Cyclists rate city’s safety |

Cyclists rate city’s safety

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Rich Cowell Wednesday evening was driving when he and other motorists approached three cyclists near Redstone Towne Center.

What transpired, as he describes it, is a scene that likely occurs frequently on the West Side but is only sometimes reported.

The drivers and the cyclists were making turns close to each other and a conflict ensued. None of the cyclists were hit but there were bad feelings and obscene gestures, as Cowell recalls.

Cowell, also a bicyclist, this week is staying in his Kimball Junction condominium, where he splits his time with Jupiter, Fla., and on Wednesday was at Snow Park Lodge in lower Deer Valley, preparing for his competitions during a stop of the National Off-Road Bicycle Association circuit.

"Most of the people who live here are not tolerant of road cyclists and that’s not fair. They’re from more metropolitan areas," Cowell says, adding that drivers, especially those who are not cyclists, have little patience for the bicyclists. "They’re not used to sharing the road."

The talk in the Snow Park lots was more about the upcoming competition than about the challenges of riding on the streets and paths of the Park City area. But Park City continues to be embroiled in discussions about the safety of bicyclists, pedestrians and others not driving cars.

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Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council, as they consider setting aside money for improvements, continue to hear from critics, including a round on Thursday night. Decisions about the funding should be finalized on June 21, when the City Council is scheduled to adopt the City Hall budget, which includes earmarks for a variety of improvements.

This weekend Park City is expected to host a huge bloc of cyclists, about 2,000 competing in the NORBA races. Another few thousand fans, many on bicycles, are also expected. In the days before the races, the number of bicyclists riding on the sides of Park City roads seemed to tick upward.

They arrive just more than a week after about 150 riders rallied on the West Side for safety and awareness between drivers and bicyclists. There is a long-running campaign locally, meanwhile, known as ‘Share the Road,’ which encourages safety between drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Cowell, though, says there remains tension. He recalls times when, he says, drivers have yelled at him as he rode or purposely driven close to him.

"He’s screaming at me. ‘Mountain bikes are for the mountain. Bicycles are for sidewalks,’" Cowell says, recalling another episode.

Another competitor at Snow Park, Sanjay Shanbhag, who is in Park City from Irvine, Calif., once took his bicycle out in Old Town. He remembers there was little traffic late in the day and says Park City is a better place to ride than big cities.

"It’s much safer than a metropolitan area, where you have many more cars," Shanbhag says.

He rides elsewhere and says conflicts are common.

"It’s pretty dangerous nationwide. I motorcycle as well and riding my bike on the road is more dangerous," he says. "Cars don’t really see you. The ones that do are not courteous."