Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Meeting Here, A Meeting There

…every where a meeting. My cycling time has been consumed with cycling related meetings since last Friday. I think I’ve attended 3 such meetings in almost as many days. When I wasn’t meeting, I was emailing and/or talking about meetings.

Meetings galore!

The meetings have ranged from the macro (Blue Ridge Bicycle Club) to the local (BicyclehaywoodNC) to the specific (Blue Ridge Breakaway). They are all, to one degree or another, inter-related so that almost helps keep things straight in my mind.

Bicycle Friendly Outposts

Our local advocacy council (BicycleHaywoodNC, a chapter of Blue Ridge Bicycle Club) has been developing and refining a concept we call a Bicycle Friendly Outpost. This idea incorporates concepts of a Bicycle Friendly Business but not necessarily from the employee benefits side of the equation. Outposts are strategically located small “mom and pop” establishments situated on the outskirts of our community. The Bicycle Friendly specifics are drawn heavily from the lessons learned from Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled when they attended the 2012 Blue Ridge Breakaway in August 2012. I have continued to follow their paths pedaled and continue to benefit from their community education and advocacy for cyclo-tourism.

On a recent visit to Bethel Grocery Store, located at the epicenter of Pigeon Valley and some great riding in Haywood County for riders of all ages, Marvin informed me that he had enjoyed the visit of 10 to 12 cyclists that morning as they stopped at his store. This was a Monday and not a weekend group ride. He related that a different solo rider had stopped in while on a 45 mile loop ride because he “had been told the store was bicycle friendly.” I’m pleased that “word of mouth” is spreading about Bicycle Friendly Outposts in Haywood County. A second Outpost should come on-line within the next few weeks and in time for the 2013 Blue Ridge Breakaway. This location will be along US 276 in the Jonathan Valley area of Haywood County. Whereas Bethel Grocery covers the outlying southern end of the county, the newest location will catch riders more on the northwest side of the county. We are hopeful for a third outpost covering northern Haywood but it would be premature to go there at the moment.

Outlays of capital have been pretty minimal for the Outpost businesses. We don’t ask them to stock supplies as if they are full fledged bike shop. We ask them to keep the necessities for someone, who might have broken down on the road and need to replace tubes, a patch kit, etc. Both locations stock energy bars and drinks. My favorite post ride drink is the chocolate milk sold at Bethel Grocery. It is always seriously cold and hits the spot after a ride.

The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, our regional entity, voted this past Sunday evening to up the ante for the Outposts by agreeing to purchase and install bike racks at the locations to make them even more obviously Bicycle Friendly. In addition, we have banners ready for hanging that identifies the business as an officially recognized Bicycle Friendly Outpost. We also include their designation on all of our cue sheets and the recently released brochure for Haywood County Destination Rides.

Cycling Column Update

In my last column on 07/01, I used an instance of assault on a cyclist in an attempt to educate the local citizenry around issues involved with poor judgment on the part of motorists. In today’s published column, I take to task a cyclist’s behavior I observed this past Saturday, that in my opinion, demonstrates the poor behavior of some cyclists resulting in more friction with the motoring public. Under the category of “for what it’s worth”, here is the text of that column.

Legal Vs. Courteous?

At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 13th, I was concluding my daily visit to Lowes at Lake Junaluska. As I was departing Lowes, I noted two cyclists descending the hill toward the tangle of cars and lanes that will soon be no more thanks to a NC DOT Extreme Make-over. Little did I know at that point that I would be presented with yet another “teaching moment” quicker than you can say “Yes, please make that double cheese and double bacon on my triple pounder!”

Knowing that NC 209 is a popular ride for local cyclists, I anticipated that I would see the two cyclists again as I was headed toward the Shell station on 209 to fill up our gas tank. Soon, the cyclists appeared on the horizon. They were on the final short climb past Smoky Mountain Rehab center and about to drop down the short descent to the intersection of Richland Creek Road and NC 209. They, or at least one of them, was about to provide the “teaching moment.”

To set the stage, NC 209 has a wide enough shoulder to allow cyclists to be out of the stream of traffic by riding single file. With the exception of a couple of spots, It is generally clean enough so that safety issues do not force cyclists into the main stream of traffic. Such seemed to be the conditions on this day.

Four vehicles were “stacked up” behind the cyclists as they pedaled their way up and over the crest of the hill. One cyclist rode on the shoulder while the other cyclist, apparently oblivious to the traffic behind, proceeded to ride side-by-side of the cyclist who was riding on the shoulder. The first trailing car was unwilling to pass the two cyclists and this kept the other vehicles from passing as well. Perhaps a clear line of site wasn’t available or perhaps the driver simply wasn’t willing to pass the cyclist in the road. Either way, traffic was slowed down quite considerably.

The behavior of the cyclist and manner of operation of his “vehicle” provides an opportunity to discuss Legal Vs. Courteous. Was the cyclist riding in the road and side-by-side behaving legally? Yes, under N.C. law he had the same right to that lane of traffic as any truck, car, motorcycle, or moped. Was his act of riding side-by-side legal? Again, the answer is yes. N.C. law does not prohibit side-by-side riding.

Now, let’s consider the question of whether the two issues were courteous. I think most reasonable people (motorists and cyclists) would have to give this a resounding NO. Given no safety issues forcing the cyclist to the center of the lane, the courteous thing would have been to have dropped back into single file on the shoulder and allowed the motorists to pass. “SHARE THE ROAD!” is a two way street and both cyclists and motorists must behave courteously for safe transit for all of us along our roads and byways.

 

I’m interested in seeing how the number of “reads” for the two columns stack up since each takes a point of view from the other’s perspective. As of today, the first column has 697 “reads” and has been published since 07/01. Today’s column has 108 “reads” in less than 18 hours of publication time. These are hits on the Mountaineer’s website and doesn’t in any way reflect the numbers of folks who read the column in print. For comparison’s sake, I would say an average number of “reads” for any of my columns is around 135 over the last 6 months. This is a small town tri-weekly paper.

2013 Blue Ridge Breakaway

Planning continues for this great ride coming up August 17th in Haywood County. We’re hoping to approach 600 riders this year and are currently running about 22% ahead of registration for a similar time last year. Our new jersey can be seen on the website (www.blueridgebreakaway.com) and will again be another quality Hincapie product. If you want some great riding, come on up or down to Haywood County, NC and spend the weekend with us. Heck, if you want to move here, I have a great house for sale close to wonderful riding in southern Haywood County and the Blue Ridge Parkway. (I know - that was a shameless plug… Still, the Navigator and I need to sell the house so I can get back to riding!)

Until later,

- Zeke

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