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UPDATE (3): Woman Dies After Being Hit By Cyclist

by ARLnow.com — June 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm 18,404 209 Comments

(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) An 80-year-old woman has died after being hit by a bicyclist on the Four Mile Run Trail this morning.

The incident happened around 7:15 this morning (Monday) on the trail near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run Drive. According to police, an adult male cyclist was coming down a hill when he called out “on your left, on your left,” to the victim, who was walking on trail.

The victim turned around, moving into the path of the cyclist, and said “what? — at which time she and the cyclist collided, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The woman fell backwards and her head hit the pavement, causing significant trauma.

The woman was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries, Sternbeck said. She was pronounced dead in the hospital later in the day. Police originally reported the woman’s age as 70, then as 81, but later said it was actually 80.

The cyclist, a 62-year-old man, suffered only minor injuries and did not require transport to the hospital. He was riding a NEXT Power Climber mountain bike at the time of the accident, according to Sternbeck. No charges have been filed against the cyclist, he said.

The trail is eight feet wide at the point of the collision, Sternbeck noted. Arlington does not have speed limits on its bike trails, according to county officials.

On Tuesday morning, police issued the following press release about the incident.

A 80 year old Arlington resident was pronounced dead late yesterday afternoon at Fairfax Hospital after being struck by a bicyclist.

The Arlington County Emergency Communications Center received the initial 9-1-1 report at 7:11 a.m. on June 11, 2012, regarding a collision between a bicyclist and pedestrian on the Four Mile Run Bike Path in the area of the 4900 block of Columbia Pike. The victim sustained significant head trauma after falling backwards, striking the back of her head on the pavement. The 62 year old bicyclist remained on scene and received treatment for a minor knee injury. He did not require transport to a hospital.

According to a witness and the bicyclist, the 62 year old man was heading downhill on his Next Powerclimber bike when he saw the victim ahead of him and attempted to warn her by yelling “to your left” and ringing a bell. This is when the 80 year old woman stepped to her left and turned around to be struck head-on, causing her to fall backwards to the ground.

Ita Lapina, 80, of Arlington, VA, succumbed to the injuries she sustained during the June 11 incident. She was pronounced dead at the hospital at 6:20 p.m.

For information related to bicycle and pedestrian safety, please visit the Prevention and Safety section on the Arlington County Police Department homepage at http://www.arlingtonva.us/Departments/Police/PoliceMain.aspx

  • JohnB2

    Hope she’s ok! I’m surprised this type of incident hasn’t happened sooner/more often. There’s no Mixed-use Trails 101 class to educate normal people on passing etiquette.

    • CourthouseChris

      That, and the area’s surfeit of cyclists who think they have the sum of all rights afforded to both pedestrians and automobiles yet the responsibilities of neither.

      • brown before green

        ^^ This.

      • MomofTeens

        +1

      • SMDC

        ++++++++++++++++++++++++1

      • John Fontain

        You’re going to make a lot of cyclists mad with that truthful statement. See below.

      • Michael H.

        Sure, there are some cyclists who do not ride safely. I can admit that. But are you honestly trying to say that all car drivers and pedestrians obey all the laws and use common sense all the time? Plenty of people getting struck and killed by car drivers all the time. Some car drivers will even go out of their way to intimidate or assault cyclists even when there is no other car traffic and no reason for the driver to approach the cyclist. (This has happened to me twice in the past month.)

        Many drivers speed into red lights and take hard right turns without even bothering to slow down or check if there are pedestrians in the other crosswalk. I see this happen almost every day.

        There is a surfeit of car drivers (and even some pedestrians, who can cause accidents too by stepping in front of cars or cyclists in the middle of a block) who don’t think they need to follow safety laws either.

  • CW

    This is why I never, ever yell “on your left”. I hate that phrase. The problem is exactly that – people who are blocking the trail to begin with are usually the same people who don’t know what “on your left” means. “On your left” just causes these people to freak out. Instead I just yell, as loudly and as early as possible, “passing” if they are moving or “get out of the trail” if they’re just standing there. Seems to work.

    • JamesE

      I think yelling out left probably makes them actually move left, they just don’t know.

      • cyclist

        Yes, I’ve seen that happen.

        On your left is for cyclists. Don’t say it to pedestrians. Say “bicycle passing you” or something like that.

        Hope this lady gets better soon.

      • Tabby_TwoTone

        I think you’re right. I’d prefer CW’s “passing”; in the restaurant biz, we’d say “behind you!”

      • Hmm

        I never understand why they don’t say, “I’M PASSING on your left” or “Please STAY to the left while I pass.” On your left doesn’t convey the point to a pedestrian. If you don’t have time to say the full phrase, you’re going too fast for a shared path.

        • cyclist

          On your left is fine for other bikes. That’s why cyclists use it. But it’s not good for peds.

        • Al Gore

          Not pretentious enough.

    • Elmer

      Ok by me but speed limits would be nice.
      The wanna be bike racers should get their own trail or more to the point, speedway.

      • JamesE

        are they going to have officers with radar guns out enforcing the limits?

        • brian

          they do that sometimes on mt vernon trail and enforce 15 mph

          • JamesE

            good lord

        • Bob the Builder

          ACPD Aux. Unit officers are frequently on the W&OD. I was stopped about a year ago for running a stop sign.

          • Rick

            Good.

        • tool

          ZIMMER-HUMPS every 50′!!

      • me

        Bikes don’t have speedometers and most riders don’t have bike computers so it’s hard to enforce something that’s immeasurable.

        • brian

          most bikes don’t have bells either.

          • V. Putin

            Easy fix.

    • SomeGuy

      Unfortunate accident.

