Thursday, July 26, 2012
 

W&OD Trail safety meeting in Vienna

We attended a meeting last night on W&OD Trail safety, organized by the Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee. Several safety measures were proposed that included widening the trail, posting a recommended speed limit for cyclists when pedestrians are present, using thermoplastic rumble strips similar to those used on other sections of the trail, and caution signs warning of congested areas.

In attendance were Karl Mohle, Trail manager, Town Councilmember Laurie Cole, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado, and Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee members Cris Janoski, Bob McCahill, Sean McCall, and David Schultz.

The meeting was prompted by concerns expressed by the Town Council regarding safety on the Trail. See the ABC 7 article Washington and Old Dominion trail to become subject of new campaign.

W&OD Trail manager Karl Mohle
Center in green jersey
According to Karl, NVRPA does not keep statistics on trail crashes or other safety incidents nor do they regularly receive reports from police when there is a crash. Trail Patrol members often report incidents that they encounter. There are 50-75 active Trail Patrol members, some of whom ride the full length of the trail on a regular basis. Vienna police keep stats on Trail crashes but no police reps were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the topic.

The Trail in Vienna is relatively narrow in several sections where there are often more users than in many other sections of the Trail. The parallel gravel trail, which along most of the trail west of Vienna provides an option for some runners and walkers, ends just west of the Town. Widening the trail where possible is one of the better options.

Using common sense is probably the best option. We've seen far too many pedestrians wandering across the trail oblivious to oncoming trail users and cyclists riding much too fast when other, slower users are on the trail. We all need to be respectful of other trail users.

There was a long discussion about the effectiveness of having a low speed limit on the trail in Vienna. Trail speed limits are mostly unenforceable. The Trail has never had a speed limit, unlike some other regional trails that have a 15 mph speed limit. The safe speed depends on so many variables such as weather, congestion on the trail, the type of trail users, the location, etc.

The one proposal in which there was some consensus was to warn bicyclists to go slow when the trail is congested. Like I said, using common courtesy and respect for other trail users is the best option.

Separate pedestrian and bicycle travel lanes on
bridge in Portland, OR
We suggested, and the Vienna BAC is planning, to create an on-street alternative for bicyclists through Vienna. An example is the Mt Vernon Trail in Alexandria which is mostly on-road for bicyclists. One bypass option would take cyclists along the Richard Black Trail adjacent to Northside Park to Glyndon St. The would follow Glyndon to the end to Valley St to another short connecting trail to return the W&OD Trail. The other option would be hillier, taking a short trail across from the Richard Black Trail to Center St and follow Center St to Cherry St to the W&OD Trail at the Community Center.

There was also talk about creating separated bicycle and pedestrian sections of the trail. This is done in many European cities and I've seen it on bridges in Portland, Oregon. However, there may not be enough right of way to widen the trail enough for this option.

Karl said that NVRPA plans to move the trail adjacent to the Community Center to pass through the existing parking lot, which is owned by NVRPA. The current trail location is on Town of Vienna Property and is one of the more narrow sections. This would also reduce a tight curve and should be a benefit trail users and eliminate the many people who now cross the trail to get to their cars in the existing parking lot.

Karl said he would review the various options suggested at the meeting and would consider using some of the more experimental treatments in Vienna as a test of their effectiveness.

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Comments:
Good balanced, post. Thank you, Bruce.

Any safety campaign has to focus as heavily on pedestrian behavior as it does on cyclist behavior.

There are a lot of tuned-out joggers who should let one ear bud out so they can hear, and a lot of people not fully watching their kids or leashing their pets on a busy trail. I find this rather frustrating. I saw four unleashed dogs within a mile of each other within the Town of Vienna on one lunch time ride last week! I mean: four?! Four?! Aack! What is up with that?! (I reported the four loose dogs via a Trail Patrol report.)

I don't personally think speed limits do that much. Being hit by a bike traveling 10 mph or 15 mph is going to hurt and probably will cause injury. I'd rather observe safe speed (which is usually much below that in isolated areas of high traffic) and seek to avoid collision altogether! It does help, however, to be notified that one is entering a high traffic area on a shared trail. That's a good use of signage. And I think the rumble strips do have an effect on behavior. The rumble strips have to be of the sort that don't trip up rollerbladers. The trail has that type now. Considering where to put them and maintaining existing ones is helpful, imho.
 
You might want to check into the physics on the effect of speed. The formula for the energy in motion–kinetic energy–is one-half of the product of multiplying the mass of the moving object (weight of the rider) times the square of the velocity:

E = ½mv²

This means the energy in a collision goes up with the square of the velocity:

o doubling speed quadruples energy in a collision
o halving speed reduces energy in a collision by three-fourths
 
You might want to check into the physics on the effect of speed. The formula for the energy in motion–kinetic energy–is one-half of the product of multiplying the mass of the moving object (weight of the rider) times the square of the velocity:

E = ½mv²

This means the energy in a collision goes up with the square of the velocity:

o doubling speed quadruples energy in a collision
o halving speed reduces energy in a collision by three-fourths
 

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