I was at the park this morning around 9 AM when a young hispanic gentleman who was roller blading informed me that if I don't get out of his way he'll knock me down. He was with 2 young women. Now, if he's correct in his presumption that pedestrians must yield to roller bladers, I will accomodate him by getting off the path when he and his friends fly by. But, if I'm correct in assuming that roller bladers are in the same category as bicyclists and should yield to those walking through the park, I would like to know that as well so I might inform the young lad.
Thank you so much,
I didn't send copies to anyone important, so, of course, my email was ignored. I should have remembered this from my last contact with the park's administrators, but it's been a couple years and I forgot.
Anyway, you can't expect much from these people - they have no backbone. I honestly believe that the only reason they started allowing people to walk their dogs in the park was that no one had the nerve to tell people not to. I'm serious. Last year, there was a homeless man sleeping on one of the picnic tables for three weeks before I saw anyone approach him. I couldn't hear the conversation but I'm pretty sure the homeless guy was complaining about the service and the park representative was promising to provide fresh linens.
And that pervert who harassed a young woman until she had to stop coming to the park, he still comes to jog a couple times a week.
Anyway, these three rollerbladers have been coming out to the park for a few weeks. No one cares. Except me, that is. Today, as I was completing the mile circuit, I saw two women a short distance ahead of me jump off the asphalt path because a blader was coming from behind me. I normally walk on the right hand side of the path, leaving ample room for runners to go around me or for those walking toward me to pass by freely. I don't get off the path for cyclists or for rollerbladers. There's a sign directing cyclists to yield to pedestrians and most of them do. There's no sign for bladers, but common sense would seem to dictate that the same rules should apply to them.
Still, I wanted official confirmation. I emailed the Park's district manager, Brian W. Taylor, and he got back to me explaining the other guy was on leave. According to Mr. Taylor, bladers who are approaching you from behind should announce themselves and reference their intended path, like "ON YOUR LEFT." That makes sense. Unfortunately, the blader I'm talking about does not adhere to this courtesy. The only time I've heard him shout anything was when he came up on two women who were walking side-by-side, thereby taking up the entire path, and all he said was "COMING THROUGH!" Of course, the ladies scattered. But, he scared the crap out of them which must have made him feel good since that's the only reason he comes to the park. I must admit here that the guy is an accomplished rollerblader - he can weave in and out of pedestrians with ease without slowing down at all. I guess that, too, is part of his fun. The two girl that come with him? They're not so good, though one is better than the other. The second woman, the one who is always flailing and appears close to falling down is not accomplished enough to skate by someone who is on the path and therefore expects everyone to step off the path so she can get by. I say "No" to that. I am not jumping off the path for anyone.
Certainly, the best course would be to ban rollerbladers completely from the narrow paths at Veterans Park. The Suncoast Parkway is a mere ten minutes away. The paths there are as wide as a country road and far less congested. But, what would be the fun of going there where there are so few people to annoy?
And regarding the narrow paths, I found the following guidelines at the Federal Highway Administration Safety site:
Width and Clearance
The paved width and the operating width required for a shared use path are primary design considerations. Figure 17 depicts a shared use path on a separated right of way. Under most conditions, a recommended paved width for a two-directional shared use path is 3.0 m (10 feet). In rare instances, a reduced width of 2.4 m(8 feet) can be adequate. This reduced width should be used only where the following conditions prevail:
1. bicycle traffic is expected to be low, even on peak days or during peak hours,
2. pedestrian use of the facility is not expected to be more than occasional,
3. there will be good horizontal and vertical alignment providing safe and frequent passing opportunities
4. during normal maintenance activities the path will not be subjected to maintenance vehicle loading conditions that would cause pavement edge damage.
Under certain conditions it may be necessary or desirable to increase the width of a shared use path to 3.6 m (12 feet), or even 4.2 m (14 feet), due to substantial use by bicycles, joggers, skaters and pedestrians, use by large maintenance vehicles, and/or steep grades.
The minimum width of a one-directional shared use path is 1.8 m (6 feet). It should be recognized, however, that one-way paths often will be used as two-way facilities unless effective measures are taken to assure one-way operation. Without such enforcement, it should be assumed that shared use paths will be used as two-way facilities by both pedestrians and bicyclists and designed accordingly.
Surprise! The paths at Veteran's Memorial Park are too narrow for shared-use by pedestrians and either cyclists or roller bladers. I measured the path at different points. It varies but averages about 74 inches. Remember, six feet is the bare minimum for one-directional shared use paths. The path at Veteran's Park is not one-directional - just as many people travel clockwise around the circuit as those who go counter-clockwise. Therefore, the path should be ten feet wide. The 8 foot exception doesn't apply because the path's use by pedestrians is constant rather than occasional. And, please, don't suggest that the one-directional flow be made mandatory. I've already explained how unwilling the crew over there is to enforce anything. A couple weeks ago, a woman walked her unleashed dog, who was drifting 40 to 50 yards off the path in every direction, around the circuit two times without anyone attempting to straighten her out. So, let's be honest - chances of the county widening the path are less than nil.
In lieu of any official action regarding these violators, who, by rights, should be banned from using the park because the path is too narrow, I propose that those of us who use the park take matters into our own hands. I declare March to be Knock A Blader On His Ass Month. Whenever one comes flying toward you, daring you not to get out of his or her way, hit them with your shoulder or elbow, kick them, wack them with your cane - incapacitate them. If no one out there is willing to protect us, we'll have to protect ourselves.