      I often yell “stay to your right please” if someone is teetering near the middle line. I feel like when people hear any phrase like “on your left” the default action is shift/look left, which is obviously not the desired action. And people who are trail denizens already know to move right regardless of what they hear from behind.

      “Stay to your right” is also more educational for tourists. (Futile, I know.)

      • CW

        I agree with this because at the end of the day what’s going to stand out is the imperative-sounding term “right” or “left” as JamesE pointed out. If all they hear is “right”, odds are that someone inexperienced with trail manners will instinctively move right.

      • ProfessionalObserver

        I usually yell, “Hey, you in front of me, I am riding a bicycle behind you and will be passing you very shortly as I am traveling the speed of an F-16.” Most of the time it works.

    • Michael H.

      I always say “passing on your left” instead. That makes it clearer that I intend to pass on the left, instead of asking for them to move to the left. However, a few people still get confused, so I will usually slow down a little as I pass pedestrians. I try to prepare myself for the possibility that the person will move suddenly to the left, or even the right.

      I hope the woman recovers from her injuries.

      • Skippy Mayer

        This is the passionate concern that all bikers might consider! So many do give exactly this kind of attention to fellow walkers using the trail. The accident-free use of these trails by so many is a credit to these users.

        And, alas, some of us older ones forget to put in our hearing aids!
        Skippy

        • OldTimer

          Hear, hear!!

      • Rachael M.

        Exactly what Michael said. It’s not the Tour de France, it’s a mixed recreational trail. You should be slowing down when you pass, because really, how many joggers can’t hear you call otu or are wearing headphones?

        This is horribly sad.

        • brian

          you shouldnt be joggin with earphones.

      • John Fontain

        Kudos to you Michael for taking the necessary and proper precautions on the trail. If only more riders were like you.

      • John K.

        This. You’re doing it right Michael H., and I thank you.

    • bobco85

      Just leave the directions out of it. I’m a big proponent of using bike bells or saying “passing” before overtaking someone (cyclist or pedestrian). Only if I do not see any sort of reaction/acknowledgement (head turn, arm wave, step towards the right, etc.) will I say “Excuse me” and repeat as my volume increases. Then, I will pass.

    • Steve S

      Does no one use a bell? I ring mine as I approach and everyone moves out of the way, regardless if it’s left or right. Problem solved.

      • SomeGuy

        Not really “problem solved.” If the expected behavior is a move to the right, then a deviation from that behavior creates risk. Adherence to norms on the trail is a better solution, while building in enough margin for error for those special people who might deviate from norms or when it’s ambiguous.

  • Corey

    Ooh, who’s going to be the first to jump to conclusions, blame the cyclist, and denounce all cycling in Arlington forever?

    • UptonHiller

      I’ll do it, but not until around 8:00 tonight. Are you going to wait around?

    • Barcrofter

      I can’t wait until 8pm. I use the trail for cycling, walking, jogging and yes there are oblivious people on the trail but by far the cyclists are the rudest people on there. If you are trying to maintain a pace or speed on your bike you are on the wrong trail. You should be on the roadways, not the trailways.

      • Corey

        There we go! You win, “Barfcrofter”.

      • CW

        Hmm, I would personally say that joggers with earphones, doublewide strollers, AND dogs on leashes are far worse than even the jerkiest of self-absorbed wannabe crit riders, but is that too small of a population subset to meet your standards for inclusion?

        • Greg

          Why? Those people aren’t a danger to anyone. I commute by bike so I understand the complaints, but the default should be that bikes always yield to pedestrians. If the pedestrians make you slow down, then you have to slow down. That’s just the way it is.

          • CW

            Yes, when they are blocking the entire right lane with their strollers and shuffling their ipods while the dog’s leash stretches all the way across the left lane, they are a danger to people. Of course, people here are are basically arguing that everyone should yield to the most careless/clueless denominator, so they will just say that cyclists should stop, dismount, and kiss the ground in front of these individuals.

          • Greg

            I’ll give you the dog leashes. That is irresponsible.

          • AJ

            +1

    • Mike

      As someone who has been hit by a cyclist and not been seriously injured, I think the matter of cyclist / walker safety needs to be addressed. I am a sometimes cyclist as well and am appalled at how many riders think the trails are their speedways and don’t even give as much as this rider did – a fair warning. There is no way to tell from this who was at fault, but I have seen enough to lean more towards the cyclist than the pedestrian without further evidence.

      • Undereducated

        Are you kidding? No way to tell who was at fault? This cyclist better be praying the woman lives, because if she dies and he doesn’t own a home with liability insurance, he will be working the rest of his life for her heirs.

  • Chris B

    “Get out of the trail”? Really?

    “On your left”, if pronounced clearly, is much nicer and most normal trail users understand that.

    Feel really bad for the old lady.

    • cyclist

      Yes, you should not be standing in the trail, as a pedestrian or a cyclist. If you stop, move off the trail.

      • Hmm

        No, “get out of the trail” is just insanely rude. The king is not passing. This is a shared path. Those on foot have a right to enjoy the path too. Stopping occasionally to look at something or catch one’s breath isn’t a crime.

        • Faye Jissette

          Something doesn’t have to be illegal to be stupid. Do you stop your car in the middle of the road?

          • Hmm

            As you said, its a path, not a road. Big difference.

            If a group congregates for a lengthy chat, you may have something.. but for one person to catch their breath or stop briefly to look at something, there’s nothing wrong with that. They aren’t on a road.

          • cyclist

            Most cyclists would agree.

        • cyclist

          Standing in the middle of the trail is insanely rude, and dangerous.

          When you stop, you should simply move aside. Most people who use the trail understand that.

      • not your bro

        Are you kidding? You can’t stand on the trail? Go bike on a cyclist-only speedway or use roads. I can’t believe the arrogance of cyclists in this area.

