Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sharing Space with Pedestrians

Vienna, Bicycle/Pedestrian Sign
As cyclists, when we are not sharing the roads with cars we often share space with pedestrians: mixed use paths (MUPs), off road trails, certain types of crossings, even the road itself in areas with no sidewalks. To new cyclists this usually seems like a safer option to riding in traffic, but they soon learn that mixing with pedestrians presents its own challenges. People on foot move differently than those on a bike and their behaviour can be difficult to predict. Compared to cyclists, pedestrians are less likely to keep a consistent line of travel and more likely to make unexpected stops, which makes passing them tricky. Children make sudden u-turns. Dog walkers let their canines loose. Couples shove each other playfully across the path. Joggers zig-zag obliviously with their headphones on. Even seemingly predictable walkers moving at a steady pace can stop without warning if they get a phone call or notice something interesting. These things happen. 

A local woman new to bicycling once told me she was hurt and baffled to discover how much pedestrians, whom she had considered allies, dislike cyclists - not only failing to apologise, but inevitably blaming her for the near-collisions they cause. (I can certainly relate: Just earlier this week a man whose undisciplined dog lunged at my wheel as I passed them cursed at me for not being "more careful.") I think the reason for this is simply that we, as cyclists, are perceived as more aggressive because we are operating machines and moving faster than walking speed. Despite whose fault an incident is, we are seen as the dangerous ones. 

It doesn't help matters that pedestrians might not hear a cyclist's approach, or might not know how to react even when they do. In my 4th year of riding in Boston now, I have still not found an ideal way to gently warn those on foot of my presence. If I ring my bell, they might freeze or panic. If I say "on your left" they might instinctively jump to the left. If I say "excuse me" they might misinterpret this to mean "get out of my way" and get offended. And if I say nothing at all and don't ring a bell, they might move into my line of travel at the exact moment I try to pass them. No solution is guaranteed to work.

When sharing space with pedestrians, I have now simply learned to accept the inherent unpredictability of it; the need for vigilance and reduced speed. I expect inconsistency, especially when children are involved. I pass carefully and never assume my approach is heard or understood. I am mindful of dogs even if they appear to be on a short leash (those things are sometimes expandable). When in doubt, I slow to a crawl or stop altogether. And I do not enter into altercations: If a pedestrian at fault fails to apologise or even shouts at me, I just let it go. While these incidents can be frustrating, I try to keep in mind that as a cyclist I am the fast and scary one; I am the one who is operating a machine. 

When I voiced this philosophy to the woman who'd complained of being disliked by pedestrians, she pointed out that cyclists are no less vulnerable in a collision and therefore such a distinction is unfair. Maybe so, but I don't think it's a matter of fairness. I suspect that pedestrians' response to cyclists as "fast machines, therefore dangerous" is a visceral one. Should parents be taken to task for not supervising their children and allowing them to run across the path? Should dog walkers be reported for not obeying the leashing laws? Maybe, but on some level that seems petty to me and I just don't see it making a real difference. The only reasonable solution, in my view, is to separate the infrastructure and not group pedestrians and cyclists together. Until then, we must make do with what is available, cycling responsibly and cautiously in the shared space. 

78 comments:

  1. I alert pedestrians by saying "Good morning/afternoon/evening".
    This is usually interpreted as a friendly gesture and works better than "excuse me" or ringing the bell.

    The biggest problem I have is pedestrians wearing headphones. You cannot alert them easily and then they jump when you intrude into their little sound world.

    John I

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    1. I have tried this on another cyclists advice, but it only caused confusion!

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    2. I said:

      >I alert pedestrians by saying
      >"Good morning/afternoon/evening".

      Patty replied:
      >I have tried this on another cyclists
      >advice, but it only caused confusion!

      If they look confused I usually say "just letting you know I'm here". This seems to work. Talking to people is good. This is one big advantage of bikes over cars, which only have a horn.

      Other poster like Brendonoid also mention making noise, such clacking brake levers, loud freewheels, etc. I find this works as well.

      John I

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    3. My bike has an inborn breaking noise that does the job sometimes.

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    4. Hi I'm Patrick and I live in a samll town in France "Bourg en Bresse" . Here when we ride bicycle on the pavment the police will give you a 100 dollars ticket.
      A friend of my son, 16, got one last week.

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    5. I use an air horn. I found that most pedestrians ignored the petite ring of a normal bicycle bell. So when a see a group of people taking up a line or straddling both sides of the bike path. I lightly press my air horn and 99% of the time they move over. I find that on the bike/walk path on the lakefront Chicago most pedestrians and bikers are so self absorbed that they don't care about sharing the space.

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    6. I use a distant bell, then a nearer bell if they haven't reacted. I also greet everyone I meet on shared paths. I get more repsones from dog walkers & pedestrians than other cyclists. I think that we have a responsibility to integrate with walkers, and showing them that we are normal human beings is the best way. Dressing as a lycra lout & wearing aggressive looking body armour & shades when on a mixed path does more harm than good - as these riders grow older they may take other people into consideration more.

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  2. As someone who rides a bicycle for a living, I have to say that this is the number one issue for me.

