Parks Director Tracy Domingues suggested a publicity and signage campaign to educate and promote new common sense rules for everyone using the path such as:
• Pedestrians have the right of way.
• All users should obey the “rules of the road” and stay to the right on the path.
• All pedestrians should be considerate of others and all youth bicyclists should have adult supervision.
All good recommendations, however the majority of walkers and joggers using the marina already use common sense and courtesy and don’t need regulation. Unfortunately, the majority of bikers wheeling and racing around the marina do need rules of common courtesy.
Specifically referring to bicyclists, the newly proposed rules state that all bicyclists should ride in a single lane, pass on the left, warn pedestrians of their presence, slow down and use care when passing. If bikers can pass a pedestrian, they are going too fast for a walkway.
Another consideration is one-way traffic for all users with dotted lines down the center of the path and stenciled arrows marked “Keep to the right.” Also, new signage will be posted around the park notifying users that “this is a multi-use path, pedestrians have the right of way, use caution.” Bikers are so busy dodging, bullying and intimidating pedestrians they don’t have time to read signs.
At the meeting, Sparks resident Linda Pizano said, “People with machines seem to make it a sport finding and using people as targets, bobbing and weaving between them. I personally had seen a baby of 2 years old walk right in front of a bike, nearly being hit. I myself had a broken elbow and for 3 months I walked around at the marina every day. I was terrified every time a biker passed me because all I could think of was, ‘What if they hit me with this arm already broken?’ The fear was real.
“Some bikers will say, ‘Right behind you,’ but they have clearly passed you while uttering these words; there is not enough time to react. In fact, most of the time it frightens me and makes me jump, sometimes right into their way. Besides, I usually have an iPod listening to my music so half the time I don’t even hear what they say even though I am trying to be aware of my surroundings.”
During the discussion, one of the committee members said he didn’t walk at the marina. He went to Idlewild Park in Reno where bikes are prohibited on the walkway. Protecting pedestrians from rude bikers, the city of Reno doesn’t allow bikers on its river walk from downtown to Idlewild Park. Even Sparks City Attorney Chet Adams mentioned that during his walks around the marina he noticed bikers passing pedestrians as if they were orange cones.
Admitting there is a conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, Councilwoman Julia Ratti instructed staff to find solutions regarding the problem and said, “I want something done.” Good for her. We’ll see what gets done.
If you have a problem, get rid of the source. Multi-use status at the marina is the problem. The city will argue the marina was designed as a multiple-use path, but there is a difference between a multiple-use path and a multi-use walkway. The proposed rules for the “path” cannot be enforced on the walkway. Prohibiting cyclists from using the walkway using discretionary enforcement is the only logical solution and can be easily implemented.
The question is: Will the committee prefer to defer? Will they take the slow Fabianistic approach allowing cyclists to use the pathway while protecting its multi-use status? Will they wait until someone is seriously hurt before they take the appropriate action? Or will they prohibit bikers from using the walkway, protecting the pedestrians from the bikers and insulating the city from possible liability in the future?
We shouldn’t have to establish rules of engagement for the battle between pedestrians and cyclists. We should prohibit bikers from using the walkway because, as Linda Pizano said at the meeting, “The park should be a peaceful, joyful, pleasant experience.”
David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.