Common Sense Courtesy For Users of the SW Path

By Ann Clark
The new Southwest Path is a resounding success. Although the city won't have use statistics until later this year, it is, as planned, already fully multi-modal. It is full of dogwalkers, joggers, rollerbladers, families with a baby carriage out for a stroll, elderly walkers, bike commuters, wheelchair users and cross-country skiers. It is the place where your eight-year old safely puts the finishing touches on her bike techniques, and the neighborhood gathering point where you get to know new folks and run into people you haven't seen in years.
Now all this buzzing activity is a stretch for a single 10-foot wide stretch of asphalt. To be certain it is truly safe and a pleasant place for all users, there need to be some guidelines we all follow. And we all need to be friendly (say hi!) and thoughtful of the other folks we're sharing this terrific experience with.
According to Arthur Ross, the city's Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, "The safest way for all users to share the path is for everyone traveling in the same direction to travel on the same side of the path, on the right. Faster users should yield the right of way to slower users. Always travel at a safe speed, with due regard for the safety of others. Anyone who finds the path too slow or congested may want to consider alternate routes."
He further cautions,"Those faster travelers wanting to pass someone must warn them audibly BEFORE passing. Calling out: "Passing left" or "On your left" tells them that you are coming, and where you'll be as you pass them. This is especially important for bicyclists, who are coming up silently behind dogs, children and nature lovers, any of whom may do the unexpected."
He listed other important guidelines:

  • All users should keep to the right of the center line. Groups need to leave room for others to pass. An exception may be dogwalkers whose dogs have been trained to heel on the left. You may want to walk OFF the path, on the grass shoulder, facing oncoming traffic.
  • If you stop for any reason, move off the pavement.
  • Dogs must be leashed (6 foot maximum leash length), and you must scoop the poop. Other path users and neighboring home owners don't know that your dog is reliably a sweetheart, and poor Lake Wingra is only a storm sewer pipe away. Problems? Call Animal Control, 267-1989. Even if they can't catch the miscreant in action, you are building a record of problems which will get them to the site proactively in the future.
  • Be careful when crossing streets. Bicyclists must obey any stop signs or other traffic signs facing the path. Always watch for traffic and make sure drivers are aware of the path and your presence.