    Pedestrians are a far greater hazard than cars because a) they are erratic and b) you can actually hurt them.

    By far the best solution to the problem for me is passive noise. A really loud freewheel or something like Riv's 'Jingle Bells' help people realise something is approaching without the sudden fright of a ding or a yell. Not unlike the road/engine noise a car makes as it approaches.

    Of course, singing or whistling a tune is great passive noise if you aren't easily embarrassed. ;)

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    1. I always sing along with my headphones-- I never thought of it as a safety precaution, but after your comment I'm going to be much less shy (and potentially more obnoxious) during my afternoon commute!

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  3. I was recently riding toward a pedestrian on a shared path and was certain he was about to greet me when two "lycra louts' ( I know roadies are not all like that ) came from behind him and shot through the gap between us. He was obviously startled, as I would have been if my back was turned to them. The greeting turned into an obscenity, though not directed toward me. Also, while ringing a bell won't please everyone, I find that most either appreciate it or are at least neutral in their response, especially if I just say "hello" in a nonchalant voice as I pass by. Lone headphone wearers usually walk predictably, I find, but any kids, dogs and groups of two or more people I give special defensive attention to ! I don't much distinguish between cyclists and pedestrians as threats on shared paths as there are often a few thoughtless or careless people in both groups. I make a defensive exception for two abreast cyclists coming toward me hogging the path - I hold a dead straight line in the centre of my lane.

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    1. "I make a defensive exception for two abreast cyclists coming toward me hogging the path - I hold a dead straight line in the centre of my lane."

      One last comment on this thread, I promise.

      Peter, you are the man! This is what I do, too. And frankly, at least here in Duke City, Land of Enchantment, dork cyclists like those your describe are more of a problem than errant peds.

      (I won't go into the story of the jerk on a racing bike who tried to daft me -- !!! -- as I was carrying 25 lb of groceries home on the porteur rack of my erstwhile Herse ... He and I had some words.)

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  4. I ring my bell loudly from a distance, and again when I get closer. Usually they do not react to the first ring, but it apparently registers in their subconscious, so that the second time they are not startled by the much louder and closer bell, which causes them to turn and look at me.

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  5. I stumbled upon your blog recently whilst 'researching' my next bike, a beautiful steel frame and forks (I hope)...still not found it, but getting close.

    Anyway, I digress. I love your blog and this post reminds me of all the times I've chastised owners for letting their dog(s) leap all over me and my bike. You're absolutely right, most take it the wrong way.

    What I try to do is make them aware of my presence, with a loud 'cough' maybe, or if this doesn't work I slow down completely and will more often than not stop and engage in friendly chat...about the weather, keeping fit...there's lots to chat about! I enjoy this aspect of my rides. One day, I was out for a ride with my wife and we met a chap with handsome french carthorse, I forget the brand, make, breed, but anyway we talked for ages! Sometimes, as you mention, people don't hear. Again, one day I came up behind someone who simply would not move out of the way even though I coughed, ahem'd, and made sure my bike made a lot of rattly drive-train noises (it helps to have a noisy hub) and when I said hello to her it was only then that my wife noticed that she was deaf (don't ask me how she knew).

    I keep meaning to get a lovely bell but find my current 'tactics' work. I recommend riding more often with wives though... and I guess for some their boyfriends/spouses. A noisy hub isn't the best solution, but it works.

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  6. Personally, I sing or whistle. As far as I can tell, it's a good approach.

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  7. The last time i had an issue with a pedestrian they stepped from behind their car from an adjoining parking place onto our shared pavement. I didn't manage to get un-clipped and ended up on on the deck.
    The funniest thing about it was the dance he did when he realised I was behind him and he turned to see what was happening. Left, right, left, right with a look of panic on his face. No chance for me to work out which way he was going to go.
    The lesson for me, when riding on shared spaces , is to make full use of my touring pedals and ride with one foot on the flat side, un-clipped.

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    1. Good approach--avoiding colliding with pedestrians is just another one of the little challenges that makes cycling fun, kind of like trying not to end up on your backside on ice.

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  8. I find that if I cough or change gears when I am approaching pedestrians from behind they usually hear me, it just seems more polite than ringing the bell somehow, though sometimes I do use my bell instead.

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  9. I am in your camp. When passing anyone on a MUP (walker, biker, pooch), I take full responsibility for executing the pass safely. The only way to be consistently safe is to slow to walking speed and prepare to stop. Good sense and common decency should be enough to bring about this behavior, but if one needs greater incentive, consider legal liabilities. While I don't think traffic laws apply on MUPs, I expect courts would consider traffic laws to be applicable such that the responsibility for a safe pass would be placed on the passer. The behavior of the person or dog being passed might be considered, but I'd rather not be a test case. I'd rather not hurt anyone. My goal is to enjoy each ride and not hurt anyone along the way! I am interested to see how others feel. Scared, actually. As a cyclist, when I walk on a MUP I try to hold my line and keep my dog on a short leash, but neither I nor my dog are perfect. Please don't hit me or her when we make a mistake!

