Fatal Accident Raises Questions on Trail Safety

By Nadia Crow, Reporter

LINN COUNTY, Iowa - The Linn County Trails Association says safety issues are one of the biggest concerns for people using the trails. More than a dozen trails and dozens of routes make Eastern Iowa a growing area for walking, running, and biking.

"I like the river and I like the shade," said trail user Jane Goering.

From Minnesota, Jane and Vern Goering make sure to stop by the Cedar Valley Nature Trail during their travels.

"I had heart surgery on July 30th and I'm supposed to walk," said trail user Vern Goering.

But it's not the walking that has Jane a bit concerned. It's the drivers. And driving by this trail in the Czech Village, there is a crosswalk, with a stop sign, and a pedestrian crossing sign. The same can't be said here, in Tama, where 13-year-old Ian McFate was hit by car while running on the trail.

"Communication and signage is a big part of that safety," said Linn County Trail Association Public Awareness Chair Kari Lammer.

The Linn County Trail Association manages these trials in the Cedar Rapids area. And because so many are popping up in Eastern Iowa...

"Many people aren't used to seeing trails around. The more we do the easier it'll become. But it is a bit of a learning curve," said Lammer.

A physical barrier like this fence helps separate traffic from trail users like Cyndi Kirkendall.

"It's a good safe fenced in area all the way down," said trail user Cyndi Kirkendall.

But many trails cross intersections. Whether it be Highway E-49 in Tama or near interstate 380 on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids.

"We also want to work really hard with trail users and make sure there's an understanding of when to yield to traffic," said Lammer.

The trail in Tama where the crash happened on Monday afternoon is operated by a small committee of volunteers. I spoke with the leader of that group along with the city of Tama's Public Works Director. Both Jake Jacboson with the trail committee and Tama Public Works Director John Boyd say this is an unfortunate incident that has shed light on many issues. They say it's likely they'll meet in the near future and discuss adding signs to alert drivers about the trail there.
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