Bollards on the Lower Don Recreation Trail may be a danger to cyclists, but other trail users would be happy to see more of them.
One of our columns last week was about newly installed bollards where the multi-use trail passes through a parking lot, intended to separate bike traffic from cars, to keep cyclists safe.
Lawyer Mark Arnold, who rides his bike on the trail, told us the bollards are a hazard to cyclists coming down a hill and into the parking lot, where they could smash into them and be seriously injured.
The city won’t budge on the bollards, which is not the response Arnold is looking for. He’d like them replaced with flexible stanchions, a good idea.
We pledged in that column to continue advocating for cyclists, which rubbed some people the wrong way, including John Spears, a friend and one of the best reporters we ever worked with, before he retired from the Star.
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Spears, a former city hall bureau chief who jogs on the trail, sent us a note that aptly captures the tension between cyclists and pedestrians who fear being buzzed by bikes passing just inches away at high speed.
He began by saying Arnold is “wrong.” He went on to say the problem is cyclists “who ride down that hill too fast. The problem with the existing set-up is that there are too few bollards, not too many.
“I have run along that trail regularly for 20 years and cyclists have always come down that hill too fast, disregarding anyone — cyclists or pedestrians — coming the other way.
“On Sunday I happened to be at the bottom of the hill just as two women started up at the very place Arnold writes about. One of the women had her hand on her friend’s arm. In the other hand she carried a white cane.
“A little farther along I came upon a young mother with a baby strapped to her chest, walking several feet off the trail. She held a 2- or 3-year-old girl by the hand and was warning her to stay off the trail, ‘because the bicycles come so fast.’
“A wonderful life lesson for the child: Park trails are too dangerous for children, because of the cyclists.
“I once had a cyclist swear at me because I had stopped on the trail to watch a pileated woodpecker. Imagine, using a park trail for bird-watching.”
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He noted that “many cyclists seem to think every off-road pathway is a trail for cyclists, and no one else.”
Spears proposed a fix on the hill that would surely annoy riders but make the path much safer for everyone else: “More bollards, from top to bottom, so that cyclists would have to zig-zag around them at moderate speed all the way down.”
Given that many cyclists “don’t seem to understand the concept of sharing pathways, then physical barriers to slow them down are the only solution,” Spears wrote.
Some cyclists indeed see the trail as their personal highway, but how do you slow them down? It’s the same on sidewalks occupied by bike riders seeking a safe space from cars.
Cyclists will say they’re not nearly the danger to pedestrians that cars are to them. But they’re dismissing how frightening it is to have a bike zip past — so close that you can feel the breeze from it — and wonder what would have happened if they’d made a wrong step.
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