        • cyclist

          No, you can’t stand on the trail. Much like you can’t just stop your car in the middle of the road.

          There are signs telling you this. If you don’t understand this, you shouldn’t use the trail.

          • redstang423

            Cyclist is right… Arlington County does say to move off the trail if you’re stopping. But it also isn’t a law – just a pretty good recommendation for everyone’s safety.

            Virginia law does require the cyclist to yield to any pedestrian on a mixed use trail, as well as provide an audible signal to the pedestrian before passing.

            Arlington County also requires cyclists to operate at a speed that is safe for the given conditions. That’s so incredibly vague, it doesn’t really do much.

          • not your bro

            I think the phrase “safe for given conditions” is fine, because it’s just common sense, i.e., if you’re passing someone elderly, be extra careful.

            I’m sure this cyclist didn’t hit her on purpose, but given some of the unbelievable arrogant commentary from riders on this and other ArlNow threads, it’s clear that a lot of cyclists’ attitudes in this area need some major adjustment.

          • cyclist

            Arrogant comments like “I’ll wander aimlessly in the trail if I want to”?

            We all have responsibilities for safety on the trail, which includes knowing the rules and following them, and basic common sense.

          • not your bro

            no, like this one:

            “You frequently are told that you’re not interpreting what is written correctly by the author. I have run into posters like you before. You may have a reading disability, or just read too fast, or just too wrapped up in yourself to comprehend properly. Whatever it is, it’s you.”

            or this:

            “Standing in the middle of the trail is insanely rude, and dangerous.”

            etc.etc.etc.

    • CW

      A lot of times they will be facing one of the sides of the trail, gawking at something.

      In this case I would not be passing on their left. FROM their left, maybe, but this is too complicated, no?

      “Clear the trail” is understood.

      • not your bro

        to which I would reply, *&% you. It’s a shared trail, I’m not clearing it for some rude wannabe Armstrong.

        • cyclist

          To which I will say “get the hell out of the way, because you are violating the stated rules of the trail.”

          Funny how people whine about cyclists ignoring or not knowing the rules. Now you’re trying to do it.

          • not your bro

            ugh, go play Coppi rider somewhere else, there are plenty of places to do so besides the 4MR trail.

          • So’s your sis

            Just as there are plenty of places to just stand around.

          • drax

            Go stand on the side of the trail instead of the middle.

  • South Awwlington

    I hope she is OK. We can sort out the rest later.

  • EPinBC

    I must have just missed this. I crossed Columbia Pike on the W&OD at about 7:05 this morning. I have a nice LOUD bell and prefer it over yelling “passing on the left.” I find that people hear me from a greater distance.

    • cyclist

      The bell is best. Everyone knows what that means.

    • DingDingDing

      How unfortunate. Agree about use of a bell vs. the word “left”.

      If you say the word “left” there will always be some trail users who think you are asking them to move to the left, which they then do.

      Not blaming anyone, but my experience is that cyclists who call out passing on your left don’t say it until it’s too late to avoid a confused pedestrian. It’s because they don’t want to shout like CW does, I guess.

      I prefer to use a bell. I can ring it early and often, and pedestrians and other cyclists can hear me getting closer. Plus no one thinks I’m trying to start a conversation with them.

      • cyclist

        I started using a bell recently, and it works WAY better than any verbal warning. Everyone knows what it means.

      • MarceyRd

        No matter what you do before you try to pass somebody, you should still be going slow enough to avoid a collision. Basic road rules.

        Just like drivers ed, before you pass, assume somebody is in your blindspot until you check. Assume the car you are passing might suddenly swerve to your lane, and have an out. Assume a car will roll through a red light when you have green, and have an out. etc etc.

        • SomeGuy

          I agree. And slow movers should do the same. Basic road rules, as you say. Be defensive.

      • CW

        To be clear – I only give loud notice when it’s warranted to prevent a bad situation. In many cases, where it’s clear that people know what they’re doing out there, I don’t announce. When people are wearing headphones, I just get by them as fast as I can.

        • SomeGuy

          CW, I wouldn’t be so defensive. I think most of the reasonable folks here know what you were saying. And the anti-cyclist people won’t be satisfied no matter how you rephrase it.

          • John Fontain

            Funny that you label other cyclists who have differing views as the “anti-cyclist people.”

          • SomeGuy

            Nope. I didn’t do that.

          • cyclist

            John is usually confused.

          • John Fontain

            But not this time.

          • cyclist

            Yep.

            You frequently are told that you’re not interpreting what is written correctly by the author. I have run into posters like you before. You may have a reading disability, or just read too fast, or just too wrapped up in yourself to comprehend properly. Whatever it is, it’s you.

          • CW

            Ehh, I can see how a mention of “get off the trail” might have sounded a bit mean. Sometimes, when I’m riding hard, I just get out what I can (of course, the detractors will say I should not be riding hard to begin with).

          • Mike Hunt

            I’ve always found that yelling “GTFOOTW – IAMMITY,L*’

            IAMMITY,L is short for I Am Much More Important Than You, LOSER

        • not your bro

          Great idea. Speed by the people who can’t hear you. Don’t on any account slow down.

          • So’s your sis

            Maybe they should dismount and walk past every pedestrian.

      • Russ

        I do both just to be sure. Ring and yell. I even have two bells for when one isn’t enough volume. It might be overkill but it’s cut my commute drama down to a minimum. I think one thing many cyclists need to learn is to give people a buffer of time to react, a lot of people uselessly yell their warning when they’re already nearly finished passing you. I try to make myself heard from at least 15 or 20 feet behind.

  • chris

    I’ll bet you the bike rider was wearing a spandex cycling suit. How about using your brakes…..

    • cyclist

      Cycling is a weird subculture.

