Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dan Moser's Florida Weekly Column: Observe etiquette and share the pathway

 Dan's column this week focuses on the need for sharing the pathways among all the users--cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, runners, etc.  Be considerate and safe!
As a walker, runner and cyclist who engages in using sidewalks, multi-use paths and linear park trails almost every day, my professional experience allows me to really see what’s going on out there. In most cases, it’s pretty good in terms of behavior and etiquette, but there are quite a few unsafe and inconsiderate walking, running, skating and cycling examples I’d like to touch upon.

One thing to keep in mind in almost all cases on a pathway — regardless of width, surface type or predominate user — is that pedestrians have first priority. This is especially true of disabled users (those in wheelchairs and even motorized assistive devices are, by law, pedestrians), who have the highest priority. One exception: on trails, usually unpaved, where horseback riding is allowed, the horse and rider have the right-of-way over all other users. The reason for this is a horse’s unpredictable nature. So, except on equestrian trails, cyclists and pedestrians on wheels (skaters, skateboarders, etc.) must yield to true pedestrians, warn when passing and exercise caution around them.

A bicyclist using cell phone moments before nearly colliding with a car that didn’t stop where required. A bicyclist using cell phone moments before nearly colliding with a car that didn’t stop where required. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Yet, I witness and hear of too many examples of cyclists terrorizing walkers and runners by zipping by unannounced, usually on a narrow sidewalk such as McGregor Boulevard. Sometimes walkers and runners bring the behavior on themselves by wearing headphones or being oblivious to their surrounding because they are engulfed in text messaging or phone conversation. While that may be bad etiquette, there’s no law against pedestrians using headphones, so cyclists (who are required by law to give an audible warning when passing anyone on a pathway) must take that into account and pass safely, always assuming a pedestrian may not be aware of the action about to occur. Cyclists on pathways should ride at speeds appropriate for the kind of traffic encountered. In many cases, that means very slow. So for those who want to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time, or just ride hard, the road is the place to be.

As stated, it’s not illegal for those on foot to become oblivious to their surroundings, or at least to the sounds and cues around them, but allowing others to pass safely is required. In other words, if walking or running two or three abreast, thus taking up the entire path’s width, be prepared to share the space when necessary. And if there are dogs involved, keep them on short leashes that won’t trip a runner or take down a cyclist. Runners can be just as menacing as cyclists if they zip by from behind unannounced. Be courteous and give warning, slowing or stopping if necessary, especially if dealing with elderly folks or those with mobility limitations. In any case, be nice to those with whom you’re sharing the pathway.

Another issue I’ve covered before is the move underway to allow motorized vehicles such as electric golf carts on certain pathways. We all know there are already many out there using the sidewalks and paths illegally, but once it becomes legal, I predict the numbers will swell and create even more conflicts on facilities that are meant for non-motorized use. Lee County is holding a public workshop in September to take input — keep an eye on BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee. for details.

Finally, an excellent source of information and answers to questions related to bike/ped law can be found at the Florida Bicycle Association’s Florida Bike Law website ( George Martin, FBA’s law enforcement expert, answers questions that usually result in a dialogue that includes others involved in law enforcement throughout the state and country.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails. ¦

— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instruct or/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicycle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at or 334- 6417.

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