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  10. "she pointed out that cyclists are no less vulnerable in a collision and therefore such a distinction is unfair."

    What does fair have to do with it? Life isn't fair! -channeling my parents. ;)

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  11. I was just riding home thinking of this; a section of my route often runs along a shared footpath; I was riding along (about 4pm so daylight hours) and approached a couple walking in the same direction; I rang my bell as I got closer, and they moved aside a little to let me by and as passed the man said "f–ing a–hole." I stopped and said "excuse me? this is a shared path.",
    he replied "Yeah, I know, but it is people like you that make me not want to walk along here." I said "I rang my bell to let you know I was coming, is there something you would like me to do differently in future?"
    He then said "I'm don't want to talk to you about it", and when I asked again, he and his partner turned around and walked back the way they came.
    I am wary of discussions that talk to much of the separation of infrastructure, as it often uses the same arguments mounted against cyclists and cars using the same roads; there is always going to be a certain amount of sharing of space between motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, and where that happens all concerned have to modify their behaviour.

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    1. If your bike makes that gentleman not want to walk the area, it sounds like you're doing your community a favor. You handled it well.

      I agree that it's best for us to be accustomed to the various modes of transportation used in our society, and to learn to share the spaces where it overlaps.

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  12. As a Boston/Cambridge cyclist I begin "tinkling" my bell when I approach a pedestrian from behind. Lucky for me my bell has a pleasant sound. If the ped is "plugged in" I keep ringing until I see a sign that he or she hears it. Then I pass with a wave of thanks and a smile. I believe that as cycling becomes more common it is important to build good will among our fellow travelers, be they on foot or in cars. It will benefit all of us if bicycling and cyclists are smiled at, that smile will get more people on bikes, grow support for bike infrastructure, and end up decreasing cars in the city.

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    1. You make a good point about needing to build goodwill, everyone needs to recognise that so we can all share the paths/roads if cycling is to become a dominant mode of transport.

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  13. I sounds like you are using the same "bikes should not be on the roads" argument that drivers use, only this time you are applying it to pedestrians. You'e got the "erratic behavior", "law breaking", "accident causing" and "irrresponsible" aspects in there that are generally used against us. Then you finish it off with a final solution that suggests complete seggregation.

    Maybe the real solution is to just slow down, wait when necessary and just be more patient and careful in general. Isn't that what we ask drivers to do? If you don't want to be forced to slow down, don't use a MUP.

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    1. This is pretty much the opposite of how I interpreted this post. If anything I think Vs approach is implausibly Zen. Pedestrians should be taken to task for not obeying dog leashing laws on MUPs, just like cyclists should be taken to task for running red lights and changing lanes without signaling.

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    2. how about we stop taking each other to task and just ride out bikes or walk our dogs. this is not denmark. we are a nation of scofflaws and the utopian idealism of "transportation" cyclists is not going to change this.

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  14. This post brings up a lot of very good points.

    I ride trails fairly often, and "trail etiquette" clearly dictates that cyclists cede right-of-way to pretty much ALL other trail users. To hikers, b/c they're typically most numerous and using the slowest mode of use, with (typically)the least impact. to equestrians, b/c horses are excitable and potentially dangerous if startled by middle-aged, fat cyclists with beards. To cross-country skiers b/c these are clearly sensitive creatures who should be treated with kindness & respect.

    The important take-away from this is that, on virtually every managed trail I've ever been on, there are signs at the trailheads that remind us of the rules. I try to avoid riding on MUPs (unless they're sparsely populated and the road alternative is really sketchy)but I walk on 'em pretty frequently, and there is very little signage that dictates the rules of the MUP. I enjoy the autonomy, but I think this situation will end up leading to tragedies, litigation, and other malarkey.

    If you're riding around pedestrians, and you are about to overtake them, I'd suggest the standard "on your left" (yes, some ppl get this signal confused, but they gotta learn eventually) and then **offer as much space as you can while passing**! We get 3feet from cars, at least as far as the laws go. We ought to give pedestrians on the MUP at least that much, but 3 yards would be better.... I tend to roll off the asphalt to go around folks, b/c that is the safe and decent thing to do. Most of my bikes have enought meat on the wheels to handle this easily.)

    (If you're on a MUP with pedestrians on a real, 700x23c roadbike, you've got some soul-searching to do.)

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    1. Horses see a cyclist and see an animal that's moving low, silent and swift. A predator. The most elderly and docile horse who's seen thousands of cyclists can revert to instinctual behavior and rear. You do not want to meet those hooves.

      Sensible horse owners do not risk their horses anywhere near cyclists. If you see a horse you should assume that the only sensible party present is you and it's up to you to pass safely or retreat. Of course if you're just plain far away from everything then the equestrian is maybe alright but the horse has not seen a lot of bikes.

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    2. Believe me, I give horses (and the piles they leave behind) plenty of space on the trail. I agree that equestrians who take their horses out on trails frequented by cyclists (and hikers) are probably not making a very good decision. I've never questioned any other trail users' rights to the trails, but I've wondered why equestrians are allowed to bring their potentially dangerous critters out on public trails, but are not required to clean up after them??

