Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Racing Cyclist Smacks Against Baby Stroller on Panhandle Path; Skirmish Follows

Sometimes the Panhandle Path works well for everyone.

The Panhandle is thriving as a neighborhood park

Walkers, joggers, and parents with kids in strollers sometimes choose the southern path instead.
Ongoing tensions between people walking and bicycling on the multiple-use Panhandle Path erupted into a skirmish Sunday morning, June 6th, after a racing cyclist smacked against a baby stroller. The father pushing the carriage and the cyclist started yelling at each other. Pushing and swinging blows followed until others on the path pulled the two men apart.

North Panhandle neighbor Jim Allen told BIKE NOPA Monday morning about the incident he witnessed the day before. "I was walking westbound about 30 yards behind the father and his infant in the stroller who were about 40 yards from Stanyan Street. There was another couple walking past the stroller and they may have temporarily crossed into the eastbound lane. Right then a biker swooped onto the Path after crossing the street (Stanyan) and tried to squeeze between the walkers and the dad with a stroller. He whacked the stroller pretty hard and then cursed the dad for blocking the path."

Allen said the skirmish lasted only for a minute before he and others on the path pulled the two men apart. The father was shaken by the experience, although the stroller was not overturned, and no one was injured. The bicyclist mounted his bike and rode off.

Allen and several other neighbors have complained about the hazards of the multi-use path, especially as the good weather brings out more people walking and biking. He noted that the situation is particularly hazardous for parents with strollers and for elderly people from Mercy Terrace (located at Baker and Fell Street) who use the path daily.

Several observers have called for posting signs to "Share the Path" and "Slow Down for Walkers." That strategy might influence some bicyclists to reduce their speed, but it is unlikely to have the hoped-for impact on those who already ride too fast.
Others have proposed a bike lane along Fell Street from Baker to Stanyan Streets, situated between the parked cars and the park. That option might offer riders a place to travel at higher speeds and a more predictable cross-town commute, while improving safety and comfort for people walking on the path and getting a casual bike ride.

Dale Danley, neighborhood organizer of the Panhandle Park Stewards, agrees the Panhandle Path has become a real problem. "With more people cycling and walking on the path, we've reached a tipping point, so the path is no longer pleasant or safe," he said. Danley added that he will be meeting later this month with Recreation and Parks Department officials, and he will make the case for a more comprehensive plan for upgrading both the north and south side paths in the Panhandle.


  1. Not an entirely surprising incident. As somebody who rides that route during the evening "rush hour" through the Panhandle, I don't think the solution is to "share the path" but to rather fix the pathway on the *opposite* site of the park which as far as I can tell is intended for pedestrians (the split of the pathways at Stanyan/Fell & Oak makes this pretty clear).

    That other pathway is poorly lit at night, in terrible condition and too narrow. I don't think cyclists, joggers, walkers and baby strollers can fit on just the one bike path.

  2. Tyler, I've heard from several people who also think that upgrading the opposite side (south side) path is what we should do next, many of them coming from the perspective of people walking in the park, to and from the playground.

    Still, I don't think I'd feel satisfied to just push for an upgrade of the south path. The division of cyclists/walkers to their own path shouldn't become stricter. Sometimes people want to access a particular part of the park, or to make a loop walk. People walking could end up feeling even less welcome on the north path than they do now. And, I don't think we need to settle for just that upgrade.

  3. From the perspective of a local resident who uses the Panhandle bike path daily as a cyclist and pedestrian I feel too many bikes travel at unsafe speeds. They are just as bad as the drivers on the street that cyclist complain about. It a is a multi use path and that needs to be respected. There are children, strollers, elderly, homeless cart pushers, and people with dogs. Riding at leisurely pace allows everyone on the path to get where they are going in one piece without conflict. If people want to ride fast they should stay on the street.

  4. Agreed with Kelly J. I use the path as a runner, walker, causally on my bike and sometimes on my bike with somewhere to go and a deadline - aka riding as quickly safety allows. I would much rather be riding along Fell or Oak when I've got somewhere to go. Not only is it safer for everyone involved, but the lights are timed so it's easy to make good time.

    The solution is pretty simple... take 6 feet of those 50 foot streets and put in a left-side bike lane. It'll be a little tricky at Masonic but a similiar treatment to what is being done at the Fell and Acro station would work well there.

  5. The south-side path was in shambles 10 years ago when all you had to worry about was a few other cyclists and drug zombies. I don't think the city ever budgeted for correcting problems related to the "bike boom" of recent years.

    The point is repaving bike paths is seen as a generational event- once every 30-40 years. When exactly was the south side path last (or first) paved? Anyone remember?

  6. Submitted via email by Grego:

    Fast cyclists should use the street. If you're moving that fast,take the right-side lane on Oak or Fell. I do, and when starting from Stanyan when it's light turns green, I make every light down past Divisadero. It's a good challenge, and good fun, every time.

    The panhandle path is for slow cyclists and other users. Don't use it for "racing".

  7. Most bikers on the path are pretty good at sharing. There is a big difference in the speed I'm comfortable going on the path at midnight on Tuesday and 3pm Saturday. Racing is for staying with the green wave on Oak (easy for me, when it isn't clogged up with cars) and Fell (I only try this when I'm feeling extra fast) ;-)

    With big crowds comes the occasional wacko who missed the memo that the faster person should only pass when safe. See you out there.