      • spandex shorts

        I feel judged.

    • Fashion Police

      I bet the old lady was wearing Depends.

      What does either of their attire have to do with anything?

      • Rachael M.

        Because it’s a blanket statement (with some truth) that the cyclists that gear up in $200 worth of jerseys and specialized clothing act without any respect to anyone else using the trails.

        And I ride.

  • Joan Fountain

    [Post removed per comment policy]

    • Hurley

      “The cyclist suffered only minor injuries and did not require transport to the hospital.”

    • Bob the Builder

      Who said a thing about the person having Alzheimers?

      • BlueSkies

        Yes, why is it assumed the lady has Alzheimer’s? Hard of hearing, perhaps. Not understanding “cycle speak” for “get out of my way” even more likely – but assuming she has dementia is really uncalled for.

    • Joan Fountain

      Another source is reporting she did.

      • CW

        Oh snap, so apparently pre-empting ARLnow with new details is against the comment policy. So much for crowdsourcing.

        • Libertarian

          I think the “comment policy” is whatever they want it to be at any given moment.

    • Chris Gadsden

      Don’t tread on my post!

  • juke jointer

    I don’t know how fast this cyclist was going, but it seems like he could have avoided hitting her if he slowed down. I do know, from personal experience riding my own bicycle on this trail, that too many cyclists go way too fast on it. This is not a racetrack — it’s a path for all of us, families with children and the elderly included. If you want to ride your bicycle fast, this is not the place to do it.

  • callie

    How dare you, CW, to suggest any walker/pedestrian get off the trail so you can blast past. You are the poster child of why so many of us detest cyclists. You hog the trails (what part of mixed use don’t you get?), you hog the sidewalks, and you never ever mind traffic signs or signals. I hope someday you are treated with the same disdain and dismissal you treat pedestrians. Karma can be cruel.

    • JamesE

      how dare you not reply correctly!

    • cyclist

      relax, callie,

      He’s just saying that people shouldn’t just stand on the trail when not walking or cycling. Which is true, and required by signs posted on the trail too.

    • SomeGuy

      Callie, CW was pretty clear that he was referring to people “blocking the trail.” I.e. people congregating in such a way as to block passage by other trail users. He/she uses “passing” when actually overtaking another trail user.

    • me

      That’s not what the article said at all…nor is what the cyclist said. “on your left” is no different that a car passing another car; you do it on the left. I’m not sure how you drive, but I doubt you force cars off the road in order to pass them. You simply go around them…on the left.

      • jan

        unless you have Md tags. Then, you pass on the right.

    • CW

      Gosh, I didn’t realize I said anything so objectionable. When I am going to pass someone, I tell them I am “passing”, in a loud enough tone to be heard in advance. When people are blocking the trail by standing still, I will say something along the lines of “clear the trail” or “get off the trail”. What would you like me to say to convey this intent?

      • jogger

        how about just passing them without being a jerk about it? does that work?

        • cyclist

          It’s usually an unsafe situation when people are just standing there, for several reasons.

          I usually politely inform them of this as I pass.

  • http://blacknell.net/dynamic/ MB

    This is awful. I’ll wait for more of the facts to address how it might have been avoided, but I’ll just note that it’s always sad to see anyone getting hurt. I hope she recovers quickly.

  • Mack

    When I’m riding on a trail, how I warn a pedestrian depends on the type of person I am coming upon.

    Young and fit: “On your left!”

    Small children (with parents): Ring my bell, and slow to a crawl.

    Old people: “Excuse me, can I pass you on the left?”

    Tourists: Ring the bell, then ring the bell again, then ring the bell again, then say, “On your left!” then say “On your left!” again, then scream in their ear as I’m passing them on the grass.

    /hope the lady is okay. Hitting your head on the deck is no joke.

    • http://blacknell.net/dynamic/ MB

      Pretty much.

    • Stu

      What do you do if there’s an old tourist?

      • TO

        old tourist = turn around and go the other way

      • South Side Chris

        Doom Horn.

  • Karen Bate

    Most people on the trail early in the morning are polite, both riders and runners, but there are a few cyclists who are incredibly aggressive and ride much too fast to “share the trail.” Last week a cyclist I’ve encountered before screamed “jerk!” (not quite in the same spirit as “on your left”) as he went by even though there was a good foot of space between the runner and the other lane. While we don’t know that this cyclist was speeding, maintaining control of your cycle is hard to do at really high speed.

    • Homer

      True dat. Some beeyatch called me an “asshole” as she came down the trail on the wrong side when I didn’t jump out of the way fast enough!

    • Amy

      I agree most people are really nice. Some people are just jerks though, I run as close as I can to the right and I’ve had some cyclist practically clip me as they pass.

      I’m not saying the cyclist is at fault in this case, but there is not really a hill in that area, so I find his story a little suspect. Is this just based on his account? There should have been plenty of room no matter where she was walking for him to pass without having to yell twice. Also, most people walking that early are regular users who know the rules.

      • Amy

        I just reread and saw that it was Four Mile Run where there are actually hills. I wonder if it was on the part of that curves right after that low, wide bridge. I can see it happening there because that’s the only place the visibility is really restricted and he could be at a pretty high speed without much effort.

        All the other places on the trail I would consider a crash that early in the morning due to neligence on the cyclist’s part. If you give pedestrians wide berth there shouldn’t be issues unless the trails are crowded.

        One person cannot “block the trail”.

      • bike commuter

        There’s a REALLY STEEP HILL right there at Columbia pike Note the the article says four mile run trail.- it goes under Columbia rather than the W&OD where there is a light.

