As of late, I’ve been spending a lot more time walking and running on the path with Truman and Luci than I am riding and its not been pleasant.

As bicyclists we all know the annoying pedestrian habits: Walking a dog and letting it run all over the path, stopping for seemingly no reason, walking over the yellow line, listening to music so loud they can’t hear anything. The list can go on and on.

As a pedestrian I’ve been surprised at how often cyclists do some pretty obnoxious things.

What has surprised me the most is the shear lack of acknowledgment about passing. In the last week I counted about 100 bikes that passed us. Only 4 rang a bell or said something to let us know they were passing. I am one of those people who almost annoyingly rings a bell even if the person walking has earphones in.

I’ve also been surprised at the number of people who cut you off trying to get around you without having to slow down and wanting to beat the oncoming traffic.

It has opened my eyes on the importance of letting pedestrians know I am coming and being willing to slow down sometimes.

It’s good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes once in a while. Now if we could just get all those silly pedestrians on bikes.

26 thoughts on “A pedestrians perspective on the Rillito path”
  1. I must admit I’m guilty of not being 100% for giving a verbal warning. But I always slow down and get ready to squeeze the brakes when kids are around. They are more unpredictable than animals.

    Really the only times I give an “on your left” is when I feel the person I’m passing isn’t intent on riding, running, or walking in a straight line.

  2. Pedestrians used to face cyclists on the path like they face traffic on the roads. It made sense and maintained continuity with traffic logic.
    Pedestrians weren’t startled and everyone could see each other.
    Thanks goes to some county bureaucrat who ‘fixed’ something that wasn’t broken.

  3. I used to give verbal warnings, but since stopped. Why? After many, and I mean many surprised people jumping or even shrieking, I just ride by. I’m not out there to give anyone a heart attack. I guess maybe I’ll get a bell, or some other noise maker. But the same can be said of other cyclists passing me (I’m a slow-poke), only maybe 10% give me any warning.

  4. The asphalt is nice and there are no cars going in and out of driveways and cross streets, but other than that it can at times be just as dangerous as riding on the sidewalk. And it’s no ones fault. It calls into question whether these mixed-use paths can be viable for speedy rec riding or commute/utility cycling.

  5. You are right. I am surprised we don’t hear about more crashes on the path.

    I do not enjoy the path for recreational riding especially when riding with someone else.

    In fact the last time I was on the path with someone, we actually hopped off the path and onto River to be able to talk a little easier.

    It’s great for slower riding especially with the kids.

  6. Yeah that’s a good point. People don’t know what to do. I use a bell mostly and that seems to work well. Maybe a little education on both sides.

  7. Yes! I have been saying this for years! I think the solution is not so much with ringing a bell or alerting a pedestrian as it is by simply riding at a reasonable pace. Any pedestrian on a greenway knows there will be bicyclists, but I don’t think they should have to deal with people hauling ass to get their workout. This is one reason I am so wary of the loop — I think it is going to be a great excuse for the lycra-clad among us to get out there and see how fast they can ride it. These greenway areas should be for families, for gentle commute purposes, and for pleasurable riding, not for training for the damn El Tour. They are also a particularly bad place for riding in large groups.

  8. I always call out “passing on your left” and use my bell. I try to be sure that I’ve been heard before I pass. If I need to slow down, I do. It’s really important that we (cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, et al.) are all behaving safely. If everyone looks out for everyone else, then the path is OK for all. I hope that there’s never a serious accident, both so no one gets hurt, but also so there’s never a restriction on use imposed as a result of any accident. I don’t want to see a speed limit of 8 MPH or the like.

    Also, I’m firm in my belief that, no matter what, if a child is involved in an accident, it’ll be my fault that the accident occurred. It’s my responsibility to watch out for any kid on the path regardless of circumstances.

  9. “I think it is going to be a great excuse for the lycra-clad among us to get out there and see how fast they can ride it.”


