that I have just as much right to the (road/path) as they do.  I get very nervous and think it’s dangerous when (cars/bikers) don’t wait for oncoming traffic to pass before they try to pass me.  Why don’t they just wait behind me for a second instead of trying to fit all three of us on the narrow (road/path)?!? They often force me off the (road/path) when passing in a hurry, and sometimes they hit me!  Why are they such assholes?  Sometimes I’ll (ride/walk) two or three abreast on the (road/path), but I’m not trying to get in the way.  I’m just enjoying conversation.  If the (car/biker) will give us a second we’ll move out of their way.  Why are those (cagers/bike jerks) in such a hurry anyway?  Can’t they take a route without so many (bikes/pedestrians)?

More food for thought: Chances are most of the pedestrians you see on the bike path also drive their cars around cyclists (and vote).  If you “buzz” them on the path they might “buzz”  a cyclist a few hours later with their cars.

Take the jump for the official message from the City of Eugene.

Share the Path

8 comments to City of Eugene Reminds Users to Share the Paths

  • Matt

    They forgot the most important one.

    Pay Attention.

  • Those rules are good, and I have assumed they’ve been in place for a long time. I came to the conclusion years ago that the river path was not the place for riding my bike when I want a workout and want to go fast. But I do use it frequently for commuting. I find that faster cyclists often slalom wildly around pedestrians and other slower cyclists rather than slow down and carefully weave their way through with audible signals.

    I also find that pedestrians often walk in a manner that seems as though they are surprised there are bikes on the path at all. They will wander all over the path without looking to see who is coming up behind them, etc. When I use my bell pedestrians will often behave as though they just got an electric shock. At least they know to move out of the way. And many (esp. runners) will have on earphones and cannot hear my bell or voice.

    Though it may not be very aesthetic, I would argue for a line painted down the middle of the path to indicated which is the right and left halves. That way folks get their “lane” and passers know they are going into the oncoming lane if they pass.

    I would also love to know just what percentage of the bike path users actually will read the city’s rules.

  • Probably very few, and WBE readers are most likely not the problem either. :)

    And you’re right, unless it’s early morning I tend to stay off the paths if I want to get anywhere in a hurry.

    I get really annoyed when peds walk on the wrong side of the path, thinking it’s a street, and then I can’t wait behind them to pass safely. It forces dangerous behavior, and also changes the relative speed that I approach them which can be confusing.

    I’d like to see our trails look more like Minneapolis’s trails, with bikes and peds separate. See the pictures on these pages:

    http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cped/midtown_greenway.asp
    http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/bicycle-program.asp

  • Joe

    No I do not want to see separate or closed paths. As we have seen with the LCC trail and the new useless ‘Sharrows’–that give us no more rights than we already had–bikes will lose: (you may chalk this up to the aging baby boomers–like the one who wrote the pdf?–who rarely if ever biked and are starting to take their morning and afternoon constitutional and are skared of them wild bikers).

    Yes a nice little center line would be nice. When I ride I ride the white line, perhaps a center line would be that gentile reminder to stay right.

    It would be nice if the city would spring for a dedicated fast track loop for people to open it up for a long distance (see the two lane road in parts of Alton Baker) but again, for a city that pays lip service to bike friendly it just ain’t going to happen. But if they were going to do this I think it would be much cooler to see one of the county ditches turned into a 40 mile fast-track loop out to Loraine or something.

    I suppose I may be perceived as the problem. I have learned from many, many experiences that NOT calling out to walkers is absolutely the best policy (there is actually a reason based in SCIENCE for this see below). I just sit behind them and wait until it is safe and clear. When I use to call out there was literally a 50/50 chance that they will move in front of you instead of stay put or move right.

    I never–unless they are waking 6 abreast–want or need the pedestrian to move, I just want them to stay put. When driving is it customary to Honk every time we pass someone? What if cars honked every time they passed a bike? Though the walkers say they want to be honked at every time someone passes, Tucker’s observation is the same as mine: Calling out or using a bell often results in an electric shock response. I believe it is because we have learned that an alarm means prepare for imminent danger NOT stay put. It is natural that the alarm creates adrenalin fueled fight or flight response scientifically proven conditioned response.

    Finally: though I may be perceived to be the problem (and yes this is bias) I have never hit nor have I ever seen a pedestrian be hit by a bike.

    Oh, And walkers (and bikers): when I am sitting behind you–say under a bridge with a blind corner–waiting to pass and you do notice me: you do not have to hurriedly, jump off the path or put your back up to the wall or swerve insanely. If I wanted to pass you and thought it was safe I would have.

  • Kevin

    I just got my first bell, and the power is overwhelming.

    I can ring my bell from 60 feet away and not slow down at all when I pass people. To think – I used to have to slow to 12-14mph, now I can zoom by at 18-20!

    I’m so mad with power that I dinged at a pedestrian in a crosswalk – my little brass friend bullying him into stopping cold. (I apologized as I passed, realizing that I was being a total jerk)

    I’ve always thought that ringing a bell before passing is a bit like if every car honked at me on the road…

    Having a bell for a week hasn’t really changed my opinion, except that I think on bikes we have the ability to bully pedestrians the same way that cars bully us, and having a bell only makes that more true.

    I hope I’m not the only one that has to remind themselves not to act like a “very important” SUV driver out on the bike paths.

    My goal for the next week will be to bell in as friendly a way as possible.

    On the other hand, I like the idea of painted lines – because really, it enforces the idea that there is a flow of traffic and that you should look behind you if you’re going to go outside of your lane.

  • Japhy

    I’ve more people leap to the left in a very freaked out way when I say, “On your left,” thus putting them directly in my path more than not. Seems that the kindergarden “this is my left and this is my right” lesson did not penetrate. Like Joe, i just want them to stay put and put their dog on a leash (not a retractable one). And yes, please pay attention. Everyone.

    The best word of advice is to just stay off the MUPs unless you are tooling down to the ice cream parlor or soda fountain.

  • Multi-use paths are social places. Part of the appeal of multi-use paths is seeing folks walk their dogs and watching toddlers wobble behind their parents and waiting for the nutria and geese to scamper out of the way, if you’re in the right mindset (and have given yourself enough time margin to get to work). I’ve tried to train myself pass pedestrians not with a crisp “on your lecf/DING” but rather a “Pardon my while I scoot past you here, isn’t the weather lovely today? Have a great walk.” I know that sounds totally cheesy, but it really sets a nice tone to the whole interaction. Sure, I do have moments where I get bent out of shape about path obstructions by all sorts of unaware users (including groups of folks on bikes who stop in the middle of the path to chat), but I try to remember that if I wanted to isolate myself from the rest of the world while I travel, well, that’s what cars are for.

  • Ryan

    I second the comment regarding the unpredictable reaction pedestrians often have when you say “on your left” or ring a bell. I try and do it twenty feet or so before i reach the person, but if there is plenty of room or i dont see them because they are walking in the dark and my headlight doesnt reach them, I will slip on by without a word. That startled reaction can be quite dangerous.

    My only issue has been getting their attention before im right on them and quite frequently im given about a foot and a half of leeway. Most pedestrians are pretty aware of their surroundings in my experience, but some just do not feel the need to move when theyre occupying the majority of the path.

    The majority of the issues will be temporarily resolved as fall approaches and the paths clear out so I’m not too worried about it.