Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Pedestrians take advantage of the spring weather on the greenway in Wasena Park on Thursday.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Cyclists and walkers share the Roanoke River Greenway near Smith Park in Roanoke.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Warren Schimizzi is an ardent bicyclist who lives in the Garden City area. He races, and he rides for pleasure and commuting. His wife, Paula, rides a lot, too.
But one of the places you’re less likely to see their spinning wheels is on the Roanoke River Greenway, especially the stretch between Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and Black Dog Salvage in the West End neighborhood .
It’s out of control, the Schimizzis told me after a bicycle-safety meeting Thursday night at the South Roanoke County library. It was convened by Roanoke County Supervisor Charlotte Moore.
What was once a nice path for people to both walk and ride on has become, at certain times and places, a not-so-great place to do either. As its popularity grows and more people crowd onto it, the number of conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians is growing, too.
The etiquette issue was explicitly recognized at Thursday’s meeting by Roanoke Valley Greenways Coordinator Liz Belcher.
“I do understand we have a problem,” she said.
Those are numerous, and depend upon one’s perspective.
If you’re a cyclist, the menaces are many. There are people who walk three, four and five abreast, blocking the entire pathway.
There are dog walkers with long leashes — sometimes those pooches stretch them across the path. Bicyclist Chris Berry came across one of those last September on the Tinker Creek Greenway while riding at a leisurely 15 mph.
In avoiding the dog, he fell and broke his wrist. “It still hurts like hell,” Berry said. The pet owner screamed at him.
Some runners wear earbuds and can’t hear the ding of a bell or a warning from an approaching cyclist over the music.
Many walkers appreciate called-out warnings and thank bicyclists for them. But a sizable percentage of the time, pedestrians misinterpret a shout of “on your left!” Warren Schimizzi noted.
They hear it and move to their left, into a cyclist’s path. I’ve experienced this numerous times both in Roanoke and Salem.
For that reason, on the infrequent occasions he’s on the greenway, Schimizzi gives no warning when he’s about to pass. It’s about the only way he’s guaranteed not to hit a pedestrian, he said. But that startles many walkers, too.
“I will tell you that pedestrians on the greenway feel buzzed by the bicyclists,” Belcher said.
One of them is runner Leslie Miller of Blacksburg, who was not at Thursday’s meeting.
Miller trains on the Huckleberry Trail. Sunday morning, running without earbuds, she counted 14 cyclists who passed her with no warning. She could hear the mountain bikers coming — generally they’re slower and noisier.
The problem was the riders on expensive road bikes who were flying. “I couldn’t hear them coming,” Miller said. Each one of them startled her.
Belcher told the group at Thursday’s meeting that she has no answers but would like to hear some.
“Stripe the entire greenway,” Warren Schmizzi suggested. He lived in Denver for a time, and that city’s extensive greenway network has a center line stripe that reminds users to keep to the right.
There’s a short and curvy section of the Roanoke River Greenway near the hospital that was striped a couple of years ago after walkers and cyclists complained of accidents and near misses.
But the city has been reluctant to stripe the entire thing out of concern it would look too much like a road and attract motorized vehicles, Belcher said.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense. A center stripe ought to be painted at least through River’s Edge and Smith and Wasena Parks. It might help remind users to keep right.
In the meantime, there are a few simple rules that would make everyone happier if they were followed:
We can all have a good time on the greenway, so long as we’re considerate of others and willing to share.
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