Mark and Carrie share a no-prize on wheels that'll careen right past them for bringing us today's "having solved all other problems, the Post takes on:"
Once a quiet getaway for lazy afternoon bicyclists and early-morning strollers, the [W&OD] trail has turned into a crowded commuter alley on weekdays and an overcrowded recreational destination on weekends, a place where sometimes speeding cyclists, in-line skaters, walkers, joggers and others fight for a narrow slice of pavement, with increasingly dangerous results.
Help! Help! The crowding's everywhere! We have to get the government to do something!
I ride the W&OD, on many of the specific portions they refer to, at least three to five times a week. I've commuted to work a few times as well. Yes, it can get a bit congested in some places at some times, but really, it's not that crowded. The Mount Vernon trail, held up in this article as the somewhat safer also-ran of "killer trails", is far more narrow and crowded than any section of the W&OD I've ever been on. The citation of fatalities is somewhat specious as well, since (to my knowledge) all but one in the past thirty years have ocurred at vehicle crossings.
This is not to say bicyclists are blameless, far from it. The vast majority of "crash tales" I read about on the various bike message boards I frequent could all have been prevented with a simple application of the brakes. Pedestrians being aware of the world around them would most likely take care of the rest.
In other words, just like the highways, the trails could be made much safer by people pulling their heads out of their asses and paying attention. Warn when passing, or pass well to the left. Slow the hell down if passing will be blocked. Walk to the right, on the right edge if you can, and in single file. Run a line in the middle of the right side, don't wander back and forth across the centerline. Bikers should treat kids like IEDs with Haji's finger on the button, and dogs should be on leashes and not allowed to string them across the width of the trail.
Follow these simple rules and accidents will evaporate like dew on handlebars. Me, I'm going to keep using those trails because if I get in an altercation with a pedestrian or another bicyclist, odds are I'll get hurt. If I get into an altercation with a car, I'll most likely get killed.