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Bikers Question Trail Speed Limit

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association says it's concerned about the plan to post 15 mph speed limits on the popular Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and the D.C. line.

The association asked cyclists who use the paved trail to urge Mary Bradford, the director of Parks for the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, "to open up a dialog among all trail user groups to better address safety."

"Trail safety is the responsibility of all people who use the trail, whether they are cyclists, runners, skaters or people walking their dogs," WABA said. "However, with the new safety plan, cyclists bear the brunt."

The association asks whether any effort be made to educate all trail users on proper trail etiquette.

The speed limit, the first one on the trail, is one of many steps the park and planning commission is taking right now to address trail safety. Because of that project, sections of the trail are closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays through this Friday. The work might be done sooner. (The trail is a commuter route for some cyclists.)

Post reporter Lori Aratani noted these things in her June 1 story:
-- The decision to establish the Bethesda limit rose out of discussions that began last year between commission officials and members of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, a citizens advisory and advocacy group. Both groups had been getting informal reports of growing numbers of collisions on the trail.
-- Park police will use radar guns to monitor traffic. Violators could face a $50 fine, but police will emphasize safety education rather than ticketing.
-- At the Little Falls Parkway and Dorset Avenue intersections, rumble strips are being installed to warn cyclists that they're approaching traffic. The speed limit is being stenciled on the trail in eight-foot letters.

Her story drew several letters to The Post.

Dave Nuttycombe of Silver Spring wrote: "It would be unfortunate if this poorly thought out fiat sent more cyclists onto roads -- which are much more dangerous places to exercise."

Herbert N. Jasper of Bethesda wrote: "The article about instituting speed limits on the Capital Crescent Trail was welcome news to those who walk on the trail. My wife and I walk there five days a week -- but never on Sunday. Why not Sunday? Because the risk of serious injury from the larger number of cyclists on weekends is far too great."

On the CommuterPageblog, cyclist Steve Offutt wrote this: "I was a regular commuter along that section of trail for more than a year, and I don't think imposing speed limits is the solution to what may or may not be a problem."

Like many of you, I've seen both sides: Cyclists speeding along crowded trails with their heads down, giving no warning to walkers as they pass; and walkers, standing three abreast across the pavement, lost in conversation, holding while their two leashed dogs complete the phalanx blocking the trail.

Seems like everyone's responsibility to make a crowded suburban trail work.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 10, 2008; 10:22 AM ET
Categories:  Biking  
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