I spent two weeks this past month vacationing and riding my road bike around the stunningly beautiful, rugged country of western Sonoma County. Levi Leipheimer wasn't exaggerating when he described your home as world-class cycling country.
A local cyclist told me that the number of road cyclists has really increased in the last five years, and it's no wonder why. The climate, terrain and amenities are superb; great food, beer, wine and accommodations all attract healthy, vigorous, affluent cyclists. This demographic group is great for local businesses, the kind of visitors you really should encourage.
However, a couple of serious flaws exist in your cycling paradise. First, your county roads are in terrible shape, potholed and badly patched when patched at all. They are worse than our Idaho county roads! Bad roads can be dangerous for cyclists. Flat tires, broken wheels and, worse, crashes causing injury can all result from an unexpected smash into a pothole. Your roads are also typically narrow, with no shoulders.
Second, some drivers are very inconsiderate and even dangerously aggressive about passing. Cyclists have a right to be on the roads; we pay gas and property taxes, too.
Cyclists almost always will stay as far to the right as possible, but if there are no shoulders, and the road edge is littered with gravel, debris, broken glass and trash, cyclists must ride in the travel lane. It really isn't much fun to fear for your life from speeding cars and trucks while riding up a steep hill at your limit, hugging the white line, trying not to wobble at all.
Cyclists also need to be more considerate of drivers. I saw a number of riders in large groups backing up traffic or riding in the middle of the travel lane for no reason. Inconsiderate behavior like this is unsafe and guaranteed to make some drivers annoyed.
I truly hope that drivers and cyclists will learn to co-exist with mutual respect and consideration, so no cyclists are killed or injured while doing what they love. All it takes is a little bump with your rearview mirror, and you'll send a cyclist into a tree or a ditch, and on to the hospital, or the morgue.
John Borstelmann lives in Driggs, Idaho.
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