As complaints mount, county seeks to regulate bike tours | News, Sports, Jobs

A quartet of downhill cyclists tour the Haleakala Highway on October 12. Spurred on by complaints from local residents about the traffic and safety risks caused by bike descents, the county is considering regulating the tours, though companies say the industry has already changed over the years and new ones regulations would hurt their businesses. Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Local bike tour operators and rental companies say a proposed set of rules to further regulate the industry would be “Endanger business” although other residents say they are fed up with the traffic and the dangers downhill cyclists create in Upcountry.

Oriented towards the community plan areas of Makawao-Pukalani-Kula and Paia-Haiku, the proposed new rules would prohibit, among other things, unguided commercial bicycle tours, require that tours only take place between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. , would limit tour operators to one guided bike tour every two hours in each community plan area, cap the number of users at 10 per commercial guided tour, and allow only six tour operators to operate in community plan areas.

The changes were proposed by Maui County Council Member Mike Molina, who holds the residency seat in Makawao-Haiku-Paia and presented the bill on Tuesday to the Government Relations, Ethics and Ethics Committee. the transparency that he chairs.

Molina also proposed a resolution that would urge Mayor Michael Victorino to deal with public safety, traffic, illegal parking and other bicycle-related concerns.

Jeremy Hall, co-owner of Haleakala Bike Company, almost 30 years old and son of founder Ben Hall, said on Tuesday that the proposed rules are “overtaking, anti-small business and anti-tourism.”

A line of downhill cyclists ride along Hanamu Road in Olinda on October 12.

“We are not a mainland company that sprang up and takes money out of the community using public resources – we are people who live in the Upcountry, my employees live in the Upcountry” Hall said. “We have self-regulated over the years, we have already changed the size of our groups to smaller numbers, we have got rid of young riders in our groups – we do not accept children under 12 – we bring therefore changes. “

Although the island’s population has grown over the past two decades since many of these businesses started operations, guided tours have declined and individual rentals and self-guided tours have increased, witnesses said Tuesday.

Some say this is in part due to Haleakala National Park limiting the number of convoys that enter the park at sunrise and later suspending tour vans from starting tours inside the park lines, which has also led to a decrease in the number of users.

Marlon Espinoza, who has worked in the industry since 2006, said the proposed rules that would therefore limit participation would be “Definitively jeopardize our work”.

“We are literally talking to these people on the road to safety, to be courteous, to show aloha to the community” said Espinoza. “I’m not going to lie, there is always at least one bad apple, but 99.9% of the time most of our drivers listen to our safety advice. . . I am begging you, literally, not to fill this order.

Most locals who testified against the rule changes said it was not the tourism or bicycle rental companies themselves to blame, but rather the maintenance and safety of the roads in the Makawao areas. and Kula. They also said they preferred bicycles to cars.

Upcountry resident and cycling enthusiast Aja Eyre said “It is scary and dangerous to drive on our roads”, but that roads are not just for cars either.

“If we have an energy independent future and want to reduce carbon emissions, we need to be friendlier to cyclists and we need to encourage cycling and walking more.” Eyre added. “I would rather have 16 tourists by bicycle than eight tourists by car on these roads that I take several times a day.

Still, many residents are fed up with groups of cyclists riding on the freeway or windy streets, claiming the activities are dangerous and create unnecessary traffic.

“I like to see people riding their bikes and enjoying the area. I think it’s good for everyone’s health, but I think there should be regulations in place, especially regarding the Haiku-Kokomo road ”, said Haiku resident Jasmine Kilborn, who supported restricting the time limit, in particular, to prevent cyclists from riding during rush hour.

“These roads were not built for bicycles, these roads are even risky for the inhabitants who live here”, Kilborn added. “Visitors don’t know the region, they don’t know the road or what they are getting into.

There have also been a handful of serious accidents and fatalities over the years, said a resident of Albert Perez, due to long lines of cyclists filling the street on a descent, with cyclists entering corners. blind or crossing lanes, motorists trying to pass cyclists, inexperienced cyclists oblivious to road etiquette or cyclists riding on the roadway during rest areas.

“It’s super scary and it’s stressful for the residents” said Perez. “These circuits must be completely banned and we must provide protected cycle lanes for recreational cyclists and we prevent these bicycle companies from taking advantage of the public highway facilities while endangering the public.”

Two accidents involving bicycle tours occurred between 2020 and 2021, including when two cyclists collided on Makawao Avenue and a cyclist lost control of the bicycle and fell over the handlebars on the Haleakala Highway, according to a September letter to the acting chief’s counsel. Dean Rickard.

The Maui Police Department said in a letter to the committee Monday that the new rules “Will dramatically improve the safety and well-being of Maui County cyclists and vehicle operators by limiting the number of business visits, more clearly defining licensing requirements and increasing penalties.” “

Although permits are not required for national highways – 75 percent of visits are made on national highways – the bill will help ensure that enforcement action is taken, MPD said.

A permit is required to travel on county roads, such as Baldwin Avenue, Olinda Road, Hanamu Road and Haleakala Road 377. These roads were deemed too dangerous for cycle tourism activities, Rickard said.

The proposed sanctions listed under illegal cycle touring operations will be “Increase it from a simple violation to an offense which is satisfactory and is justified for the offense”, says MPD.

The Kula Community Association has also drafted a bill to regulate commercial cycle touring companies and rental companies. Although the association’s proposal contains recommendations similar to Molina’s, it also suggests imposing an age requirement and ensuring that every cyclist is able to use the bike safely, which includes the prohibition of members of cycle tourists or renters of bicycles under the age of 14 or over 65. to participate.

Molina said the committee would discuss the matter again at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, but no legislative decisions will be made. The draft ordinance of the Kula community association will also be discussed as well as the idea of ​​possibly merging the two proposals.

Molina has said he would like a decision on the proposed rule changes to be finalized in January.

* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]

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