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Article updated: 7/11/2013 10:27 AM

Editorial: Walker's death a clarion call for safety

By

A summer stroll in a suburban park alongside a picturesque lake is not supposed to end the way it did for 74-year-old Barbara Pagano of Arlington Heights.

But her life ended July 3 from injuries she suffered after getting hit by a bicyclist on a path around Lake Arlington on June 18.

A tragic accident to be sure. As police explained in a story Wednesday, an 11-year-old rider didn't see Pagano soon enough to avoid her after another rider in front went around her. They collided and she fell and hit her head.

But the death of the wife, mother and grandmother has reignited an outcry about pedestrian safety on the path that the Arlington Heights Park District must take seriously. To the credit of park district officials, they say they will look at making it a safer place, but so far they don't have much more detail to offer.

This is an issue that all of us who use that path, or really any path throughout the suburbs, need to be concerned about -- whether we walk, bike or inline skate. There are safety rules to follow, and those need to be taught and adhered to by all. Specifically, in this case, we believe that the park district should hold a hearing to glean ideas from those who use the path the most. A quick scan of the comments on our two stories this week will tell you that most believe the Lake Arlington path is too narrow for bikers and pedestrians to coexist. Either have special biking times when walkers are not allowed or ban bikers from that path altogether. That's done on other paths in the suburbs, such as Naperville's Riverwalk.

"Bikers deserve to bike and (roller) bladers deserve to blade, but on that path they can't be in the same place," said Pagano's neighbor and friend, Pam Greenberg.

Until some changes are made, however, common sense should rule. And this is true whether on Lake Arlington's path, the paved trails in Busse Woods or the crushed gravel of the Illinois Prairie Path in DuPage County. Bikers need to alert pedestrians by loudly announcing they are passing on the left. Walkers and runners need to stay to the right and not expand out to three or four abreast, giving bikers no space to pass.

And all should refrain from using earbuds, which block out the sounds that need to be heard for safe use of those paths.

On the Lake Arlington path, bikers need to adhere to the 8-miles-per-hour posted speed limit, and if they don't, the police should step in. Park district residents need to consider whether the safety of those using the path is enough to warrant paying more taxes to build a separate path for bikers and skaters. Such a path was included as part of two larger projects that voters rejected last year. Perhaps the park board needs to look at it separately.

Open space and park land, and the paths that crisscross through them, are one of the reasons we live in the suburbs. It's incumbent on all of us to use them wisely and safely.

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