Unfortunately, not everyone follows these rules, and at times when lots of folks are using the Greenbelt, there can be some close calls. There have even been some collisions. Which is why one Kingsport couple reached out to the Times-News to share their concerns in the hope of raising awareness about how you should use the Greenbelt.
Paul Dell, a part-time teacher at Northeast State Community College, and Dorothy Ratcliff, a Kingsport dance instructor, met back in 2008, and one of the things they enjoy doing together is taking walks on the Kingsport Greenbelt.
During many of their outings over the years, including one recent weekend walk, the couple said people riding bicycles fail to announce their presence and probably don’t know they’re supposed to yield to pedestrians.
“This is our experience on all of our walks,” Dell said. “They just suddenly appear. Not even single rider warns you they’re coming.”
Another problem, Ratcliff said, is with groups of bicyclists, where the first rider will signal pedestrians, but the latter ones will not.
“There was a family in front of us and the little boy got ran off the path by the second or third bike,” Ratcliff said. “There needs to be some sort of education and just common sense that if you’re in a group, you need to make sure everyone knows you’re in a group.”
RULES OF THE GREENBELT
According to the city of Kingsport, there are rules for the Greenbelt. Here are just a few:
— Ride, walk, or skate to the right and allow others to pass on the left.
— Be considerate of others. Travel no more than two abreast. Stay off private property and abide by all noise ordinances.
— When bicycling or skating, warn those you are passing from behind. Yield to pedestrians.
“This is a shared use path, so it’s critical for all parties to take safe measures and work together,” said Kitty Frazier, manager of the Parks and Recreation Department.
But not all of the responsibility lies on the backs of bicyclists. Frazier said pedestrians should be cognizant of their surroundings and not be walking or running while wearing earbuds. They need to stay to the right and not take up the whole trail.
As for cyclists, Frazier said they need to slow down when approaching people or pets, always try to warn people well in advance and to use a bike bell if they have one.
“The trail is very popular and I think we have to be good neighbors and good stewards of each other’s safety and be aware of that,” Frazier said. “The more use we have, the more opportunity there is for conflict, and it’s up to us to minimize that.”
Dell and Ratcliff said their concerns are not a case where they don’t want bicyclists on the Greenbelt. They said they just want folks to be responsible.
“They either don’t know (the rules) or don’t exercise common sense when they’re coming up on people walking,” Dell said.
“Whether you’re riding or walking, it’s a wonderful experience, and we’d hate for it to leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth,” Ratcliff said.