  10. Good article, Michael. I’ve not once hear a cyclist warn of his or her approach while walking my dog (on leash) along the path, but I’ve heard many a dog-owner ask, “May we approach?” The social decorum among pedestrians and dog walkers appears to be more robust than with cyclists, perhaps due to the speed at which one is moving.

  11. The issue with yelling “on your left!” or similar while passing pedestrians is that they invariably seem to immediately get confused and walk directly into your path. A bell or simply “Look out!” probably less confusing.
    One thing you can do is flag these paths on Strava as being hazardous so that it invalidates the leaderboard. This way lycra road cyclists and triathletes are less likely to try and bomb down at 25mph to chase down the high score.

  12. I no warn pedestrians/runners when I pass them on the river path. Over the years I have had too many people react adversely to the warning. I do slow down when necessary and if necessary ask to get by when needed.
    The biggest issue I find with other cyclist is that they are not aware of their surrounding. This is often because they are in a hurry or trying to go too fast. The biggest issue I have found with pedestrians is that they are not aware of their surrounding.

    The other issue is the entitlement to the path. This goes both ways as well.

  13. That may be true, but I have never heard of a bicycle showing aggression towards another bicycle. The same can’t be said of a dog.

  14. My fear is that we are going to end up with 5 or 8 mph speed limits, like on some California multi-use paths. I always call out “passing”. I also will slow around Children’s Memorial Park, most of the underpasses, and other potential congested areas.

  15. Further thoughts:

    Tend to think lycra-clads (of which Red Star is a member sometimes) will self-exclude from the paths for serious training and basic maintenance because even though the pavement is excellent and interesting, the congestion is bad in places and times of day and season. Who wants to break an elbow or something because of a dog or earbuds? You can ride some nice, fun and fast rides on the Rillito and the other ones for a while, but it’s truncated by sudden changes in usage. It’s not pleasant, not worth it.

    Regardless of yelling “passing!” “on your left!” bells, and even dorky airhorns, tend to think the cyclist will almost invariably be found at fault in a collision with a dog or ped on these mixed-use paths. The last clear chance thing. And that’s probably how it should be.

    So, yes keep the speed down and be careful. Train and maintain elsewhere, the usual places.

  16. Mark – I’m with you. If I’m on a bike with a bell I use it. Heck, a bike bell works everywhere. But verbal warnings on the path just seem to be more confusing than they are worth. I just slip by quietly unless they are completely blocking the way.

  17. Since I am deaf, I tried giving verbal warning and they seems not to get it… so I decided to switch to whistling… They will start looking back and move aside… so far whistling works for me (it’s not a high pitch whistle, sort of mid-tone whistle)

  18. How many incidents have we heard about cyclists slamming into pedestrians on the Rillito? I haven’t heard of a single one. Use your street smarts, it’s really, really, really not hard to stay safe on those paths. I’m more sketched out by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre looking trailerpark on the path than anybody’s behavior. Articles like this are nothing but an over analysis.

  19. Now if we could just get the peds to realize, “So, this is what it must be like for cyclists on the road to be constantly annoyed by speeding cars and have my life endangered every minute!” This is where real education could begin!

  20. I am also a frequent bell ringer. I wish you had to have a bell here. My other major concern, for cyclists and pedestrians, LIGHTS! With less daylight, I hate riding home from work and not seeing people until I’m right up on them. So, get lights or reflective clothing, for everyone’s safety.

  21. One should understand that the newer sections of the path are actually designed following the model design developed by civil engineers where pedestrians are intended to stay on the dirt path separated from the paved traffic. It is actually desiged intending that pedestrians would not be on the pavement. As a runner and a cyclist I understand this. I also only use the path for my easiest rides or to get somewhere else to ride hard.

  22. As a ‘hardcore’ runner (no headphones, would break the hypothetical 8 mph speed limit on some runs), and commuter rider (though not on the Rillito), I find the ‘on your left’ business incredibly annoying.

    I expect that there are lots of cyclists on this path, and I am not going to suddenly veer in your direction.  More ‘ordinary’ yoggers cannot hear you.

    For whom are you really dinging?

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