In the Saddle: Some rednecks are easily riled

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY ” I don’t know what it is about seeing a cyclist on the road that gets some rednecks riled up.

I was riding solo on Sunday afternoon, staying to the far right of the Garfield County road that runs on the opposite side of the Roaring Fork River from Highway 82 and the Rio Grande Trail. There is no conceivable way I was slowing or inconveniencing any driver.

I usually shrug it off when a driver dicks with me. It’s part of the territory. But a strong headwind Sunday prevented me from hearing a vehicle pull up on my tail. The driver of a beat-up, old Toyota pickup honked and the passenger pointed to a trail just off the side of the road. I just shook my head as they went on their way.

For someone who doesn’t ride, I’m sure the obvious question was, “Why isn’t that idiot biker over there on that trail where he belongs?” Well, that particular trail is property of a private golf course, so cyclists have no right to be on it.

The next obvious question is, “The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority built you bikers a trail with public money, so why don’t you use it?” My answer is, you can only use that flat trail so often. I use it, a lot, and Sunday was a prime example of how I incorporate it into a ride. I traveled the Rio Grande from Emma to Carbondale, then used the county road for some diversity, got back on the trail at the CMC turnoff and headed upvalley to Catherine where I used the county roads again to climb into Missouri Heights and descend into El Jebel.

I’m sure a lot of backcountry travelers using motorized vehicles can relate to the need for diversity of terrain. People four-wheeling, dirt biking or riding an ATV typically don’t want to stay on a flat, graded gravel road the entire time. They want pitches and rolls, something a little more exciting. That’s why a road cyclist cannot stay exclusively on the Rio Grande Trail.

Notice I started by saying “some” rednecks get peeved at cyclists on the road. I’ve got plenty of redneck friends who don’t give a darn. They might not understand why a biker rides on the road, but it doesn’t bother them, as long as they aren’t two abreast.

For what it’s worth, Colorado approved a new law this week that requires motorists to give cyclists 3 feet of space while passing them. The law, Senate Bill 148, also gives motorists the ability to pass a cyclist on a double yellow line as long as it is safe. I don’t know if the new rule will do any good ” and enforcement will be tough ” but it takes effect Aug. 5.