    • SouthArlJD

      Haha, yes, there are many jerks on the trails and also on the roadways. A few weeks ago I was driving my car up Glebe Road and veered onto Old Glebe on my way to T.J. A cyclist was headed in the middle of my lane straight toward me. Slowing way down I lifted my hands up in the classic “WTF?” gesture to ask what he was doing, and he started screaming and showing me his middle finger and yelled that I could have hit him. No duh. Next time stay out of the opposite lane of CAR TRAFFIC, idiot.

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    I guess I’ve been lucky…I rarely see tourists on the trails.

  • John

    It’s never the bicyclist’s fault … Even when they kill a 70-year old woman. The trails are no different than the Beltway: a significant portion of the users exceed reasonable speed limits (includin myself, at leas in a car). MOST of the time, nothing happens but when it does, somebody gets hurt really badly. Certainly, the bicyclist had a opportunity to STOP or ride off the trail to avoid hitting the woman. BUT, likely he was going TOO FAST and his use of the trail was more important. Redeploy some patrol officers on bicycles to police the trails.

    • CW

      What is a “reasonable speed” for you to be going in anticipation of an elderly person stepping in front of you?

      If you were speeding on the Beltway, as you admitted that you do, and an elderly driver turned into your lane going 25 mph, would you blame yourself?

      I am curious.

      • John Fontain

        If you were driving 85 on the beltway and noticed a car way ahead of you barely moving on the highway, it seems it would be prudent to either slow way down or be sure you pass them with a significant amount of space between your passing lane and their driving lane. I don’t think it would be prudent to wiz by them within a few feet and not expect that something could go wrong.

        Who knows if the cyclist is even telling the truth. He or she may have been reaching for a water bottle or checking out someone else on the trail and not noticed the elderly lady as she properly walked on the right side of the trail.

        • SomeGuy

          Good point, John Fontain: “Who knows?” The exact opposite of your hypothetical also could have happened.

      • jogger

        how about slowing down to ensure you dont plow into an old lady? that seems reasonable to me, contador.

  • Akashi

    Carrying a small, bright-color open umbrella provides surprising protection from both the sun and these types of accidents. For some reason, cyclists who won’t slow to safely pass an elderly person will do so for an open umbrella. Of course, this should only be done on sidewalks and shared paths — never bike race courses.

    • Elmer

      Great suggestion.

    • SouthArlJD

      We should bring back the parasol. Family legend tells me my great grandmother, a midwife, used hers to devastating effect, fending off varmints, thugs, and drunks as she made her late night rounds.

      • Elmer

        Carrying a good stout walking stick on the trail would work wonders also.

  • LifeorLiberty

    it was an unfortunate accident ! the guy prolly thought he would blow by her before she registered what was happening…and didnt count on her stepping into his path. so maybe slowing down a little could have made him stop or slowed the impact, but a collision at any speed could have been enough to knock her over and hit her head on the deck. I’m sure the poor guy feels bad enough that he ran over someone’s abuela!

    • Mary-Austin

      I think he was probably more upset about any dings on his overpriced road bike or that his spandex racing suit may have been soiled.

  • South Side Chris

    That’s some, “Man Bites Dog” stuff right there.

    I have a giant, cartoon sized, hand squeezed “OWWOOOGAH!” Doom Horn on my bike and while I can’t quite get up to Ludicrous Speed even on my best day, you can hear me coming on the Four Mile Run Trail for well over a four miles. It sounds like an angry Emperor Penguin screaming for fish into a megaphone. Forget a speeding ticket, I’m surprised I haven’t been sited for waking the dead.

    Forget yelling, “On your left.” Buy a Doom Horn.

    • LifeorLiberty

      that’s awesome — where would one obtain a bike horn that makes the OWWOOOOGAH sound ?

      • JW

        oh yeah, THAT wouldn’t startle people and cause them to step into oncoming traffic…;)

    • SouthArlJD

      I am totally going to start hanging around 4 Mile Run trail just to hear the Doom Horn.

  • South Awwlington

    You know, this is EXACTLY the reason we have bollards and I hope someone brings this up at the Board Meeting on Saturday.

    Perhaps it is time to make the Four Mile Run strictly pedestrian and relegate bikes to the W&OD.

    What the heck is wrong with slowing down to pass people? What fire are you headed to?

    That could have been someone’s grandmother. I hope it was worth it. Creep.

    • Mack

      I thought the stated reason for bollards was to keep automobiles off the trails, not to serve as speed bumps for cyclists. Sigh! Never let a crisis go to waste, I guess.

      • South Awwlington

        Pretty sure it is to prevent unauthorized motor vehicle access and also as a speed control device.

    • SomeGuy

      Contender for non sequitur of the day: “That could have been someone’s grandmother.”

      • South Awwlington

        I hope it wasn’t yours.

        • SomeGuy

          It wasn’t. But thank you for the sentiment.

        • Neutrino

          That’s not a non sequitur.

          • SomeGuy

            It doesn’t exactly follow the commenter’s attempt at a train of thought. “Does not follow” is the literal latin translation of “non sequitur.”

            I.e., sure, it could have been someone’s grandmother. I concur. It also could have been someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, someone’s aunt, some dog’s owner, some home’s owner, someone who tends a garden, someone’s church parishoner, etc. How does the lady’s status as a grandmother further the point the commenter was trying to make about slowing down?

  • bobco85

    The article says that it occurred on Four Mile Run Trail, which goes underneath Columbia Pike, has a short but steep hill, and then continues along the stream around the south side of the tennis courts near that intersection (. That area is narrower than the W&OD and harder to see people on the little hills. The W&OD around that intersection is relatively flat, so was the cyclist actually on Four Mile Run trail?

    • dsarlington

      bobco85,
      I was thinking the same thing. You mostly find walkers on the Four Mile Run trail and the bikes and runners tend to stay with the W&OD. If it was Four Mile Run, it would not surprise me that there was an accident. That’s a tough stretch of trail going under Columbia Pike (narrow and hilly).

