Bike tours might need more safety measures
THREE deaths in the past 10 months
Three visitors have died in recent accidents on the downhill ride from the summit.
indicate that despite restrictions and safety procedures, bicycle tours from the summit of Haleakala are still a risky ride.
The National Park Service might have to establish further limits on the activity that also has resulted in scores of accidents and injuries that ranged from minor scratches to broken bones and severe head trauma.
Maui County authorities also have struggled to deal with bicycles ridden by about 80,000 visitors a year, adding to traffic worries along a 38-mile route that follows federal and state highways and eight miles of county roads. Residents have been frustrated with slow-moving herds of riders, but it is the mix of bicycles, cars and small tour buses on two lanes of park road with 29 switchbacks that has caused the most concern.
The park's problems have multiplied as Haleakala gains popularity among tourists, with attendance almost doubling to about 2 million a year in less than a decade. The summit is swarmed for sunrise viewing, and hikers and horseback-riding tours have damaged trails and cultural sites.
The park service is evaluating what commercial activities are appropriate. Officials acknowledge that other parks allow bicycle riding, but none are promoted as thrill rides from 10,000 feet to sea level.
The rides are popular because they require little exertion. Though some tour operators have age and fitness restrictions and equip customers with safety gear, the scenic road offers few traffic controls. The latest death occurred when the rider was hit by a van from another bicycle tour company; the other riders died when their bikes went off the road.
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