Bike-Force Trauma
A Cyclist and a Walker: Two Distinct Perspectives On One Bloody Collision on the Capital Crescent Trail

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Post recently received the following letter to the editor from Mark Rubin of Chevy Chase. Less than a week later the newspaper received the second letter, from Jamie Ratner of Bethesda.


Ihit the Capital Crescent Trail after work today. It was crowded in both directions with walkers, runners, cyclists and rollerbladers.

I had been jockeying for position with a fellow cyclist when I approached a score of cyclists and pedestrians in a semicircle, all looking down. My eyes followed their horror. A petite woman was face down on the pavement, with a pool of blood just inches from her head. She apparently had been hit by a cyclist.

My worst fear was that she was unconscious and bleeding out of her ear, almost a sure sign of serious head trauma. It turned out she was awake. I checked out her head wound and saw that she was bleeding from the side of her head. She complained of slightly blurred vision.

I suggested that she slowly move to the side of the road, but competing "doctors" in the crowd thought it wrong that she move. (Better that she get run over?) She was upset, but I'm betting she'll be okay.

Before I left the scene, the cyclist who hit her noted that he had given warning before passing, and a witness verified that. The victim was wearing earphones and probably did not hear him. Can you relate?

I can't help but wonder why traffic management is not a higher priority on the trail.

The only rule I have ever seen is to warn before passing. Here are a few more that should be added to the list: Everyone must walk, run, cycle, etc., single file. Running clubs in particular must adhere to the single-file rule. No headphones permitted (sorry, but they obstruct hearing). Widen the trail; it's only eight to 10 feet side to side. Repair the extensive root damage just below Fletcher's Boat House. Clean up the loose gravel at the base of the bridge that crosses River Road.

-- Mark Rubin

Chevy Chase


Iam writing about an incident that occurred on the first beautiful evening of spring, Tuesday, March 27, at about 6 o'clock. I went for a peaceful walk on the Capital Crescent Trail. As I was strolling toward Washington, past the Massachusetts Avenue portion of the trail, I was struck down by a biker.

I lost consciousness, so I do not know how I was struck or any of the details. All I remember is lying on the ground surrounded by my blood and a crowd of people. I remember announcing to them that I was pregnant (after difficult infertility issues) and feeling so much fear.

I believe the biker who struck me was one of the people in the crowd, but I am still uncertain about this. As I lay helplessly on the trail, a wonderful woman rubbed my back, applied pressure to my head, which was cracked open and oozing blood, and assisted me in getting to a point where an ambulance someone had called could reach me.

I was taken to Georgetown Hospital. The baby is fine. I received staples to my head and have a few broken ribs. My body is black and blue and very sore.

Everyone who has heard this story is in disbelief that I do not know who struck me or why. I was half-conscious and so concerned about my baby that this was the least of my worries. Now that I have had time to absorb the situation, I question why this happened and wonder:

What if my baby had not made it?

Did anyone in the crowd of people who assisted me think to call the police, take down my contact information and the biker's, or leave their own contact information?

How did the biker go to sleep that night not knowing if the baby or I survived?

I am constantly taking walks on the trail and being passed by speeding bikers who yell at anyone who is in their way. I hope bikers will read this and realize the harm they can cause when they are not being careful on the trail.

-- Jamie Ratner



Postscript: Jamie Ratner was treated and released from the hospital that night and is feeling better every day. Upon reflection, Ratner, who is a security manager at a District law firm, is, like Mark Rubin, very concerned about safety along the Capital Crescent Trail, which runs from Georgetown to Silver Spring.

Specifically, she suggests no bike racing; speed limits for bikers; increased police patrols; emergency phone boxes; and better signs about right-of-way and passing.

She thinks that any rule forbidding headphones would be unfair, asserting that walkers and runners have an equal right to enjoy the trail. A headphone ban, she says, would be misdirected, because it should be bikers' responsibility to yield to those on foot until a bike lane is specifically designated.

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