There are many things about this 1987 article about trail rangers who ride the Mount Vernon Trail that could still be relevant today.
The trail has become so popular since it opened in 1973 that it now draws more than a half million cyclists a year, many of whom the rangers say zoom along the narrow, winding paths at dangerous speeds. In response to the heavy traffic, the bike patrol was increased to five rangers three years ago. Before that, one ranger periodically monitored the trail.
On weekdays, the path, like the roadways, is most congested during morning rush hours. Traffic picks up again around 10 a.m. when pleasure cyclists begin to cruise the trail.
On weekends, when two rangers are on patrol, the trail gets so congested that there have been frequent accidents, some serious.
Though I do believe that half a million understates it. I seem to recall it now being nearer to 750,000 annually.
On July 4, an elderly man walking on the trail suffered a cracked skull after a bike struck him from behind, she said. Dents in trees along the path show the impact of handlebars. Last September, Shirley Metzenbaum, wife of Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), suffered severe head injuries in a fall.
This was mentioned before, but here's the article about the fall which seems to be a single-bike crash. She's still alive and seemed to recover fine. When Mentzenbaum was at Ohio State, btw, he ran a bicycle rental business.
In an attempt to reduce the number of injuries, rangers have begun painting yellow lines down the middle of dangerous lengths of the path. In the next few months, White said, they may install 15-mile-an-hour speed limit signs that would be enforced at some spots with radar.
Two of the most treacherous areas along the path, White said, are at National Airport, where cyclists must cross busy airport entrances, and along the southernmost part of the route between Dyke Marsh and Mount Vernon, where the trail is hilly, woody and winding.
Plans are under way to create a special tunnel that would bypass the airport entrances and to level a dangerous curve at the southern end of the path, White said. Park officials say they face a constant dilemma because straightening paths and cutting down trees may make paths safer, but many cyclists feel such measures also make the trails less enjoyable.
Update: Here are some photos of the current "widening" project underway, as well as the current way of counting bike traffic. Photos by M.V. Jantzen
Mt Vernon Trail counter
Trail construction with future straightened trail