I am not a bicyclist. I own a bike. It has been hanging on hooks in the garage for several years. In fact, it still has a child's seat fastened to it from when my kids were that small, so it likely would fall into a category greater than several years now.
But I am mindful of bicycles. My department manages several recreational trails in Grundy County. The Comet Trail connects Conrad and Beaman with Wolf Creek Recreation Area. And now, a mile and a half east of the park the trail name changes into the Wolf Creek Trail and continues on to Gladbrook. Both are compacted limestone surface. The Comet Trail has been used for years as the site for the Gemini Run on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend as a part of Beaman's community activities. I understand it is happening again this year.
Portions of the Pioneer Trail in the central part of the county touch Holland, Grundy Center, Morrison, and Reinbeck. It, too, is limestone surfaced and popular with bicyclists and walkers.
And finally, there is the Phil Kruger Memorial Lake Trail that starts in the campground, circles Grundy County Lake, and terminates all the way over at the Dike Recreational Sports Area. It is asphalt surfaced and very popular with area residents as well as others by the looks of all the bicycles that get hauled along by campers staying in the campground.
Bicycling is a popular recreational pastime to be sure. But the real purpose of the column this week is not to discuss our trails, but to raise awareness for the many bicyclists that use the county and state roads.
This came to the forefront of my news column topics this week when I had a too close encounter with an accident wanting to happen south of Green Mountain in Marshall County on County Road T-29. The road has very little shoulder and so the gentleman peddling along was using the traffic lane. Using the lane that by Iowa law he can use and actually for safety reasons should use rather than riding a shoulder or the edge of the travel lane.
I was approaching him from the opposite lane. A big, white Tahoe was rapidly coming up from behind him. I hit the brakes as the woman driving the SUV pulled a quarter into my lane to go around the bicyclist. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, I watched the mini-van behind the SUV do the same only moved far enough into the passing lane to miss the bicyclist. At least in the second case there was not an approaching vehicle in the van's path.
I have listened to bicyclists relate these kinds of stories over the years. But this was my first real up close and personal experience and it made an impression. I don't know if it had that effect on the Tahoe driver but I certainly hope so. What I really hope is that she just might by some small chance read the column this week. What I really, really hope is that she doesn't continue that behavior until a fatality occurs.
Over the years, I have also listened to my share of folks who absolutely hate bicyclists on the roads. They have used phrases like, "They don't own the roads. Why don't they stick to the trails."
My vehicle licenses pay for these roads and bicycles don't pay a thing."
And the scariest of all, "I hope they get what's coming to them."
No matter which side of the issue you find yourself, PLEASE pass a bicyclist with the respect you should any size vehicle. It is the law. Watch out for them, please.