Police are stepping up their presence on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail after a serious crash between a cyclist and jogger Sunday, according to a news release from the City.
Police Chief Mary Gavin announced Thursday the additional deployment of bicycle and motorcycle officers along the popular (W&OD) trail, to educate and enforce park and traffic laws.
Police have seen an increase in shared usage of the trail, from casual walking to commuting via bicycle. The increase in use within the City has created more opportunities for hazards and accidents to occur.
Here are the details of the accident:
A little after noon Sunday, police responded to a report of a crash involving a jogger and a cyclist, near the intersection of the trail and Little Falls Street. Initial reports indicate the jogger was attempting to pass walkers on the left and collided with the cyclist traveling in the opposite direction.
Both the cyclist and the jogger sustained life-threatening injuries and are currently being treated at local hospitals. As of Friday morning, there was no new information from the City about their condition.
An investigation is ongoing to determine the precise cause of the crash.
The increase in trail usage in the City comes as no surprise to residents or to members of the Friends of the W&OD. The organization has seen the growth of the trail usage since its inception here in Falls Church City. "Accident prevention is an everyday challenge," said one City resident, citing the trail's evolution into a primary shared-use artery in Northern Virginia.
As usage has gone up, police have seen the amount of safety concerns and requests for presence in traffic enforcement along the trail has increase over the past year as well.
"I am deeply worried and afraid for my safety when I am on the trail and users are not following the rules," said Cricket Moore, an avid trail user and City resident.
In response to the influx of concerns, Falls Church Police were awarded a $2,400 safety grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles specifically to deploy officers for traffic education and enforcement in shared-use areas such as the W&OD Trail.
City Police encourage the safe use of the trail and emphasize that traffic control signs, including stops signs, are in place to regulate the trail traffic. Stops signs on the trail are enforced through the Code of Virginia §46.2-924 and Falls Church City Code Section 26-109.
The 1.5 mile section of the trail within the City of Falls Church is unique in that the W&OD Trail crosses roadways several times, causing cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists to encounter one another far more often that on other stretches of the trail.
The City of Falls Church is proud to be the jurisdiction where the W&OD Trail originated. The trail, which runs down the center of the City’s jurisdictional line, represents a recreational, environmental, and historical resource that defines our community. Many City residents are members of groups like the Friends of the W&OD and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), and take great pride in their civic responsibility to make the trail an enjoyable and safe venue for all. It is imperative as The Little City becomes more urbanized, that all behold the safety of the trail and follow the laws to prevent further accidents.
Before you head out on the trial next, the City's police recommend observing the following guidelines to ensure your experience is both fun and safe.
- Wear a helmet. While required by Virginia state law only for those under 15 years old, wearing a helmet protects cyclists, skaters, etc. of any age from serious or fatal injury when involved in an accident.
- Do not use mopeds or other motorized vehicles as they are not permitted on the trail.
- Keep pets on a leash and under control at all times.
- Place all trash in receptacles.
- Observe the trail’s hours; it closes daily at 9 p.m.
- Travel in the right lane only, and pass on the left.
- Give an audible warning when passing.
- Move off the trail when stopped.
- Observe the rule that pedestrians have the right of way unless otherwise posted.
- Travel at speeds that are safe and appropriate to trail conditions and usage.
- Stop at all stop signs when using the trail for cycling.
- Do not wear headphones in both ears if using the trail for cycling.
- Use of the trail for racing or competitive speed training is not allowed; permission for footraces must be obtained from the NVRPA.