A few weeks ago, just outside of Washington, D.C., a woman was hit and killed by a man on a bicycle while walking on a paved multi-use trail, aka a “bike path.” It was a tragic accident. My heart goes out to any and all that knew and loved her. It also distressed me to read the anti-cyclist reaction in the comment sections of local online news sources and neighborhood forums, when all of this could have been avoided with a few simple precautions.
When various news sites reported the story online, the comments were predictably absurd. There were all sorts of attacks on bikes that reflected more on anti-bike sentiment than on the incident in question. “The path is for everyone not a bunch of spandex wearing Armstrong wannabes,” wrote one commenter. A member of the Fairfax Underground forum posted a story about the incident under this headline: “Bicyclist Mows Down Old Lady and Kills Her.” “Kill all cyclists,” replied a second member, “problem solved.”
A little more attention to the specifics, and the authors of these remarks would have known how off-base they were. The bike rider in this incident was a man in his early 60s. He was riding an $88 department store bike, a NEXT Power Climber. I doubt that he was training for a race. He claims he gave both a ring of his bell and an audible, “on your left,” to the elderly pedestrian. But apparently the alert caused her to step in front of him rather than out of his way. The collision knocked her backward onto the pavement, according to the police report, where she struck her head.
Clearly, there are things both people could have done to avoid the accident. But it is largely the responsibility of bicyclists to avoid collisions like this.