      If my bike ever craps on the trail, I swear I'll carry it off in a little plastic baggie.

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    3. The very best thing for bicyclists to do when approaching horses: TALK! Horses don't always perceive bicyclists as people on bikes, they often see them as some alien creature, so the sound of your voice can help them figure it out. Horses are prey, so anything unfamiliar might be a predator, and if their only defense is to run away, they prefer to start sooner rather than later, which can obviously be dangerous to them, their riders, and you if you're in the way of their escape route on a bike.

      I would also remind you that horses have a far more ancient claim to shared trails than do bicycles, so have a little patience, please.

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    4. Yes, Anonymous is absolutely right: if you come across a horse suddenly (on a bike or on foot)do TALK so that the horse will recognize you as human. And stop riding till the horse is gone.

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  15. My usual interactions with pads fall into three categories; either on the road, the MUP, or on the sidewalk.

    On the sidewalk I am both slow and polite, since obviously I am in the wrong place. I don't use the bell on the sidewalk; I could stop instead, and that would be more polite.

    On the MUP, I'm not slow, and the bell rule varies. In low light, I ding the bell as soon as I can see the pedestrian in front of me, and I ding at least once for each ped. That makes it more like "there's a bike coming" and less like "gedaddamyway". Otherwise, it depends. If there's a crowd of people, I'll ding. If it's just a jogger, I tend not to. I ding approaching some blind entrances (Gold's Gym in Arlington, e.g.)

    Generally I don't stop, and generally I give pedestrians the maximum amount of room, with some exceptions. If there's jogger-bike traffic in both directions, I just pass in the middle. If we have to cross 3-wide and the traffic includes a kid or a dog, I slow down as necessary to avoid the cross. I also assume that anyone on a bicycle passing me is not going to be so stupid as to not do it when I am passing someone else. I don't even look, I just go, and if someone is trying to pass me then, they may well end up in the weeds. Not My Problem.

    In the road, if it's a crosswalk, I usually stop for pedestrians crossing or wanting to cross (empirically, I stop much more often than drivers do). If it's someone randomly crossing the street, I just swerve around them, usually behind them. In one instance, a mother was carrying a baby and wishing to cross on a cold night and the car traffic was not stopping; in that case I dismounted, turned the bike perpendicular to traffic, and stopped.

    Regarding collisions, I don't think it's equal. Physics says that we're more at risk because we're moving and the pedestrians are mostly not (hence, if we fall, we hit with our momentum, they do not), but we're also actively engaged in balancing in the face of surprises and other forces (potholes, e.g.). I've clipped some hard immovable objects with the wideloader on my bike, and not only not fallen off, I did not even lose my balance or need to stop. I think if I had hit a person, I might have hurt them badly.

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  16. This can be an incredible problem - I much prefer dealing with cars, especially having just bicycled through the White Mountains (NH) where there are very few pedestrian regions that share with bicycles.

    Last month in California I noted a rider who had a boom box suspended from the top tube, hanging between his knees. It was playing Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" - loudly.

    What an ideal way to warn pedestrians - loud music - to say nothing of introducing them to one of the finest guitar players of all time. Excellent option.

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    1. I'm a guitarist and use stuff that I'm practicing to whistle while passing peds. It's usually Django Reinhardt stuff--I'm a crummy Gypsy Jazz musician but a good evangelist for it.

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  17. You've got a good, common sense approach to dealing with pedestrians while riding. I frequently use a path through a local park as a shortcut and there are always people walking on it. When approaching them I slow down, tell them that I'm there with an "excuse me", and then pass them at a slightly faster than walking pace. The walker's reactions range from a friendly hello to surprise that you are being careful to angry glares. You just can't tell. I figure that any of these are better than a collision or scaring the hell out of them. If I remember correctly the mountain bikers' code of ethics is to always yield to pedestrians and horses. It makes sense on the bike path, too.

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  18. http://goo.gl/i6q9L

    Agree that it is possible for peds and cyclists to share, but it's a tenuous trust in "me first" cultures. My cycling speed is unsafe for multiple use paths, but just right for the roadway, so that's where I travel.

    Cyclists have a responsibility to watch out for squirrely peds in the same manner that motorists must watch out for squirrelly cyclists (when they do watch out).

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    1. "Cyclists have a responsibility to watch out for squirrely peds in the same manner that motorists must watch out for squirrelly cyclists (when they do watch out)."

      I don't know what exactly the writer of these words means by "responsibility:" if he means "watch out in self interest," yes, by all means. If he means "morally and legally the cyclist has primary responsibility for idiot pedestrians as drivers have the primary responsibility for idiot cyclists," then no, I think this false. I do believe that as a cyclist I am responsible for riding safely (not fearfully!) on roads and being courteous to drivers -- and that I have a right to expect the same from them -- and that pedestrians have to realize that they are (as the signs say) on **shared** paths that cyclists also use.

      I've found that shouting "Cyclist!" or "Cyclist behind you!" works better than "On your left" which causes some people to jump leftward. If that doesn't work I use one of these:

      http://www.deltacycle.com/Airzound-Bike-Horn

      Makes 'em jump, but to the right.

