EDITOR’S NOTE: A close encounter on the Cedar River Trail and a City of Renton review

I can't imagine the terror and pain Velda K. Mapelli must have felt, if only for an instant, after she was knocked to the ground by a bicyclist late Sunday afternoon on the Cedar River Trail.

A close encounter on the Cedar River Trail Friday.

A close encounter on the Cedar River Trail Friday.

I can’t imagine the terror and pain Velda K. Mapelli must have felt, if only for an instant, after she was knocked to the ground by a bicyclist late Sunday afternoon on the Cedar River Trail.

She died the next morning at Harborview, her family at her side.

The medical examiner ruled her death an accident. But I have to wonder whether her death was an accident waiting to happen. From the reaction of readers and the community to Mrs. Mapelli’s death, I think that’s a distinct possibility.

This afternoon, I was walking along the trail again, wondering whether a trailside memorial marked Mrs. Mapelli’s passing. I was walking east, like her. I turned my head slightly to my left. Whoosh. I froze, my heart in my throat. I was startled, to say the least.

I looked down the trail, the bike rider well on his way.

That whoosh was the only sound I heard. No warning, “passing on the left.” Most people don’t carry a radar gun when they’re out for a walk, but I have to imagine he wasn’t obeying the 15 mph speed limit. It sure didn’t feel like he slowed down.

I raised my camera quickly, taking just one shot. And I figured I would go back to the office and write about my experience to join the chorus of others who are wondering just how safe it is to be a pedestrian on Renton’s trails.

Apparently, Mayor Denis Law has been listening to the choir.

Just this afternoon, he announced the city will do a detailed review of all the rules, policies and designs of its parks and trails.

The city will look to policies of other cities for guidance. The mother of all trails in South King County, the Interurban Trail, runs through a number of cities.

Law will present the findings to the City Council and the community.

“If we need to take any steps to improve the safety of our parks and trails, we will do it. We will also take a hard look at options for more stringent enforcement of any reckless behavior and misconduct in our parks and on our trails,” Law said in a press release.

Anyone with ideas or suggestions can contact the city’s Community Services Department at 425-430-6600.

I applaud Law for taking on this review. It is a public-safety issue, even if Mrs. Mapelli is probably the first person ever to die in such a manner on a city trail.

For a moment, I certainly felt at risk.

Her family shared some wonderful memories of her in an interview with Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur. It’s obvious that Mrs. Mapelli had been a vibrant active woman during all her 83 years.


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