Accidents prompt review of Haleakala bicycle tours
WAILUKU » National Park Service officials are looking at recent downhill bicycle accidents at Haleakala, including two deaths in the last year.
Haleakala National Park spokesman Dominic Cardea said its safety program in Washington, D.C., is looking at the risks of downhill bicycle riding and how to reduce injury.
Haleakala National Park is currently developing a commercial service plan evaluating various activities in the park, including a look at what commercial services are appropriate and necessary and whether they compromise public health and safety, Park Superintendent Marilyn Parris said.
While national parks do offer bicycle riding, Parris said she doesn't know of any that, like Haleakala, promote it as a thrill ride from 10,000 feet to sea level.
"I think we are unique in that aspect," she said.
Asked if a ban on bicycle tours is one possible proposal in the plan, Parris said it was inappropriate to comment until an evaluation of the commercial services plan is completed. She said a draft of the plan is scheduled to be available for public review this summer.
Park spokesman Cardea said the public should know there are risks associated with riding a bicycle down Haleakala, and that there have been serious and fatal injuries.
A woman died after riding off the edge of the road about two months ago, and a man died of a heart attack after hitting his head in a bicycle accident about six months ago, he said.
Within the last week, a bicycle tour leader failed to negotiate a turn and careened into lava rock, suffering severe leg and hip injuries and head lacerations. A 13-year-old boy who also failed to make a turn suffered cuts to his knee and side.
Cardea said the tour driver and boy would have died if they had not been wearing helmets.
"Losing control like that and careening into the lava rocks -- I am amazed they survived and that there were no spinal or head injuries," added Chief Ranger Mark Tanaka-Sanders.
Parris said past accidents show that downhill bicycle riding poses risks even for the most experienced rider.
"It does not matter if you are a professional or an amateur; the potential to get hurt is there," Parris said.
Some 19 bicycle tour businesses operate down Haleakala, attracting an estimated 79,000 riders in 2005, according to the national park.
The businesses pay about $250 for an annual commercial use authorization, and an additional $5 per person entrance fee, pending the development of a commercial services plan.
Park officials said the number of accidents are down from 10 years ago due to the imposition of safety conditions and restrictions.