      Just kidding. I use these:

      http://www.calhouncycle.com/productcart/pc/Sakura-Copper-Bell-p2413.htm

      Albuquerque has extensive and very good paved MU paths and, on the whole, pedestrians and cyclists seem to get on well. Perhaps it is because cycling is so popular here that most pedestrians expect us and walk accordingly -- I often get acknowledging waves when I call out or ring my bell. 've been told by more than one walker that they very much appreciate being warned by oncoming cyclists.

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  19. This made me think of my friend who just returned from a month in Costa Rica. There, she said, streets are used by everyone. People, cars, dogs, bikes, and she was amazed at how unstressed and relaxed it was...her conclusion, 'our culture is messed up!' :)

    Where I live there are segregated trails for bikes and walkers/runners but in practice they're all shared and as you say, being curtious and polite is the key

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  20. I work on a college campus; the last 1000 feet of my daily commute goes on a campus path between the main bus stop and the classroom buildings, so I often find myself stuck in the middle of a full busload (or two) of students on foot. At that point, it's usually necessary to put down a foot and "scooter" my way along at the speed of the crowd. Some of the students who bike, though, are a lot less patient -- so if somebody else is forcing his way through the crowd, I'll usually follow him.

    Otherwise, on the MUPs, I take your approach. If I'm riding a bike with a fairly loud shifting noise, my first alert noise is a shift (around 100 feet). Then comes the bell (around 50 feet). Then "on your left" (around 25 feet).

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  21. I loved this post. I'm fairly lucky because here in Bellingham, Wa MUP users are pretty savvy. I get thanked a lot by peds when I use my bell. The one thing that keeps coming up is women with their children who even when they see me approach, refuse to get out of the way. It's rather odd but what can you do. I usually just stop and let them pass, ignoring their angry glares.

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    1. Oh, selfish and idiot users like those you described make me see red (except that I am rather color blind; more like a dark grey). I am very tempted to buzz them (with a loud shriek by their ears as I flash past) but I generally take the more conciliatory option of stopping and asking them what their problem is.

      Gawd, how this sort of selfishness annoys me; it bespeaks a sort of stupidity that limits the afflicted person's social vision to about 2' from hiserher nose.

      For the record, I try to be "pro-actively" polite myself.

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  22. We don't bike in a vacuum. Just as cars can't race through the streets trying to best their commute times by ignoring traffic lights, pedestrians and other drivers; so too are each of us obligated to watch out for the safety of all.

    On my daily commute I don't challenge cars, even when I have the right-of-way. I used to ride as if I were invisible. Now I ride as if I am visible and cars are out to kill me.

    On those stretches of my commute where I must take the sidewalk due to unsafe automobile traffic, I will ring my pedestrian bell, and give the pedestrian the widest birth possible, including riding off the sidewalk onto the grass if possible. If necessary I will walk my bike past them. For oncoming pedestrians, I may even dismount and wait. After all, if you were a driving a car and a person was walking ahead of you in a crosswalk, with or without the light and for whatever reason, you would slow and definitely not try to squeeze past with a narrow margin.

    On mixed use trails the same applies. You can't control how others will react, but you can control how you act. If you want to race, find a racetrack or a different route.

    And while I use a polite-sounding bell for pedestrians, I also have been using the AirZound airhorn for almost 20 years. It is a brilliant, eco-friendly lifesaver you pump up with your hand pump. I will sometimes use it for pedestrians when I am still far enough off to avoid surprises.

    The airZound which sounds like and is as loud as a stadium horn is also effective against most dogs, when it is fully charged. Many times if a dog lunges at me or runs up to me, a good, well-timed blast will startle the dog causing it to stop, miss-step or reflexively backflip out of the way and give me time to ride off.

    My bottom line is that the smart and resposible strategy is to plan and allow for unpredictable behavior from cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. That "I can just slip by/just fit in/just time it right" thinking will get you and others hurt or killed.

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  23. I wrote about this issue earlier ( http://bostonbybike.blogspot.com/2012/02/multi-user-paths.html ). In general - these are shared paths, which means that cyclists are guests there. If we expect from drivers to give us space and not to hit us, let's do the same to pedestrians - be courteous, be polite, ride slowly, don't speed, and use your imagination on what may happen next.

    The biggest problem of multi-user paths are road cyclists who race treating such roads as their own race track.

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    1. "The biggest problem of multi-user paths are road cyclists who race treating such roads as their own race track."

      ***deep sigh***

      In PDX I see far more riders on hybrids and commuters riding too fast on mups. Most road cyclists are actually on the...drumroll...road.

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    2. "In general - these are shared paths, which means that cyclists are guests there."

      I don't know about those in your area, but Albuquerque's very extensive and expanding system of MUPs are designed for cyclists as much as for other users -- the local news media refer to them as "Bike Paths." So we are as much guests as walkers.

      I agree that some riders are selfish idiots but disagree that we cyclists have to apologize or be hesitant about our presence on MUPs, at least in ABQ, NM -- just as I don't hesitate to take my rights on the road. Perhaps ABQ, NM is more enlightened than elsewhere?

