Two men were shot to death yesterday afternoon near a bicycle path in Columbia, Howard County police said.

One of the men was found lying on the path, in the 5700 block of Stevens Forest Road, near the Village of Oakland Mills, and the other staggered to a nearby apartment complex before collapsing, police said.

Both men lived in Columbia. Police identified the man found near the bike path as Jonathan Barney, 19, of the 9400 block of Timesweep Lane, and the other man as Davon Mayfield, 18, of the 7100 block of Peace Chimes Court. Police said "suspected drugs" were found in the area, but they gave no motive for the shootings. They said that no weapon was found and that they do not believe the men shot each other.

Police were called at 4:20 p.m. by residents who heard gunshots. The neighborhood is on the east side of Route 29 and about one half-mile from the Columbia Mall.

The killings were the first this year in Columbia, a planned community designed to foster community spirit and enhance the quality of life through such means as clustering of houses, provision of open space and careful landscaping.

Homicides are relatively rare throughout the county. Until yesterday, the total for the year had been three. Six were reported last year, and from 1991 to 1997, the totals ranged from nine to one.

However, residents of the area where the shootings occurred expressed wariness about the unlighted asphalt bicycle path, which winds around apartment houses and passes through woods before reaching the mall.

Residents said there had been holdups, loitering and possible drug dealing in the immediate area.

Reggie Robinson, 19, said he knew of "a couple of people" who have been robbed or stuck up on the bike path. He said "they're carrying stuff home from the mall, and they just get whacked in the dark."

Referring to the path, Robert Larsen, 17, a student at the Lincoln Technical Institute, said: "That's where a lot of illegal stuff goes on. You hear about it all the time."

Larsen said he lived across the street from the path, "but still, I've never been down there."

Marco Luviano, 45, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, said conditions had deteriorated. "In the last three or four years, things have gotten much worse," he said. "You see guys hanging around outside all the time."