Dobbs: Vail Pass recpath newbies need to know rules of the road
July 25, 2014
There are companies that take tourists to the top of Vail Pass in a van— from both sides, Summit County and Vail — then let them coast back down on a bike. That's fine; it's more of an amusement park ride than a workout, but I don't begrudge visitors from the lower levels of our planet the thrill of flying down The Pass.
But as one of the many riders in the area who does actually climb both sides of The Pass on my bike before reaping the reward of a fast descent, I do begrudge the poor level of instruction tourists get from some of the drivers and guides who set them free to make their way to the bottom. Three times in a single day this month, I came close to a collision because no one had told these downhill riders the "rules of the road"… or, no one had told them loud enough… or, no one had told them twice!
So this letter is an appeal to all those companies that rent-a-lift to tourists: please more emphatically explain to people before they begin their ride down the mountain that 1) They should stay on the right side of the path, particularly where there's a bold yellow line designed to prevent a downhill rider from plowing into someone going the other way (one of my near-misses was a day-dreamer in a group who forced me clear off the path); 2) When they stop to take pictures or a piss or anything else, move altogether off the path (another near-miss was coming around a curve on a switchback and right there in the middle they were standing with their bikes, smiling for the camera); 3) Anyone going uphill has the right-of-way; and 4) When they're starting their descent on the east side of The Pass toward Copper Mountain, they should be extra-vigilent about staying on their side of the line as they come out of the short tunnel near the top, which goes straight into a sharp right turn; climbing up, I had a teenager plow right into me because he was on my side, not his. That hurt!
Sure, these are "First World" problems, but it'll be safer here in our First World if the rent-a-lift companies that carry tourists to the top try harder to keep them, and us, safe.
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