I have been sharing my experiences with mixed-use paths for the past several months and there has been an ongoing discussion in this space about their value. My last post on the W&OD Trail is a good example.
On the whole, I find them to be nice but full of challenges. Sometimes, those challenges become too much of a bother for me so I elect to ride in the street, which is absolutely legal. The reaction of a small group of motorists would suggest they believe otherwise. They honk as they pass within inches of me, gesticulating wildly toward the “perfectly good” path on the side of the road.
Given that we have been discussing this issue off and on, I noted with interest yesterday’s WashCycle blog post, which concerned an email exchange between a concerned citizen and the Maryland Department of Transportation. The citizen was writing to complain about cyclists riding on a busy road during morning rush hour when a path was available to them next to the road. I thought the complainant (though in the wrong) was reasonable and shared a view that is all too common with motorists. I thought the MDOT reply was very well written and hopefully helped the motorist understand the situation a little better.
WashCycle points out that this continued confusion amongst motorists is in part due to recent changes in the law allowing cyclists to ride in roads. Although Maryland passed legislation in the late 1970s, other states (including Virginia) required cyclists to use pathways as late as 2005. Many drivers who received their training before the changes went into effect may be unaware of the change.