  • info81

    I feel sorry for the lady, this could have been avoided. I ride a bicycle and do not shout at anyone, people who do that have no clue and are usually on a power trip.
    I slow down and give people lots of room. The cyclist is completely at fault here and should feel bad.

    If you are training for a bike race you should be on the road period.

    • sam

      get the h3ll out of here with that!

    • info81

      On these multi-use trails the faster should always yield to the slower. People should not be speeding down these trails yelling on your left/right, ringing bells expecting people to jump out of the way.

    • Becoming indifferent

      When I ride on the trail and come across a pedestrian, I don’t yell anything either–that usually startles them into your path. I just slow down and use as much room to pass as possible.

  • Novanglus

    Last week, I saw a unicyclist riding around Barcroft Park. As he approached a team of young baseball players who were crossing towards a field, he called out something that might have resembled “clear the way.” But they didn’t hear, so he quickly dismounted to keep from hitting them. Then he yelled out “y’all have s*** for brains” as he tried to ride off, but he didn’t get enough momentum and had to dismount again, while a bunch of kids and parents from two fields stared at him. An amusing scene.

    I hope the woman from this morning recovers well.

    • PearDPea

      I think I would enjoy being yelled at a by a man on a unicycle.

  • jigga

    i ride my moped on both FMRT and W&OD while playing beyonce’s “on the left, on the left” song

    • jigga

      Silly me, its “to the right to the right”

      • jigga please

        jigga please

  • Rich

    You can’t safely “walk” on a trail anymore. I remember walking under a bridge in Richmond a year ago over the James river (they’ve built a “pedestrian” walkway under the motor bridge there). No freakin’ peace because of the bikers! Me and my girl had to spot in every which-way direction (“Oh, sh-t — watch out — one on the left — and one on the right! — no, from the other left!”). Same thing when taking a picnic lunch (walking, with a picnic basket [oh, yes, how quaint, right?) just north of Roosevelt Island — what are we, on the GW Parkway again? Next was watching the Space Shuttle fly-over here in D.C. Good luck just walking to a Don’s-John on the trail.

    Next time I’m just going to keep on walking, like I always do. Just like I drive the speed-lmit everywhere I go. If you’re behing me, up to you what you decide to do.

  • Rick

    How many times have we heard “cars can’t share the road with bikes!” And now bikes cant share a trail with pedestrians. Kettle, meet pot. Perhaps the cyclist was busy eating his proverbial cake to steer out of the way.

    I hope the woman is doing okay.

    • brown before green

      True dat.

  • lance armstrong

    aaa all the wannabe lances zooming around on the bike path decked out in the whole tour de france getup with their $8K carbon fiber cannondales drive me nuts. i am lance armstrong. you are not lance armstrong.

    • Roadie

      Tell us more about your hatred of fashion.

  • SouthArlJD

    I’ve been on the 4 Mile Run trail a couple of times in the last few weeks and they were a reminder of why I avoid such heavily used trails. Bikers come zipping up behind pedestrians and blurt out an almost incomprehensible “on your left” as they barely slow down – if at all. Several times I heard the warning just as the bike got to me and wondered what happened to the practice of having a bell so the warning can be given farther ahead of time. I was lost in thought and thus startled at the first “on your left” as the bike was practically abreast of me.

    I’ve been a biker on the same trails, but I don’t assume that every person I approach is capable of hearing me or reacting appropriately to a hastily uttered phrase when I’m nearly upon them.

    In this case there’s an elderly woman walking down the trail. What kind of a hurry was this cyclist in that he could not take into account the possibility that she might not be able to perceive or react in time to his rapid approach? It’s always important to be cautious around pedestrians who can’t see a bike behind them, but children and the elderly must be treated with special care. Now this cyclist must bear the knowledge of having seriously injured or perhaps even killed an innocent old lady when the accident could have easily been avoided by exercising more caution.

    • Andrew

      Because it is a mixed-use path, you cannot be walking along it “lost in thought”. Everyone on the trail has a responsibility to know the “rules” and to be aware of their surroundings. I think there is some blame on both sides here. We do not have all the details (e.g., the cyclists speed, which side of the path the victim was struck on, etc), so let’s not rush to judgement.

      • SouthArlJD

        What? I was IN my lane, walking straight ahead. I have every right to be lost in thought as long as I’m where I’m supposed to be and not making any sudden moves. I’m not a car or a bike. I can’t walk fast enough to collide with someone in my path if I’m lost in thought because I’ll see them first. And as far as I know there is no rule against walking down a bike trail IN one’s lane while lost in thought.

        You lecture me about being aware of my surroundings? How pompous. Well, I am and I was that day because lost in thought doesn’t mean unconscious or zombie-like. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize dangers within my range of vision, but contrary to what I told my kids for 20 years I DON’T have eyes in the back of my head and my hearing’s not so great that I can hear a well-maintained bike approaching me from BEHIND without some kind of warning. I would suggest, also, that it is unreasonable to demand that pedestrians keep whirling about to check their six just in case someone’s sneaking up on them on a bike. It’s the responsibility of approaching cyclists to be aware that pedestrians can’t see behind them and are unlikely to hear them, so it is NOT the responsibility of pedestrians to constantly check their rear but of cyclists to lower their speed and confirm that they have taken sufficient steps to alert those whom they are approaching to their presence.

        • brian

          Stay to the right pleasest

      • Greg

        I’m going to disagree. It’s a trail, not a road. People should be able to wander aimlessly on a trail. Bikers should move to the roads if that’s too much to deal with.

        • not your bro

          amen. Go play bike racer at bike races, there are lots of them here.

