Shared from the 7/18/2019 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition


Awareness is key on path attracting cyclists, joggers, pedestrians


Dog walkers, cyclists and joggers share the Olentangy Trail near Tuttle Park in the University District. With so many visitors, especially in summer, Metro Parks rangers emphasize the need for courtesy and awareness. [ADAM CAIRNS/DISPATCH]


A cyclist and jogger pass each other on the Olentangy Trail near the Lane Avenue bridge. If people are not sharing the path appropriately, oral warnings from rangers usually suffice. Only five written citations were issued last year. [ADAM CAIRNS/DISPATCH]

Metro Parks officials want bicyclists, joggers and pedestrians to understand that they must share the Olentangy Trail, which is the busiest multipurpose trail in Ohio. With about 500,000 annual users, it’s hard to walk any stretch of the trail along the Olentangy River without seeing another person, said Metro Parks deputy director Larry Peck. The paved path runs from north of Worthington to Downtown.

Peck and park rangers are responsible for enforcing trail rules such as keeping to the right side of the path for all users and using proper signals while biking. Rangers also enforce a “reasonable speed” for bicyclists.

“We hear from bicyclists who don’t like walkers walking abreast with their friends blocking the trail, slow-riding bicyclists who don’t like high-speed bicyclists,” Peck said.

“Joggers have issues with both fast and slow bicycles.” Rangers speak with visitors about rule violations as they occur. Written citations are rarely issued, according to Peck. If needed, rangers will document a warning.

“We are constantly preaching etiquette, common courtesy, being aware of other users, recognizing that these trails are great assets to the community that have to be shared,” Peck said.

“As long as people use and respect ‘on your left,’ don’t have their music too loud to hear and stay to the right, there are rarely any issues.”
Nathan Brown, Columbus resident

“Over time, users make adjustments in their behavior.” Nathan Brown, 39, rode the Olentangy Trail daily for six years. Now he uses it for weekly bike rides or jogs near his home in the Arena District.

“As long as people use and respect ‘on your left,’ don’t have their music too loud to hear and stay to the right, there are rarely any issues,” Brown said.

Brown biked the whole trail during his daily rides training for Pelotonia, an annual cycling event to raise money for cancer-fighting research. He biked 25 minutes to work, then in the afternoon ride the entire trail and backtrack to home in under an hour and a half.

Park rangers issued Brown a few warnings about going too fast while training, he said. They yelled out, asking him to slow down.“I said I would and did,” Brown said.

Bikers need to be aware of blind turns and trail entrances, Peck said. Rather than enforcing a strict speed limit, park rangers expect bikers to use common sense.

“Late at night, there are very few people on the trail — go faster,” Peck said. “On a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon, there are likely a lot of people on the trail — go slower.”

Peck said a lot of high-speed bikers ride on High Street, where they can easily go the same speed as cars. To avoid a lot of bicyclists, some visitors use the trail outside regular commuter hours.

Hannah Davey, 21, and Nathaniel Kramer, 24, walk the trail as often as five times a week with Hannah’s mixed-breed dog, Capone. They usually head out after rush hour.They haven’t had an accident on the trail, and park rangers haven’t given them a warning, Davey said.

“Capone is the one causing accidents,” Kramer said. Not long ago, the dog jumped in front of a bike. Luckily, Capone is always on a leash and no one got hurt.

Last year, park rangers issued 169 oral warnings for trail violations. They also gave five written citations, for an off-leash dog bite, failure to obey, camping and two instances of alcohol consumption. Biking 3,195 miles in all, the rangers also had 899 positive visitor contacts on the Olentangy Trail. Rangers biked a total of 6,531 miles on all Metro Park trails.

In serious situations on the trail, visitors should dial 911, Peck said. Otherwise, visitors can contact rangers through the dispatcher at 614-620-1865. @stephaterese

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