Letter: Separate cyclists and pedestrians on greenways

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Cyclists and people unhappy with them have written to the press recently. Their presence on the roads and hiking trails, along with motorists and hikers, has been discussed. I hate to pile further on them, having much enjoyed cycling myself in the past, but I must add a concern about greenways.

In part because October is the month designated for Audiology Awareness, I write on behalf of the many people who love to walk and are pleased to see greenways developing, but who fear they won’t be able to use those wonderful places. That’s because pedestrians so often get lumped together with cyclists for such healthy alternatives to roadways.

They need to be clearly separated. If not, pedestrians with hearing that is not acute become accidents waiting to happen. And, thanks to noise on the battlefield and even in the everyday environment, the numbers of people, both young and old, with hearing loss in our community is increasing.

If you can’t hear the sound of someone approaching behind you on a bicycle, and maybe can’t even hear them shout out or hear the bell the more conscientious of them may be using, you can’t step aside to make way for them.

People with hearing loss often don’t fill their side of the bargain by using assistive technology. Yet that technology, which isn’t perfect, improves all the time. Hearing aids and cochlear implants make a big difference in relationships and general functioning.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, at 10:15 a.m., at the meeting of the Asheville chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America at CarePartners, Tracie Rice, audiologist at Western Carolina University, will talk about new developments in hearing aid technology. She will also be offering tips about communication when one partner has a hearing loss, and telling us something about her roles in the clinic and department at WCU.

But no current technology removes the risk in putting pedestrians with hearing loss and cyclists on the same path. So, please, planners of greenways, take that into account. Don’t make what is pleasurable and healthy a cause of possibly severe problems. Neither cyclists nor pedestrians want to experience avoidable collisions.

— Ann Karson

Editor’s note: Karson is chairperson of the Asheville Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. She can be reached at 828-665-8699 or akarson57@gmail.com.

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5 thoughts on “Letter: Separate cyclists and pedestrians on greenways

  1. Mike

    A bicycle running downhill at 30 MPH is traveling 44 feet / second. Under the dubious assumption that the average person can respond to hearing the bike in 1 second the bike must be heard almost 50 feet away. For someone even with good hearing and NOT texting on the phone or listening to music, it is difficult to hear a high performance bicycle with narrow high pressure tires at that distance.

    So I agree that separation is ideal. … even if it is just a line down the middle of a 6′ wide paved path. In lieu of that, applying a 10 MPH speed limit to the
    bikes would be a reasonable compromise.

  2. Jay Reese

    It was difficult enough to get the Greenways built, it’s doubtful we will ever get separate paths for pedestrians. It is safer if cyclist travel at a speed of 15 mph or less in order to maintain control and pedestrians walk in a straight line on the right size of the path. As with cars and cyclist on the road, pedestrians and cyclist need to be aware of each other and just share the lane

  3. cyclist

    It’s important to understand that multi-use paths aren’t intended for cyclists to speed or get their intense workout. Cyclists should always try to make other users aware of their presence well before passing and pass at a slow rate of speed (maybe a little faster than the pedestrians) when there is space, Good cyclists never call out “on your left!” — people often move left when hearing that. Use a bell or say “passing” and pass cautiously when safe. Pedestrians should endeavor to always leave space for cyclists to pass, even when walking side-by-side. People walking dogs should keep the dogs on a short leash and under control to prevent them from causing a cyclist to crash. If we all follow good etiquette and are considerate of others, there is no reason why we can’t all use the same path, hearing and non-hearing impaired alike.

  4. clayton moore

    My quextion: what is up with bicyclists riding on narrow roads like Merrimon Ave?
    Driverless cars are here now (i.e. they ain’t paying attention so the cars are driverless).
    So, when we see stories of some hapless biker being flattened by a car/truck on Merryman Ave. what is the answear?

    • Jay Reese

      I routinely ride on Merrimon Ave without issue. The same with all the other main roads like Hendersonville Rd and Brevard Rd. The reason I do is because the law allows me and I assume the drivers will obey the law and share the road. The answer is not to blame the victim but to make drivers more aware of cyclist on the road. One way to do that is to increase the amount of cyclist riding in traffic. The more of us there are the better for everyone including drivers due to the calming effect of cyclist on traffic. Slower speeds are safer for drivers.

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