While you rarely see horseback riding on the W&OD Trail cinder path, it is still important for everyone to share the trail. Cyclists, runners, rollerbladers, walkers, jogging stroller pushers and dog walkers all need to communicate to avoid chaos and unnecessary injury. This wonderful resource enables Northern Virginians of all ages, sizes and shape to get free exercise, fresh air and to see the natural surroundings that we are lucky to have at our doorsteps.
This “Rail to Trail” route spans the Washington, D.C. area. You can bike from 4 Mile Run, inside the DC Beltway, to Leesburg and beyond. This is a terrific part of the Northern Virginia Park system. However, with the advent of better weather, basic safety needs to be followed. When passing a slower moving person, it’s important to give a safety warning. Calling out, “passing on your Left,” will greatly help a fellow cyclist. But even runners may startle on a dog walker, stroller pusher or walker when using the paved or cinder trails. Calling out “approaching on the right” or “passing on the left” gives an audible warning when crossing the trail from a side road or cross street.
In order to race more safely, Doug Landau has a bell on every single bicycle he rides, from pannier-laden mountain bikes to aero tri bikes, in order to give a clear warning of his approach to those who may not be aware. Unfortunately, users of the trail with headphones or earbuds will not hear any warning when going around them. What’s more, there are cyclists on their mobile phones, or talking on their cell phones and there can be hard to give them an effective warning.
Lawyer Landau applauds the efforts of the Reston Bicycle Club which enables members to download audible instructions for the weekly rides from the Herndon parking lot, conveniently down the block from his law firm Abrams Landau, Ltd. However, when riders use both ears to hear turn-by-turn directions, they cannot hear warnings. If a biker cannot hear warnings, feel the vibrations of oncoming traffic, see what is behind them or smell exhaust, they are more likely to be in a devastating crash on the W&OD Trail.
In upcoming rides this summer, Landau intends to experiment with one ear getting instructions and the other unimpaired for hearing warnings or instructions from other riders. Using his ear piece, like the one he uses on his cell phone for dictation, lawyer Landau can get step-by-step instructions without having to take his eyes off the road. The Reston Bike Club is also saving paper by not printing maps. Landau feels having one ear available for the sounds of oncoming riders from behind, cars and maybe anyone crossing the road can prevent unnecessary injury. Lawyer Landau wants to be able to hear warnings as to potholes, gravel, sand and other road hazards. Landau cautions cyclists to experiment with the portable directional systems before going on a ride. Group rides can become dangerous if riders cannot hear warnings, instructions or perceive dangers.