Someone evidently misspoke.
When a Davenport Police Department official wrote in an email Tuesday that "there will not be a criminal investigation done at this time" in the death of Ruth Morris, the statement wasn't entirely accurate.
The 79-year-old Morris died Saturday after being hit by a bicyclist on the Mississippi River Trail on the Davenport riverfront. One of Morris's sons, Michael Blanchard, was walking with her and said two cyclists were riding too fast when one wiped out.
The spill caused the second cyclist to collide with the first before crashing into his mom. He said the cyclists were using both lanes of the trail. He walked onto it, saw them coming and moved to the side to get out of their way.
His mom was at the opposite edge of the path, he said.
I wrote again to police Wednesday morning, seeking clarification: "I’m writing a follow-up column on bike path etiquette, and I’d like to be able to answer the couple dozen people wanting to know why there is/was no police involvement in a bike path fatality."
When no response came by the end of the day Wednesday, I called the PD and was told no one was available. A few minutes later, this email came: "Someone will be in touch with you tomorrow."
When it got to be about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, and I still had no response, I called again. Major Jeff Bladel was back from vacation. He would clear things up.
"We are doing an investigation down there," he said. "We'll look at it to see if there are criminal charges. As of now, they're still looking at it. We'll determine if there was anything criminal."
Confused, I forwarded Bladel the previous days' email, asking him to explain why someone else said there would be no investigation.
"They were probably focused on the criminal part of it," he said, adding that the investigation into the fatal collision is like looking into a car accident. "Technically, those are civil issues. We're there — not to determine who's at fault — it's to determine whether a crime was committed."
For now, we'll just say we've cleared that up.
Now let's clarify a couple of things from Wednesday's column:
First, the crash was not a hit-and-run. The female cyclist was hurt, too. Blanchard said she was conscious but not moving. He said a second ambulance was on its way when he went to the hospital with his mom.
Privacy laws prevent emergency medical crews from disclosing the identities of patients, so I do not know the names of the two cyclists. I sure hope they're OK.
Secondly, part of our local lingo is to refer to the trails as "the bike paths." But they are not specific to bicycles. The Mississippi River, Great River and Crow Creek trails, among others, are for cyclists, walkers and joggers. They are not in any way reserved for bicycles.
It's a fact: Some cyclists ride way too fast, especially in areas that frequently are crowded with pedestrians. And they don't always do what they're supposed to do, which is to announce when they are passing — always on the left.
That's why those of us who frequent the paths were not surprised a terrible accident had occurred. And people have been hit on the paths before; I heard from two of them this week. Ruth's death punctuates the problem many of us knew about.
But I've been on both ends of this equation, and bikers and walkers both are capable of creating hazards on our trails. That's why I never wear earbuds when I'm on the paths. I want my best chance of hearing another bike coming, because too many cyclists don't bother with the courtesy warning.
Posted trail rules and etiquette are too often ignored by walkers and joggers, too. It is not uncommon to have someone wander onto the path just as you are approaching on your bike. They don't see you coming, because they're not looking for you. I have twice veered off the path and into the grass to avoid colliding with someone who appeared out of nowhere.
This is not an isolated problem.
"I don't know if more signage is the answer," Quad-City Bicycle Club member Dean Mathias said Wednesday. "I think you can post anything, but, if it's not enforced, it won't help. Common sense and courtesy should prevail, and you have to be vigilant."
Bicyclists should slow down, especially around pedestrians. And they should make their presence known before passing people who are on foot. Walkers and joggers should be aware of bikes and should never step in front of them, nor should they stop to chat without being aware of others.
I have a friend who took a bad spill when an unleashed dog ran in front of him on the path. It is critical that path users are aware at all times of children and pets and the menace they can create.
"Prior to this accident, there's been other incidents reported, and we're looking into adding signage for trail etiquette," said Theresa Hauman, senior recreation manager for the parks and rec department in Davenport. "I believe now, that will move along faster."
Among the proposed warning-sign additions are: Share The Trail, Yield To Pedestrians, and Announce Yourself.
Blanchard, Morris's son, said he first thought the collision was just an accident — "a fluke," he said — before returning to the scene and concluding the cyclists were going too fast. When he found one of the earrings that flew off when his mom was hit, he regarded it as evidence of the violent and high-speed nature of the crash.
One solution seems obvious: Expanded paths with lanes designated for bicycles. But that would be hugely expensive, because we have miles and miles of trails.
The common sense solution is for everyone to share the path the way it's meant to be shared: With an abundance of courtesy and caution.