Haleakala bike tours still on hold
A recreational plan for the park could create interpretive rides
WAILUKU » A moratorium on commercial downhill bicycle tours will continue at Haleakala National Park following a panel's finding that the activity poses "unacceptably high risk," said park Superintendent Marilyn Parris.
Parris said yesterday the park will be evaluating a way to conduct interpretive bicycle tours other than downhill tours.
The tours would make several stops within the park, allowing opportunities to check on the condition of riders, she said.
Meanwhile, Parris said, five bicycle tour companies will be authorized to conduct tours within the park using vans while the park service completes an evaluation of commercial services.
Parris ordered a "safety stand-down" on Oct. 10, halting several bicycle tour companies from operating downhill rides within the park, following a commercial bike tour fatality on Sept. 26.
A National Park Service board of review supported the moratorium on in-park downhill bicycle tours after a safety analysis found the activity posed unacceptable risks.
Parris said she felt the safety analysis team did a good job.
"I'm very pleased," she said.
Parris said an evaluation of interpretive bicycle tours will be included in a commercial services plan and an environmental impact statement studying recreational park activities.
Parris said the development of a commercial services plan started in 2006 and will probably be completed in a year and a half, following public hearings and studies.
Before the stand-down, bicycle tours began at the crater parking lot at the 10,000-foot level and went downhill for 30 miles to sea level.
Bicycle tours now begin outside the park boundaries at the 6,500-foot level and go downhill for 20 miles.
Total client numbers were at 24,000 when bike tours began in 1986 and rose to 106,000 in 2005, the park said.
The park imposed certain safety conditions on bicycle tour businesses after a fatality in 1998, requiring additional protective gear and bike safety inspections.
The park said injury rates declined starting in 2001, but the seriousness of the injuries and two fatalities have prompted the park to reassess the future viability of commercial bicycle tours in the park.
Within a one-year period spanning 2006-07, a woman died after riding off the edge of the road, and a man died of a heart attack after hitting his head in a bicycle accident, according to park officials.
Phil Feliciano, owner of Cruiser Phils Volcano Riders, said he felt the park was taking a "good positive step" by issuing permits to allow bicycle tour companies to drive their vans into the park.
"We're very happy about that," Feliciano said.
Feliciano said in developing interpretive bike tours, Parris has mentioned developing more pullout places for stops, which is a "good thing."