OUT: Haggerty’s Hikes May 17, 2009

MONUMENT RULES OF THE ROAD

If it wasn’t for that 1,800-foot climb within the first six miles, riding my bicycle across Colorado National Monument would have been a breeze. Actually, that first four miles — from the east entrance of the monument to Cold Shivers Point — was the most challenging. It’s steep, with lots of switchbacks and one dark, narrow tunnel. After a short water break at Cold Shivers, however, the next two miles provided a gentle climb to 6,640 feet in elevation. Then, rolling hills and winding curves turned this healthy bit of exercise into an exhilarating ride.

You can fly on a bicycle like you’ve never dreamed!

In fact, some bicyclists have received speeding tickets for flying a little too fast.

Cruising Colorado National Monument could now cost more than the entrance fee, according to a recent news release. Motorists and cyclists who disobey the rules of sharing the road will have an increased chance of being ticketed as part of the monument’s “enhanced traffic enforcement.”

The effort is meant to encourage safety as the monument enters its busiest time of year, Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said last week.

“We’ve had way, way too many near misses with cars almost hitting cyclists. I want people to enjoy the place and realize it’s not a speedway.”

Anzelmo said a car versus bike accident on the monument hasn’t occurred in three years, and she’d like to extend that streak.

We’re doing this to slow people down and prevent catastrophic accidents on the monument,” she said.

The monument issued 200 citations in the past 12 months, Anzelmo estimated. The majority of those were for speeding.

Citations, however, also include a $75 ticket for failing to cycle single-file so motorists can pass.

Motorists must:

• Obey posted speed limits

• Turn on vehicle lights when driving through tunnels.

• Yield to bicyclists at all times.

• Use extreme caution when passing bicycles.

•  Stop completely at all stop signs.

Bicyclists must:

• Have visible white lights in the front and red lights from the rear when riding through tunnels.

• Ride single-file along right side of traffic lane and allow motorists to pass.

• Obey posted speed limits.

• Stop completely at all stop signs.

Bicyclists also are encouraged to wear helmets and brightly colored and reflective clothing.That’s only common sense.

Of course, if we all displayed common sense, the superintendent wouldn’t have to crank out a news release and initiate “enhanced traffic enforcement.”

As local cyclist Nancy Lofholm said, reaching for her light, “We’re all trying to be a little more aware these days. I guess a little reminder doesn’t hurt.”

ColoradoBicycleRides.com says pedaling across Colorado National Monument is a five-star ride.

“This is a must ride as it not only has breathtaking views of the red rock canyon and the rock sculptures, but also has become a famous cycling route, being made famous back in the ’80s with the Coors Classic and featured in the movie American Flyers.”

That’s old hat for many riders around here. Nancy and dozens of other cyclists pedal across the monument weekly if not more often — because it’s a great ride. Many of those riders are training for “Ride the Rockies,” a 380-mile bicycle tour through the Colorado Rockies, held this year from June 14-19. (It will include a trip over McClure Pass and along the North Rim of the Black Canyon.)

Normally, traffic along Rim Rock Drive is light and slow, but those dark tunnels near both entrances are scary on a bicycle. Traveling from very bright light to sudden dark provides a quick jolt to the senses, and if there’s a vehicle on your tail, you know the driver is having difficulty adjusting to the change in light conditions, as well. Plus, these tunnels are narrow.

Cyclists also should be aware that the pavement entering and exiting the west side tunnels is a little rugged, so hang on tight.

Obviously, the most difficult stretches are the climbs at either end. In between, the rolling hills and winding canyon rim road provide spectacular scenic views — some missed even from a convertible with the top down.

As mentioned, there’s a fee (even without speeding tickets) to enter the national monument.

Private, noncommercial vehicles pay $7; individuals age 16 and up (hikers, bicyclists, motorcyclists) pay $4 each. Your pass is good for seven consecutive days.

Frequent users should purchase a Colorado National Monument Annual Park Pass for $20. It’s good for one year from purchase and can be bought at either entrance to Colorado National Monument or at the Visitor Center.

I’ve lived here more than three decades and finally made my maiden bicycle voyage across the monument last weekend. Now I have to get a new light on my bike, because I’m ready to do it again.


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