        • drax

          It’s a multi-use path. People most certainly may not wander aimlessly into oncoming traffic.

          • Greg

            Ok. Bikers should just be able to kill anyone that doesn’t stay to the right?

            I see this another way. It isn’t that hard to avoid pedestrians if you slow down and pay attention. I see plenty of good bikers but also many that don’t modify their behavior when on a crowded trail. This isn’t the road with clear laws for various sutuations. Its a shared trail with the obligation on the biker to always yield. Use your brakes. Put your foot down. Its ok.

      • Rick

        Andrew, You are the exact reason this happened. Your mentality is one that most automobile drivers have about sharing the road, and you go off on a 70 year old woman for not going at a runners pace? Really?

    • John Fontain

      southarljd said: “Now this cyclist must bear the knowledge of having seriously injured or perhaps even killed an innocent old lady when the accident could have easily been avoided by exercising more caution.”

      You would think, right? But this cyclist is likely so full of himself and righteous in his biking ways that he’s probably managed to convince himself that he is in fact the victim.

      • SomeGuy

        John Fontain, this seems like quite a generalization and a lot of assumption for someone who tries to come across as impartial and NOT anti-cyclist.

        • John Fontain

          I’m anti-full of yourself, think you own the entire trail-cyclists. Not all cyclists. See my “kudos” post above.

      • Joan Fountain

        That’s quite a leap in logic there, cowboy.

      • JW

        Because you were there and know this cyclist, right?

    • jan

      thank you

  • Crystal Lite

    I rarely use the Four Mile Run Trail, but I am a frequent user of the Mount Vernon Trail as a pedestrian (walker/runner, depending on the day). In my experience, a lot of trail users pass people way too closely, without giving a wide enough berth. This is obviously less of an issue if someone is walking/running between 3 and 8 mph, vs someone rollerblading or cycling at speeds well beyond that. I had some whiz past me on rollerblades so closely yesterday that our skin nearly touched, with no alert or anything. And the trail was relatively empty where this occurred — so why not just alter your path a little a give a wider berth as a courtesy? People are just selfish.

    Arlnow reports that the bike path was 8 feet wide where this particular accident occurred. That is plenty of room for the biker to have passed without slowing down too much, assuming there was no oncoming traffic.

  • JW

    I must say, given all of the conclusions that seem to have been drawn on this forum, the police must be thrilled that there were so many eyewitnesses to this event.

    Some cyclists pass carelessly or without warning.

    Some pedestrians walk around with their head in the clouds and block the trail.

    Stop generalizing to fit your own MEMEMEMEME perception of your right to use the trail.

  • http://cache.ohinternet.com/images/2/24/I_see_what_you_did_there_super.jpg BoredHouseWife

    Signs should be posted reminding people that “slower traffic keep right”. that way, the cyclist can pass you.
    It will probably more effective than on the interstate because there is no speed limit.

  • E-love

    The subject of speed and speed limits and slowing to pass shouldn’t even be discussed here. We don’t know how fast the cyclist was riding. If the person he was passing was unaware of trail protocol, or caught by surprise and walked into his path, it would not have mattered how fast he was going.

    You don’t need to be hit by a cyclist at high speed to sustain a head injury. I watched a woman on the trail get taken away by paramedics after she tripped while walking backwards as she was talking to her friend. She sustained a head injury under her own propulsion.

    Education and situational awareness are the answers here.
    Trail protocol posted at intersections would help.
    More important, people need to understand that while they are walking/jogging/riding a bike, on the trail, they are still in a lane of traffic and the rules of the road still apply.
    In the absence of facts, blaming cyclists and speed is simply short sighted.

    • Espiro

      Here’s the way I see it: The bicyclist saw the woman on the trail. He started saying “on your left”. He ran into her.

      It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter what the pedestrian did, short of attacking the bike deliberately when it went by.

      If I see you and I’m on my bike, I should be able to avoid you. No matter what you do.

      • Don Juan De Read the Article

        Maybe we read a different article. Lady walked into the guy. Short of him being clairvoyant, it would be pretty hard to guess that the old lady was going to walk into the next lane while he was passing. Please let me borrow your crystal ball, I need to win me the Lotto!

        • Espiro

          He could have still avoided her if he was not going too fast.

          • Greg

            Agreed. He probably called the pass too late for his speed. Note to bikers, if you call your pass while you are passing the person, you might as well not bother.

    • SouthArlJD

      The cyclist’s story seems to be that he was riding, came upon her, said “on your left”, and then she turned and that’s when they collided. This tells me that he did not leave sufficient time for her to react before he was upon her. She’s a 70 year old woman walking down the trail. No matter how well preserved she might have been it should have been obvious to this guy that he was approaching an older person. He’s approaching from her rear. He has no reason to believe that she is aware of his presence before he announces it. He has no reason to believe that she is aware of “trail etiquette”. The fact that he was so close that her decision to turn and see who had spoken rather than move aside resulted in this terrible incident means he WAS too close and he DID NOT exercise enough care to avoid an accident. If he’d slowed way down and announced from farther away he would have been able to avoid the accident even if she’d lurched into his lane.

      • Tabby_TwoTone

        Also, she could have hearing loss.

      • JW

        You might be surprised. Even at very low speeds, there is really not a lot of room/reaction time to avoid these things when a person turns like that, even without a “lurch”.

        PS – I think she’s already retained counsel. ;)

        • not your bro

          I should hope she had.

  • OldTimer

    Ringing a bell alerts people when something or someone is coming from behind. We are multi-cultural here in Arlington, so English MAY NOT be clearly understood. It is a possibility. Also, I cannot imagine how clear things sound when someone is approaching quickly from behind and yelling.

