Last week, WABA board member Casey Anderson and I attended a meeting convened by Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner to discuss trail safety on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT). Also in attendance were officials from the relevant parks, planning, and police agencies, as well as citizen representatives and representatives of the Coalition for the CCT.
The meeting was intended to allow all to discuss how to more safely share the trail and was notable for its focus on a variety of solutions and on the willingness of all users to work together to make the trail a better option for cyclists and walkers.
The county is looking into numerous educational and infrastructure improvements designed to minimize conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians, including increased signage, side-of-path improvements, and other engineered solutions.
I reiterated our concerns regarding the 15mph speed limit that, if enforced, would undermine the usefulness of the trail as a transportation path and raised the point that an across-the-board imposition of a speed limit does not address the myriad of behaviors — on the part of both cyclists and non-cyclists — that lead to conflicts on the trail. I acknowledged, however, that both cyclists and non-cyclists have a responsibility to be considerate of other trail users and to work for solutions that will make the trail safer and more pleasant for everyone.
The meeting focused primarily on low-cost solutions that those of us in the room could bring about in the near term. So while the officials will continue to look into the longer-term, infrastructure-based solutions, we want to remind our members and supporters to:
– Be courteous and respectful on the trails.
– Give notice as you pass, even if the pedestrian or jogger is wearing headphones.
– Give other trail users plenty of space.
– Pass safely, and accept that sometimes safety and civility may dictate that you put a foot down.
WABA will remain vigilant in asserting the rights of cyclists to use appropriate recreational and transportation facilities like the CCT, and we’re happy to report that no one at the meeting proposed draconian measures to keep cyclists off the trail or lessen its effectiveness as a significant commuter route. But acting with consideration and care for others can, and should, go together with defending our rights.
Representatives of walkers and other trail users from neighborhoods along the trail agreed to communicate with their constituents with similar safety reminders in the spirit of working together to make the CCT safer and more pleasant for everyone.
We’d like to thank Councilmember Berliner for convening this meeting. It is always helpful to know that the county is seeking solutions, even if they are in the exploratory phases. And we appreciate the frank but friendly discussion among all officials and users.
We look forward to working with Councilman Berliner’s office and the Coalition for the CCT in the coming weeks to expand our outreach efforts on the trail.
If any of our members or supporters would be interested in volunteering to conduct outreach on the CCT, please email us at email@example.com.
– Shane Farthing, Executive Director
The density of trail users from Bethesda to the bridge at the south end of little falls park is the heaviest on the CCT yet no one, cyclists, walkers and runners do their part to accommodate the increase in users around them. We as cyclists need to stop treating this stretch as our own personal TT event, runners need to stop running two and three abreast and walkers, especially with strollers need to provide more space for safe use. In this regard, I would agree with Contrarian, in this section of the CCT, just saying you are passing doesn't mean it's safe to pass yet people push their way through any open gap between users. I keep my kids off their bikes of this section during high use areas not because they aren't skilled and respectful riders but because other users create and unsafe situation around. As someone who uses this trail almost daily, I've learned to adjust and share this jewel of a trail but am amazed at some of the reckless and selfish users who are out there without regard for their fellow trail user. A bit of personal responsibility goes a long way. I realize that for some, especially bike commuters who do this daily that they 'know' the trail and may feel bored or rushed to maintain speed but really, we're talking about 1.5 miles here, it won't mess up anyone's time too much.
If the Purple Line comes to pass, we'll have a whole new set of safety issues with the narrow access ramps as shown in the MTA's current designs. That's of course if the County comes up with the money to fund the bike lane. There's no guarantee. Build the trail to Silver Spring Station without the Purple Line!
Contrarian, I agree about the duty for cyclists to wait for a safe opportunity to pass; however, the comparison to roads is not entirely analagous. Cars don't usually drift into adjacent lanes without warning, or make sudden u-turns. Pedestrians often do this on trails, however.
"Warn before passing" is just the wrong approach. Do you see cars on the street honk before passing? No. It's understood that the burden of safe passing falls entirely on the person doing the passing, and that when it's not safe to pass you just have to wait. So many cyclists feel that uttering the magic words "on your left" give them the right to pass immediately, regardless of conditions. I'd be in favor of taking down all the "Warn before passing" signs and replacing them with signs saying "Do not pass until it is safe to pass without warning."
I agree, FYI, That it would be nice to have our own special bike lanes but I doubt that there is the money for that. I'm really glad to hear that everyone got along well and the meeting kept it's focus on working together. I think MUPs are great for keeping the spirit of cycling warm and friendly which does require cyclists to slow down just as we require cars to slow down when we're taking the lane, which is what I do when I want to get somewhere fast ish.
It would be great to have separated trails in high use areas. One for walkers, strollers, dogs and another for bikes and blades.