      (An aside: When repeat-term-mayor-for-life-and-then-some Marty Chavez was ousted in a bid for term four by the surprise election of neophyte Republican Richard Berry, I cringed, worrying that he would address the budget by cutting "quality of life" programs including bike infrastructure. Nope. Kudos to him as the bike path and "Q-O-L" systems have been expanded, with long term thoughts about a "ring road" bike path. Sorry, "MUP.")

      Walkers have responsibilities too! (Or else they'll get blasted by a 115 db AirZounds!)

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  24. Separating the infrastructure would be nice but in these budget crunched times its probably unlikely. I come from an area where almost no infrastructure exists. I would suggest that some sort of signage advising slower moving users to keep to the right of the path, allowing bicycled to pass might be helpful. Yes, a fair number of users will ignore the signs, but at least you can point them out if the need arises.

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  25. I'd like to think that most pedestrians on MUPs (in particular the BGT in Seattle) are aware that, even thought they have the right-of-way, most of them know they're sharing the trail with cyclists. But, in reality, that's not always the case. So, I typically ring my bell about 50 feet before I pass a pedestrian, and give them a wide, wide birth as I pass.

    Sometimes it's more practical to slow down, especially when pedestrians are walking two or more abreast, are with children, have a dog on a leash, or when the trail is compressed by oncoming pedestrians and cyclists and pedestrians going the same direction as me. In those situations, it's best to just slow down; what's the rush anyway. I'm want to enjoy my ride, whether it's on my commute to work or just going on a non-commute ride.

    On the other side of it, I'm also a pedestrian when I go for walks with my wife or when walking the dog. Being a cyclist, I think, gives me a certain perspective when it comes to using the MUP: I look both ways before entering the trail (just like before using the crosswalk on a street) to make sure I don't get creamed by a bike. When I'm walking my dog, I keep him on a short leash, and look over my shoulder for approaching cyclists.

    Every now and then, as a pedestrian, you get the rude rider who clips along at 20 mph, and give no warning as they approach. Yeah, that p@#$es me off. And I make a comment.

    Sometimes common sense is at a premium. But that's the universe we live in. Pedestrians and cyclists who are plugged into their phones or MP3 players present a hazard to one another.

    Funny, sometimes I feel much safer on city streets that are well-traveled by cars and bicycles where everyone is pretty much aware of one another.

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  26. You all think you got it rough. Try it on a horse. Equestrians by law (at least where I live) have the right of way even over pedestrians, but you'd never know it.

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  27. MHO is that we are often to peds what cars are to us...as far as there being a "right way" to pass,I agree,there isn't a correct-for-every-pass-method-what I try and do is the "excuse me" as politely as possible,then a"How are you doing today,my friend?" or "Gorgeous day for a walk,isn't it?" as I slowly roll by. This almost always has given me a pleasant,if short,moment with another person.

    The Disabled Cyclist

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  28. I agree with bostonbybike. Road cyclists racing on the bike path cause the biggest problems and affect me when running the path or cycling with kids or try to ride a safe pace on my road bike.

    I avoid the path when it is busy or when I want to get home quickly. There isn't enough room for fast cyclists and families walking or riding. And sometimes there is hardly room for cyclists riding at moderate speeds.

    I agree with you - until infrastructure exists for each mode then lets be considerate (of course we should be considerate after that as well).

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    1. I agree - I change my cycling style, when on a side walk I go slower, almost pedestrian speed, which can be liberating in itself, and of course doesn't cause collisions

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  29. I also find that a loud "good day" - and caution, makes for good PR.

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  30. When riding the Truckee River bike path MUP here in Reno/Sparks, Nevada, I have had good success with simply calling out "Beep! Beep!, Beep! Beep!" when approaching pedestrians. This seems to work significantly better than ringing the bell that I have on one of my bikes.

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  31. I've been a pedestrian in a city ruled by bikes for about a year. At first I did manage to get myself into trouble and annoy a few cyclists. I simply couldn't hear them. Then, I LEARNED TO LOOK OVER MY SHOULDER!! Now I'm cycling in the very same town and it seems that nobody cares about that simple lesson. :(

    Unfortunately some pedestrians don't understand the meaning of sharing the pathway, they just occupy the entire space and don't even move when you politely ask them to step out of the way. I've noticed a similar behaviour at some of my friends. I usually drag them to the side and tell them to stop being so selfish. There's no need to walk in the middle of the road!!

    Still, the worst are the tourists taking photos and walking backwards into the street. Seriously??

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  32. Great article, thanks.

    My own experience here in a small bike-friendly city in the UK is that pedestrians and cyclists rarely mix well on shared use paths - some cyclists go too fast, and many pedestrians dislike sharing their space.

    It will take a lot of work to change these attitudes.

    I use a loud bell and smile :)

    Greetings from Bath.

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  33. How many times do we hear about drivers who feel victimized (yelled at) by cyclists when the driver claims they "didn't do anything wrong"? We continuously hear drivers citing law breaking cyclists (some justified, some not) as a reason to crack down on cycling. In the end, if we are going to be the faster/larger vehicle in a mixed use lane, we need to take some hints from what we expect of car drivers on the street. If we don't, we're no better than the drivers who complain about cyclists.