    • JW

      Do you all really think it’s the precise words or language that make the difference here? The point is that the words (in English, Czech, or any other language), or the bell, or the foghorn, are an audible warning. In my experience, most pedestrian users of the trail seem to get that, either by raising a hand, moving to the right, or holding their line and saying “thanks” when they are passed, in response to each of these options. If the story is to be believed, this one apparently reacted in a different way to what was apparently an effort by the cyclist to provide some sort of warning. I have a hard time believing that the words “passing” or the bell ringing would have made a difference. Conversely, perhaps it would be more effective to scream loudly “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” I suppose so, though I would imagine that the comments on the forum wouldn’t be about how considerate the cyclists were.

  • Ring my bell

    Evidently the VA laws don’t require a bell, but DC and MD do. I was taught to use a bell when you pass someone. Hearing some often unintelliglbe words even confuse me, and I’m a biker.

    http://www.potomacpedalers.org/?page=bikelaws

    “Audible Warnings:
    MD: Bell or other device required, sirens prohibited. DC: Bell or other device required, sirens prohibited. VA: Bell not required.”

  • blueflipflops

    If you wouldn’t do it in a car, don’t do it on a bike. Running red lights, stop signs, passing within inches of others, all behavior exhibited by bikers on WO&D. Just because you ‘need to keep your heart rate up’ doesn’t mean you cant slow down to pass pedestrians.

    some zero tolerance enforcement by the police in regards to bicycle laws are exactly what is needed. Nothing like a $170 ticket for running a red light on a bike to help set the record straight on who has the right of way.

    • not your bro

      Exactly, I love all the defensiveness from the same people on here who complain about cars and their drivers.

  • jakewill66

    I’ll bet that the majority of you blaming the cyclist have never or rarely ridden a bike on any of the trails around here. People panic and make sudden moves that cannot be avoided – regardless of speed. And as it was mentioned earlier – there’s no evidence that this cyclist was going 2 mph or 20 mph. Either could have caused the woman to fall and hit her head.

    Given that the cyclist only suffered minor injuries I would suspect he wasn’t in the 20 mph range. Not to mention that if a cyclist hit someone going that speed it would launch the cyclist over the handlebars causing significant injury to both.

    If a cyclist is on the road you all tell him to get on the trail, if they’re on the trail you tell them to get on the road. The anger that people on two wheels generate from the public is ridiculous. Yes, there are knuckleheads out there, but there are also a lot of rule abiding cyclists.

  • Neutrino

    The two things I hate most: cyclists and geriatrics. Ban them all.

  • Mc

    The core problem is that many cyclists don’t share the trial. They expect people to Watch out for them, and have eyes on the backs of their heads. Trials aren’t for racing or ‘training’.

    • nom de guerre

      You are right. “Trials” are for attorneys unless you are referring to a time trial, which is for cyclists.

  • Chinny McChipstah

    As a triathlete, I run and cycle the WO&D/Custis/MtVernon. If I really want to ride hard, I go out on the streets/trails super early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost been hit by cyclists while running. If Arlington really wants to be world-class, we need to redesign the paths to be separate. Ex: the bike path in in SoCal › Redondo to Hermosa to Manhattan then to Dockweiller then through to Venice then Santa Monica. If we made the investment in dedicated bike lanes any/everywhere possible, many more people would cycle. I often wish I could bike to the grocery store but am too afraid of cars on Lee Hwy.

  • A Beberman

    This was cleary an accident. My thoughts are with the lady who was involved and also her family.

    When I ride, pedestrians always have the right of way on the trail. I am aware that I need to maintain control and ride safely especially when approaching someone from behind.

    Bikes must always to yield to pedestrians.

  • Lita Arnold

    I am a 69-year-old woman who will turn 70 in September. I am hearing impaired, wear hearing aids, and depend on lipreading to understand anyone speaking to me. There’s no way I can understand any bike rider approaching from behind, even if he/she were at my shoulder. I like to walk on the trails and have tended to think that I am safe from being struck by a bicycle if I just stick to the right edge of the trail in front of me. I wish Arlington County would review this incident carefully and propose measures to make the trails safer for all its citizens, young and old. This accident should never have happened.

    • SomeGuy

      Lita, you’re doing exactly the right thing, and I don’t think you’re in much danger of being hit that way on the trail.

      Usually when I alert someone that I’m going to pass on their left, it’s merely as a courtesy. I.e. they’re already in the right-hand lane, and I’m just letting them know I’m approaching so I don’t spook them when I safely pass. In that case, even if they don’t hear me, they’re still in no danger because there’s plenty of room for me to pass on the left whether they know I’m about to do it or not. So it sounds like your bases are covered there.

      Sometimes there’s a problem when pedestrians or cyclists try to travel two-wide without consideration for either oncoming traffic or passing traffic. Or even if they’re not two-wide, sometimes individuals (bikes and pedestrians) inconsiderately use the middle of the trail without regard to other trail users.

      Be careful out there, but it sounds like you’re already doing what most people understand to be the proper norm. You’ll hear some anecdotes otherwise, but I’ve always seen people be very respectful on the trails when everyone’s following those guidelines.

  • cyclist

    It sounds like the cyclist involved was trying to warn. That sure beats no warning. Unfortunately, combined with likely too much speed, it backfired.

  • Get real

    Cyclists disregard for the law can cause real and significant harm to people. Fact.

    • cyclist

      People’s disregard for the law, when using a car, bike, or just their bodies, can cause real and significant harm to people. Fact.

    • Roadie

      Cars can cause orders of magnitude more death and destruction than any bicycle. Bicycles don’t wipe entire families off the earth. Bicycles don’t mow down crowds of observers. Despite the defensiveness of many on this board, and the odd hatred of cyclists, the fact is cars are just more dangerous. Of course drivers don’t break the law ever, so I guess there’s that.

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