The natural beauty of the Baylands is distracting, and some inconsiderate bicyclists may also be part of the problem, but in my experience it is the inattention of walkers that most often causes a conflict. On my afternoon journeys I can expect several times to find the pathway obstructed by pedestrians walking side-by-side in a group of two, three, four or more spanning most, if not all, of the right-of-way. If they were to walk down El Camino Real in a similar manner, carnage would surely result.
Bicyclists can regularly travel at speeds of 12 to 24 miles per hour, while even a fast walker would be pressed to traverse 4 miles in an hour. Even though we bicyclists normally overtake walkers from behind at three to six times the walkers' velocity, we have walkers in sight for several minutes before the actual transit occurs and should slow down, move to the left (to trail center or even to the far left of the pathway) and announce our presence prior to passing.
Many times I find that tire noise, clicking my brake lever, and downshifting the gears is enough to alert the person(s) being approached. My bicycle bell and a hearty "On your left" may also be needed to draw the walkers out of their reverie. Additionally, I am prepared to stop if the situation warrants and often have, especially when young children are darting around. (Such is life.)
I am confident that I act as an aware and reasonable person while riding my bike in the presence of foot traffic. I would hope that other bikers would do likewise. Can Murray say the same when she admits to being surprised at a passing bicyclist?
Incidentally, the meridian to which Murray refers is not there to separate bikers from walkers, but to separate opposing traffic, as does the centerline of an automobile roadway.
I recommend the following cautions for any slower traffic, be it auto, bike, skateboarder or pedestrian: Stay to the right and be aware of your surroundings both ahead and behind. Passionate discussions, cell phones and iPods are distractions that may get one hurt. It normally takes two to cause an accident, but if one party is not aware of their surroundings, it then takes only one.
I follow these concepts when I walk on bike paths and also when I ride a bike in automobile traffic. If everyone would do likewise, city and park officials would not require beseeching to bring about additional rules and restrictions.