Maui bike tour operators are devising new rules governing their businesses to avoid threatened state and county regulation. Above, a Mountain Riders tour group hugs a section of paved shoulder as they cruise down Haleakala Highway in Kula.
Bike tour firms self-regulate to avert restrictions
KULA, Hawaii » Maui bike tour operators are devising new rules governing their businesses to avoid threatened state and county regulation.
Local residents have been complaining the popular bike tours from the Haleakala summit to Paia shoreline can be dangerous and create traffic jams in the area.
"It was like, 'We need to start doing things ourselves before that happens,'" said Phil Feliciano, owner of Cruiser Phil's, of any government regulation.
All five bike tour operators have agreed on 12 places in upper Kula where guides can pull over the line of bikers to let traffic pass. Previously each company used different pull-offs, and they had different standards for when to pull over. Now they have a "standardized" list of spots, and they have all agreed to get off the road even if just one car is following, said Rich Goodenough, of Maui Downhill.
One of the biggest problems is a roughly 2-mile stretch of Crater Road through residential areas of upper Kula. The area's narrow, old bridges and lack of paved shoulders force bikers to ride on the road.
To prevent traffic jams, Cruiser Phil and two other tour operators -- Bike It Maui and Maui Mountain Cruisers -- are having their vans wait by the side of the road while the bikes ride ahead, then "leapfrog" down the road to catch up with the convoy.
This should allow the bikes to stay out of the lane wherever there is a paved shoulder, and traffic to pass the convoy safely at normal driving speeds, said Jon Thuro, of Maui Mountain Cruisers.
But the two largest companies, Maui Downhill and Mountain Riders, who together hold more than half the vans in use by the industry, have not adopted the leapfrog system.
Goodenough said Maui Downhill has not been using the "leapfrog" system because he does not think it is safe. If one of his riders had an accident, the van should be nearby to help, he said.
As a compromise, he said he would lengthen the distance between the van and the bikes, which could allow cars coming out of driveways or intersections to get ahead of the van and pass the tour.
"We're experimenting with what that distance may be," he said.
Mountain Riders' Brian Kramer acknowledged he might not have implemented the new leapfrog procedures as quickly as some would have liked, but he said he was committed to trying the program.