Since I’ve started working at Advocate, the debate about runners’ and cyclists’ behaviors on congested trails has been ongoing and often heated. Last week, the unthinkable happened on the Katy trail, when a cyclist hit and killed a runner. This was an extraordinary accident, and I think before we start arguing about who is at fault, we recognize the tragedy of a young life lost. The runner, Lauren Huddleston, was just 28 years old. Per her wishes, her family will donate her organs. Huddleston’s father, Carl, reportedly told family and friends via e-mail, “This is horrible but it has a purpose, one of which may be to save several lives, and Lauren would be thrilled to know that she could do that.”

I’m sure this will forever change the cyclists’ life too.

Rather than sparking angry accusations, the accident should serve as a wake-up call to both cyclists and pedestrians using Dallas’ busy trails. I spend hours each week on the White Rock Trail and I see lots of near misses, especially on Saturday mornings or Wednesday evenings, when the running groups are out and traffic is at its peak. Most of the problems come from lack of awareness or ignorance of the trail rules. I see tons of runners on the wrong side of the trail, for one thing. Runners, if you are on a bike/pedestrian only portion of the trail, stay right. If it is a street-with-cars portion, stay left. On the narrow parts of the trail, i.e. the bridges and the spillway hill along Garland, everyone should run, walk, bike single file.

I’m guilty of wearing headphones on the trail, but one of my running friends has warned me time and again to “save them for the gym”; I might just heed that advice now, because I think it’s time we all kick safety precautions up a notch, if for no other reason than to recognize the woman who lost her life.  And cyclists, we’ve been over this, a crowded trail is not the place for speed training.