I don't normally ride our local MUP. Last time was on a tandem, slowly, and I was too busy to do much mulling over. This time I was riding along with recovering wife (still can't shift left brifter) & our daughter (still getting used to a road bike). I rode my backup road bike, a Campy equipped Fuji Pro.
I can't recall being as confused or seeing so much confusion as to exactly what to do, in part because of the design. I'm really unsure of the protocal in riding on these things, and I can tell that others are, too. Everyone using or near the paths seemed interested in having them work, but didn't know how. Certainly riding at the speeds I would normally ride would be extremely dangerous on the path.
1. Design Aspects:
a. Pathway layout. I can see that the planners of this MUP, and probably of the other MUPs I've been on, end up forced to deal with bad layout elements. Blind corners and the like. But easy solutions aren't used; the hazards seem ignored. Why is this? Are there no standards? Or are the standards bad? What gives? Blind corners, tight right angle bends onto bridges, etc. Silly things.
b. Use of existing sidewalks around roads. This creates gobs of confusion. I can see the designer sitting there "well, we can run the bikes down this sidewalk." And across three roads, with bikes heading both directions on a 6 ft wide path. Then there's the marked right angle turn from sidewalk across the road. Man, that's hard to navigate on a road bike. The sidewalks are also full of road hazards.
c. Installation of hazards by design. Hard objects - light poles, hard poles in the middle of the path to block cars, sharp-edged signage, off-camber curves, rock and concrete structures and edging, benches on the run-out zone outside curves. This thing looks pretty dang deadly.
d. Failure to deal with pre-existing hazards. Manholes on big concrete things sticking into the path and the like. Simply putting bright paint on hazards doesn't seem to be sufficient.
2. Construction/maintenance aspects.
a. Failure to accommodate tree roots. What's the deal? Do construction folks not understand tree roots? Some part of this path are thump thump alleys. Maybe it's a design aspect - no bed put under the path. Ties to maintenance. Exceptionally hazardous breaks and ledges from roots (think 6" high wall rising up out of the path).
b. Steep ledges and ramps at road intersections. Even steeper than wheelchair ramps over sidewalks.
3. Marking and education. This thing could really use some instructions. Uncontrolled partially blind intersections, no warnings or instructions for pedestrians, vague instructions for cyclists. Constantly unsure of what the designers expected.
4. Resulting confusion.
a. Overtaking pedestrians. Most seem to move right when asked, but most also have to be asked. Sort of an aimlessly wandering aspect. Of course, no education or reminding that this is a MUP, no instructions on use for pedestrians prominantly displayed.
b. Riding bikes. No specific instructions either, just "watch out and yield to peds."
c. Road crossings. Here's the biggie. I have no idea what's supposed to happen. From sidewalk or path, bad ramp leads to either white line or heavy striped crosswalk. No signs. So I track stand waiting for a car to go by. The driver stops. Am I supposed to just ride out perpendicularly into traffic in front of a car? Neither driver nor I know. So I put a foot down and waive him on. Next time I jumped to the road to parallel the path, took a lane and signaled to turn left into the lane. Now I'm clearly a vehicle, occupying a lane, signally. An oncoming car stops. What??? I've got my timing right, shouldn't have needed to stop. I just can't bring myself to pull in front of cars unless they're at a light or stop sign (I've been under a car) so I just go straight and turn a U. Neither of us know what to do. I can't communicate that I'm just another vehicle. The path creates confusion. Now. What about if I'm not on the path, just on the road near the path? So I whipped over to a road about 100 yards from a path crossing, pretty busy road. Pulled up to a stop sign, turning left. A car on the main road (my side) stops in heavy traffic!!! Again, I'm timing things and have come to a track stand, and put my foot down to wait. This is weird.
Blah blah. What's the solution? I can see that the mix of walkers, joggers, casual weekend cyclists, etc. works OK in the easy sections. But there's so much confusion and danger elsewhere. And I'm pretty sure that a road bike isn't really suited to travel on these things. This was the most confusing ride. Is it like this everywhere? Does anyone really know what to do at road intersections!!???
What's funny is that my wife comments on the relief she feels when we pop off the path into the roadway. We know how to ride on a road!
If this is the way paths are usually designed, then designers are working to criteria that fail to accommodate real people in the real world. That present needless hazards. That ultimately may hurt cycling as a serious transportation method in this country.
Just real markings and instructions would go a long way.