Dispatch Multi-Use Path Story Is Misleading

The Dispatch put out a pretty interesting article Wednesday about the traffic on multi-use paths in Columbus. Though they're commonly called "Bike Trails" they're really for everyone to use. And that's caused some grief for many people.

I've reprinted the article below since the Dispatch requires a login to see articles after a certain amount of time.

This article doesn't cover the problems adequately, as usual. But this time they also went a step WORSE and had an online poll attached to the article that was entitled: "Do bicyclists observe the rules of the road when passing pedestrians on trails and paths?" This poll turned into a major bitch session where motorists recalled all sorts of issues they have with cyclists on the ROADS, not the paths. Very irresponsible by the Dispatch. But of course, the Dispatch gets lots of money from the auto dealers in town, so what do you expect?

The rules of the paths are as follows (from the Columbus Parks Department website:
All Users
All City of Columbus Codes are enforced.(www.ci.columbus.oh.us)
Motorized vehicles are not permitted. Be courteous and predictable to other trail users at all times. Keep right, always pass on the left, giving audible warning to pedestrians, skaters and other bicyclists. Maintain single file when others are within 100'. Pets are not permitted on Greenway Trails. Keep dogs on leash (maximum length 6 feet) when walking near a trail and clean up after your pet. Dispose of litter in waste receptacles. Alcohol is prohibited on trails in park systems.

Bicyclists and Skaters
Yield to pedestrians. Give audible warning when passing pedestrians, skaters or bicyclists. Ride and skate at a safe speed. Slow down and form a single file in congested conditions, reduced visibility, and other hazardous conditions.

Please stay to the right side of the trail except when otherwise designated. Watch for other trail users. Be especially alert when running. Listen for audible signals and allow faster trail users (runners and bicyclists) to pass safely.
Here is the article. I've noted my issues with it below.
County exercise paths not always happy trails
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 3:33 AM
By Kathy Lynn Gray

In a perfect world, bicyclists in Franklin County could ride trails without veering around ambling walkers or skidding to a stop because an errant dog has crossed their path.

And joggers, walkers and dogs could stroll along paths without fear that speeding bikers might mow them down.

The reality? Most exercise paths in the county are for everyone, racers and slowpokes alike. And a few jerks end up in the mix.

"I think bikers are kind of rude, some of them anyway," said Clintonville resident Janine Mast, 30. She was jogging yesterday along the multiuse trail at Antrim Lake near Worthington with her dog, Zoe, and friend Liz Arcaro, 33, of Delaware.

"There are two or three bikers who come by and tell us to move over or go single-file."
Well, yes. The rules of the multi-use paths say that when other people are within 100' of you, you need to stay single file.
Biker Steve Twigg says he, too, has been yelled at on the trail -- by walkers.

"They say, 'Slow down!' or 'What do you think you're doing?' or other idiotic things they have no business saying," said Twigg, 34, a salesman at BikeSource in Clintonville. "The biggest issue I run into is people who think that bikers are a nuisance. You should expect to see cyclists on the bikeway."
Technically, this is wrong, too. It's a Multi-use path... not a bikeway.
That tension between bikers and pedestrians, especially joggers with dogs, has been common for years on local trails.

"Some riders complain about the dogs, because some of them will be walking and cover the whole path," said Brad Westall, a trails planner for Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks.
As seen in the rules above, pets aren't allowed on the trails. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 95% of the problems are with people who use those retractable leashes - the ones that let the pets get more than 6 feet away from the owner. Also against the rules.
And he said the department gets complaints about competitive bikers traveling faster than the posted 15-mph speed limit.

"We'd encourage those folks to stay off the trails," Westall said.
That only makes sense. And the speed limit is posted at most access points to the trails that I've seen.
Lisa Staggenborg and Fred Yaeger of Worthington, who were riding recumbent bikes on the trail into Antrim Park yesterday, have had some sour experiences with bikers.

A friend of Yaeger's ended up in the hospital for four days after a bicyclist slammed into him when he was jogging on the trail and stopped to look behind him.
Bad account here. The friend didn't say HOW he turned around... did he get off the path to take a look or did he stop in the middle of the trail to look, or what?
"People who are going slowly are irritating, but people who are going fast can hurt you," said Staggenborg, 49.

Yaeger, 60, watches out for what Staggenborg calls "speed demons" on wheels.

Some walkers say they've never had a problem.

"I'm not bothered by the bikers," said Robert Brandenburg of the North Side as he was plowing through his usual 2 or 3 miles a day yesterday on the trail at Whetstone Park on the North Side.

Behind him were Patty Chandler, 74, Vicki Baack, 63, and Winifred Stutz, 82, who have been walking three abreast along the Whetstone path in the early morning for years. The Clintonville residents have found most bikers along the trail polite enough.

To reduce problems, the city has widened its trails to 12 feet in recent years, Westall said. Trails have been expanded and new ones added so there are about 42 miles countywide, compared with about 10 miles just 10 years ago, he said.

A bike-only path has been discussed, but none is currently planned, Westall said.

His advice?

"As you're having a good time, be courteous and try to maintain a safe distance around yourself. And respect each other and abide by the rules."

Basically, this all shows the need for more bike acceptance on the city's streets. Bikes don't have many other places to go in Columbus than the paths - and not all those people who are on the path are there for recreation. As we saw in the post about the unannounced closing of the Olentangy Trail, many use it for commuting purposes. I have. A lot of students have, as the path goes through OSU.

Another problem, though, comes from people with their Walkmans or iPods playing too loud. If they can't hear when cyclists make efforts to notify them, they shouldn't be upset when they are surprised while getting passed.

Basically, though, people need to learn that their actions have repercussions and that they are responsible for themselves. That'd solve a lot of the problems on the trail.


  1. I agree with you, I think the Dispatch article was trying to uncover a controversy that really doesn't exist. I ride the "bike" paths up and down Alum creek and run them as well. I have never seen nor heard of any incident. The more heavily traveled the path the more likely grumpy people will encounter another malcontent.

  2. On an unrelated note. Did you see this bike video from the new shop downtown the video comes from columbusalive

  3. B Adler - I think you're right. I figure this was just the Dispatch's chance to try to increase publicity by hammering on a group that gets almost no positive publicity in the city. And it was a totally irresponsible article - no mention of the trails rules at all. Very poor reporting. Hopefully they'll print my letter to the editor that said as much, but I doubt it.


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