    MUP's are for recreational or cautious riding. Streets are for getting places. If someone needs to ride a MUP to feel safe, then they must accept that they cannot treat it like a street.

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  34. A friend of mine uses a technique which works really well. As he approaches he says "ring ring!" which alerts the ped to the stealth rider approaching from behind, then (and crucially before they've had a chance to bring their best angry anti-cyclist face to the game) he says with a big cheesy grin "saving up for a bell!" (usually from aboard a top of the line carbon bike for maximum effect).
    This alerts them to our presence, uses humour to disarm them if they are miserable gits and engages with them on a human level.....all in two sentences. I've been riding with this guy off-road and on, for nearly 20yrs in all kinds of riding situations in all kinds of places and I don't think I've ever seen it fail to work.
    Regarding bells; I recently built an urban bike for just general tooling around on and thought it a good idea to put a brass bell on it. Didn't use the bell for a while because I was too self-conscious. When I finally did use it to warn of my approach to a couple of women out walking their dogs (which were further up the path and off the lead!) she called out in a slightly panicked tone "Oh, please don't ring the bell near the dog, it doesn't like bells and panics!"
    I managed to resist telling her to "put the neurotic £"?!*%$ dog on lead then!" She was polite enough, but I remember thinking "why do we bother!"

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  35. I agree with you on that. Likewise, pedestrians should behave with an understanding that they are on an MUP, and not a sidewalk. But failing that, caution and patience is the better part of valor for the cyclist.

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  36. I am currently in Germany where it is common to have shared infrastructure (I think your picture of the sign is probably from here). Overall it works well here. I think a joined infrastructure is really the future. Meaningless paint on the road is not used much nor is it really safe.
    Effectively using the Bell well ahead before pedestrians are passed is somewhat of an art.

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  37. I usually call out a cheerful "Good Morning!" or, whatever the time of day; I rarely use my bell...pedestrians have the right-of-way, period.

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  38. Here in Belfast, cycle lanes have been created by drawing a white line down the middle of the footpath (sidewalk). But pedestrians don't feel constrained by this to stick to one side of the line. No one has told them that they now have half the space they thought they had. So I am afraid there is going to be an accident, a bicycle hitting an old person, perhaps. Where you have rapid growth in cycling and a reshaping of the urban space for them, then you also need a public information campaign to alert people to the new terms on which cyclists and others are to get one with each other.
    But actually I am often surprised by pedestrians being far more obliging and even apologetic than I would be in their position - after all, they have had space taken from them without their ever having been consulted.

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  39. I use a combination of bell, calling "passing", and always followed by a thank you. Usually works, but I did recently fall in the lap of a woman whose dog lunged at me at the last second. (She was seated on a bench.)

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  40. These days advocating civility may seem eccentric, but it is certainly a good idea. Thanks!

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    1. Eccentric courtesy is always more agreeable than discourtesy. it is very pleasant to be surprised by charming civility. It makes me melt and smile back.

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  41. I'm a cyclist and also a pedestrian with a dog. When walking, I am frustrated by cyclists who stop within the crosswalk and block my egress. Same issue with motorists. I dislike riders who assume I should move out of the way when they approach (the exception being kids on bikes). I particularly dislike riders who continue at their full speed at the pass going in either direction, it terrifies my dog and makes her more difficult to control.
    As a cyclist, if I am approaching a pedestrian, I get off my bike and walk if I can't pass with a decent (3-4") amount of space. I feel it is my responsibility to own the "pass" since I am moving faster. Does this sometimes slow my progress, sure, but it also helps to create goodwill especially if I offer a good morning/afternoon as I walk around them. Some idiot killed a pedestrian in SF recently as he raced his bike through a crosswalk. Does anyone know what courtesy is anymore?

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  42. I have thought of dressing up as an English Bobby and riding my Raleigh Sports down the MUP here in Wenatchee dispensing nice biscuits/cookies to the well mannered folk I meet along the way.
    Of course this might be interpreted as impersonating an officer but seeing as I live in Wenatchee WA I doubt I would end up being arrested!
    Anyway having grown up in England I realize that everyone loves an English bobby on a bicycle and many around the world still know the old hit "England Swings" from the 60s! So the idea would be to whistle this popular melody on patrol whilst keeping time with my little brass ding ding bell.
    Of course I would need to uphold a perfect example of bicycling etiquette along the way in hopes that it might become contagious!
    Now to Google "English policeman helmet" and start getting my "kit" together!

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    1. I love it! Roger Miller lives!

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  43. Thanks for the great article! As is so often the case, you mirror thoughts I have been having for some time. I am a big believer in accepting that we live in an imperfect world and doing what we can to make it as tolerable for everyone as possible. My opinion is that dogmatic beliefs of any kind are rarely helpful. When riding on roads, I try to minimize the inconvenience I cause to automobiles by picking my roads and times and by how I ride. When riding on MUPs, I try to take responsibility for safely passing pedestrians et al. with minimal impact on their peace of mind. Accepting that we live in an imperfect world doesn't mean I don't try to improve it, and in that regard, the piece of bicycle infrastructure I am most enthusiastic about are bike lanes. I don't have any hard numbers to confirm this, but my intuition suggests this is a safe, cost-effective solution to accommodating a variety of transportation modes.

