Maui gears up for bike debate
The Council will look at traffic problems and how bicycle tours operate on Haleakala
WAILUKU » Bicycle tours down the slopes of Haleakala attract more than 100,000 visitors yearly, generating an estimated $12.4 million in revenues.
But the tours are also drawing criticism from some Upcountry Maui motorists.
"There are times they are going speed limit, and there are times they are not going speed limit," said Kula resident Jimmy Muscietti.
Muscietti recalled slamming on the brakes of his truck at an intersection on Aug. 28 to avoid a collision with a bicycle tour van that refused to yield to his right of way.
At issue in part is how to accommodate bicycle tours and motorists on sometimes narrow two-lane country roads, with majestic scenic beauty but not many places for cyclists to pull off to yield to motorists.
Maui County Council members who have been receiving letters of complaint from motorists are scheduled to meet in late January or early February to review the conflict.
Tour rides usually begin at a parking lot near the 10,000-foot summit at Haleakala National Park and wind down about 38 miles through Makawao to the seaside town of Paia.
The ride includes about 11 miles of federal highway, 19 miles of state highway and about eight miles of county road.
Motorists complain of bicycle tours slowing traffic.
Bicycle tour operators point out the speed limit is between 20 to 30 mph and that impatient, speeding motorists sometimes try to pass, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
"It's a combination of things. Both sides have to take a deep breath," said Phil Feliciano, owner of Cruiser Phil's Volcano Riders. "In general, our industry has to do a better job in letting cars go by quicker."
Councilman Joe Pontanilla, chairman of the public works committee, said he is looking at adding more pull-out lanes on county roads and creating a task force to help to resolve the conflict.
State highways assistant engineer Charlene Shibuya said the state has $100,000 in design and planning money to designate areas as pull-out zones for bicycles.
Some residents favor reducing the number of bicycle tours allowed on state and county roads.
But Maui Downhill owner Rich Goodenough said the numbers have recently been reduced. He said since Nov. 1 the National Park Service has instituted an interim measure, reducing the number of bicycle tour vans to 19 from 35.
Goodenough, who started a bicycle tour business in 1983, said there have been improvements in the state highway system and fewer injuries and complaints than in the 1980s.
He said he and other bike tour operators asked for pull-out lanes along county-owned Baldwin Avenue in the late 1980s.
Goodenough said several bike operators met with the police on Wednesday to discuss their operations.
Police Capt. Milton Matsuoka said he met with the tour operators to review the state and county motor vehicle laws.
Matsuoka said police will be making spot checks to ensure compliance by motorists and bicyclists, but he said the tour operators seemed "very open-minded."
"They're trying to police themselves," he said.
Muscietti said sometimes the bicycles are going less than the speed limit but refuse to pull over to the right of the road, and some have been extremely rude.
He said he would like to see a toll-fee complaint line established for motorists who encounter problems, similar to the complaint line established by helicopter tour operators.
"Somehow the public needs to be empowered," he said.