A shared-use path.
Often referred to as a “bike-path“, most shared use paths are for the use of all travelers not using motor vehicles. Strollers, skate boards, roller skates, wheelchairs, pedestrians, and sometimes even horses are permitted on these quiet roads where cars are restricted.
Unless it’s one of those sacred paths where pedestrians are prohibited, the multi use paths are made for people who are aware of their surroundings and expecting to share.
The general rule of such paths is that faster moving travelers use audible alerts to let those in front of them that they will be passing, and that everyone stay to the far right of their lane unless they are passing a slower traveler.
That doesn’t mean that the use of these pathways is always seamless and safe.
Accidents are uncommon, but not rare in these settings. As with all accidents involving more than one person, liability is determined by fault. No, the cyclist is not automatically assumed guilty if they hit a pedestrian any more than a driver is assumed guilty for hitting a cyclist.
It is possible for a cyclist to be struck by a pedestrian, as unlikely as that sounds. If a pedestrian steps into the pathway of a cyclist without warning and with too little room for the cyclist to stop, they are technically the one striking the cyclist, and not the other way around. Especially if the pedestrian was distracted when they moved into an obstructing position, they are very clearly at fault.
However, cyclists that move into a pedestrian cross walk or out of their designated lanes (often, when a high cycling use is predicted in a shared use pathway, cyclists and pedestrians/wheelchais will have different lanes within the pathway) will generally be considered at fault if they strike a pedestrian in that situation.
These accidents are uncommon, as I said before because cyclists tend to be hyper aware when sharing a pathway with pedestrians. Your own body is at high risk if you are in an accident, and while Hollywood enjoys depicting cyclists going over their handlebars, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywnS8sUYD6Q)I promise you that anyone on a bicycle is doing all they can to keep that from becoming their reality.
The biggest cause of fault being found in the cyclist seems to be distracted riding. Fitness apps, texting, riding with one hand to talk on the phone — all of these are causes for the cyclist to be held liable. Other reasons the cyclist would have fault is riding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, riding the wrong way, using a sidewalk instead of a bike lane, not exercising prudence, not announcing your presence when coming behind, not signaling a turn, and etc.
If you were fully aware and were struck by a pedestrian, they will have liability, but if you are acting irresponsibly in a shared use pathway, expect to carry full liability if you harm another person.
Also, be aware of the rules of each specific pathway. It’s likely your pathway has speed limits (It’s pretty easy to speed in a 15mph zone) and know whether or not you have your own designated lane.
As always, wear your helmet and ride safely!