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  44. Ah, MUPs - used to go to one along Clear Creek, Colorado. Took my daughter along with me when it had just been revamped, and the watering of the new vegetation wasn't aimed correctly so watered the path. I was following local behavior to let pedestrians know with "on your left." So what happens but a guy on family outing with spouse a little kid in his pack and another little turns to his left and I can't stop quickly because my brakes are wet. I wipe out and am there bleeding. He asks "Are you OK?" As a woman I really wanted to embarrass him and ask "Do I darned well LOOK OK?" but being a nice person person and not getting the little kids, much less my teenager, upset I said "Yeah" biked the mile back. Then pulled out my drinking water, a bandana, cleaned up, stretched and swore.

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  45. I live in Canberra, Australia, and there are lots of bike paths here. (I love it!) There are rules about signalling on the paths, and there are signs all over the place which state the 4rules: Pedestrians have right of way, cyclists must sound their bell to warn of approach, Pedestrians are not to block to path and to keep their dogs under control. As a result, Canberra people are quite well-trained, and no one gets freaked out by a bell, they just continue walking and move over to the left to allow cyclists to go round. Works a treat (except for ipods! LOL) and because the signs are literally everywhere, you rarely get cranky pedestrians. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosrusspix/4317461736/

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  46. We have this ingrained human tendency to resent the other despite the fact that we might be the other on the next day. Today I ride my bike so I swear at cars. Tomorrow I drive so I swear at cyclists. Can you think of other examples? Anyway, I try to go by the idea of granting right of way to the lesser or slower vehicle because that's what I learned to do when sailing. It works wonders for my sanity. That said I also avoid mixed use trails. There is such a huge disparity in speed between bikes and pedestrians that it is nearly impossible to ensure safety. Dogs stretch leashes out in front of you. People stop suddenly to tie their shoe. They decide at the last second to change course without looking over their shoulder. When you warn them they startle and scatter. Rollor bladers stride back and forth across the trail.... One thing I never do is try to get a workout on a mixed use trail. I love riding fast on my road bike but I grimace every time I see a rider on a trail hauling along over 20 mph.

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  47. I agree with Anon 12:23 (23 June). I usually feel safer on trafficked streets than on paths I have to share with pedestrians, dog walkers and such. I think "aware" is the key word in Anon's comment. Pedestrians--and runners in particular--tend to "zone out" while motorists, for all that I complain about some of them, have to notice their surroundings, if for no other reasons than the possible legal consequences of failing to do so.

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  48. Try being a skateboarder

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  49. I ride in Los Angeles / Santa Monica.

    As with the above, a regular bell doesn't work unless you're going very slowly. As I'm a speedy cyclist, I usually just call out "Hey there!" to peds in the bike lane or about to step into my path. If they persist I tend to stop in front of them and repeat until they wake up and look around. Embarrassing them usually works pretty well. Otherwise, I move into the street to go around.

    The issue I want to rise is the wonderful beach bike path along the ocean. It's a bike path, not a MUP, and it's an ongoing struggle to keep it. There is an adjacent ped path - yet they wander into the bike path anytime it looks available. When there's a critical amount of cyclists - it's a bike only path. At other times it's a dangerous horrible place to ride with just enough zombie walkers to get you. Any walker that blocks the path used to get the air horn a close range. Didn't work - I'd see the same people on the return, though I didn't collide with them. I'm now trying "Bike road!" Get out of the road!" with modest success. Other cyclists (with road bars) just ride close enough to brush the shoulder as they pass. Seems rude, dangerous and creates some resentment of the speed of cycling.

    What do you think? Is there a way to "take the lane" on a bike path?

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  50. I completely agree that peds and cyclist do not mix well. There is too great a speed difference even when cycling slowly. But, I don't think there is much chance of separate facilities. And where there are such facilities and they are adjacent peds go where they please anyway.

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  51. There's a nice path straddling NY Bay in Bay Ridge with separate lanes for pedestrians and bikes turning into an MUP then a path with separate lanes for peds and bikers. It's useless: not only pedestrians routinely ignore "bike territory", but many times bikers take the ped lane too. So I avoid it like the plague--unless I'm riding in the early morning--or just take my chances and ride in traffic with all the cars and trucks and buses. They're less dangerous and unpredictable than people taking a leisurely stroll, in my experience.

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  52. Nice post! I agree with the posters who suggested whistling. Downside to that is I bike to my classes and many of the younger students are wearing headphones and gazing at their phones intently. I haven't hit anyone yet but I have fallen off my bike while trying to avoid people.

    As someone who just got on a bike a few months ago (after nearly twenty years as a pedestrian and public transportation fan) I'm having to learn a whole lot in a short amount of time. Your posts have been very instructive, thank you.

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