80-year-old woman killed by bicycle on trail

Local,DC,Naomi Jagoda

An 80-year-old woman died after she stepped into the path of a bicyclist who was trying to pass her as she walked on Four Mile Run Trail in Arlington.

Ita Lapina, of Arlington, was struck by the bicycle on Monday morning and died from her injuries later in the day, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

About 7:10 a.m. Monday, police were called to the bike path in the area of the 4900 block of Columbia Pike. The bicyclist and a witness told police that the cyclist was going downhill on his mountain bike and saw Lapina in front of him.

The bicyclist, a 62-year-old Arlington man, told police that he tried to warn Lapina by yelling "to your left" and by ringing a bell. Lapina stepped to her left, turned around and was struck head on, police said.

Lapina fell backwards and hit her head on the pavement, sustaining significant head trauma, police said. She was taken to a hospital and was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m. Monday.

The bicyclist was treated for a minor knee injury and did not need to be taken to a hospital.

Arlington police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said police are not planning to press charges against the bicyclist.

The bicyclist was coming down a blind curve, so he didn't have a lot of time to react, Sternbeck said, and both the bicyclist and the victim could have delayed reaction times because of their ages.

Officials with local bicycle groups said bells are the best way for bicyclists to alert pedestrians.

"Bells, we believe, are clearer, friendlier," said Chris Eatough, BikeArlington program manager. He also said that bells cause less confusion than verbal warnings, which can be "misheard or misunderstood."

Washington Area Bicyclist Association Executive Director Shane Farthing wrote in an email that "if a vocal warning is used, the goal is to communicate the cyclist's presence and the fact that he or she will be passing to the left of the pedestrian. So 'on the left' or 'passing' are commonly heard."

To best watch out for cyclists, pedestrians should make sure they can hear whether a bicyclist is coming and not have headphones on, Farthing said.

Monday's is the first incident in Arlington in which a pedestrian died from being struck by a bicycle that Sternbeck said he can recollect.

"This is not common in any sense," he said.

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