Friday, July 18, 2008
Carlisle’s cycling season is in full gear
As any driver or pedestrian in Carlisle can tell you, it’s bicycling season. Once the snow melts and the road edges are cleared of leaves and sand, Carlisle becomes an attraction for bike riders of all ages and abilities. Last Sunday morning saw the usual weekend rush of cyclists riding through or relaxing in the center of town. According to Larry Bearfield, proprietor of Ferns Country Store, Carlisle is on several popular cycling routes, and Ferns has become a frequent stopping point for many riders. In fact, bike riders were one of seven groups of core customers identified during their initial market research when he and his wife Robin Emerson purchased the store.
Bearfield notes, “There are a lot of cycling clubs that come through. They each have their own schedule. I can tell you that Quad Cycles [cycling club from Arlington] will be coming through at about 11 a.m. Early this morning we had a group that comes through regularly at 7 a.m.” The staff at Ferns tries to be welcoming, to the point that they have a bike pump that cyclists can use on site and the store carries bicycle repair equipment and tools. According to Bearfield, “Some of the clubs have a great attitude. They show respect for drivers and other cyclists and they are careful on the road. They dislike the attitude of the few who make it bad for the others.” Two bike groups (Lexington Bike Coalition and Quad Cycles Club) have donated $100 each in the past two years toward the cost of the porta potty located behind Ferns and that the Quad Cycles store also donated a bike rack to Ferns, he added.
Bearfield said that some bike clubs paint symbols on the streets instead of handing out maps to indicate the routes. Some examples can be seen on North Road. Symbols for the Charles River Wheelmen, one of the groups that rides through town, are shown on their website www.crw.org/CueSheets/ArrowGuide.php.
Some cycling clubs provide services, such as participating in roadside clean-up days, in the areas where they ride. In past years, off-road cycling clubs, such as the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA), have also given back to the town. In 2000, NEMBA donated $3,000 toward the purchase of an 8.5 acre parcel adjacent to Great Brook Farm State Bark. That group has also volunteered extensively in the park, building trails, constructing boardwalks and installing erosion control systems.
Not all cyclists who enjoy the roads in Carlisle belong to cycling clubs. In fact, the bike riders who stopped at Ferns last Sunday between 7 and 9 a.m. were in smaller groups or pairs. Most
said that they enjoyed biking through Carlisle for the quietness of the roads and for the scenery. One pair of female cyclists, who described themselves as “early morning riders from Concord” spoke of “how pleasant the ride is when we get out before the traffic.” Noting that they are usually a threesome and that two of them sometimes ride side-by-side to talk, they said that they always “talk about our formation, so that we can quickly and safely move out of the way when we hear traffic.”
A pair of cyclists from Bedford enjoyed their regular ride on a Bedford-Carlisle-Chelmsford route. They also preferred riding in the early morning to avoid traffic, stating that the narrow roads are beautiful, but that there is not always room on the shoulder to ride safely next to heavy traffic.
The same quiet streets and curving shaded roads that attract cyclists to the area can create potentially dangerous situations when cyclists and motorists share the road. In an effort to maintain a safe environment for both cyclists and motorists, in late June the town posted several new signs reminding cyclists that traffic laws will be strictly enforced.
According to Lt. Leo Crowe of the Carlisle Police Department, “It’s really a safety issue. We are taking a pro-active approach to advise cyclists of the law. The roads in Carlisle are very narrow and single-file riding is a must.” Crowe noted that the situation is worse on the weekends when the cycling traffic is very heavy but acknowledged that dangerous situations are not always the fault of the cyclists. “Some people [drivers] get very nervous when they approach cyclists. They are afraid to pass. Then when they do, they pull way over into the other lane which creates a very dangerous situation.” Crowe said that the department has heard some complaints about the signs from cyclists who feel that they have been targeted, but he added, “We want to keep the roads safe for everyone.”
There has been no increase in bicycle accidents in Carlisle this year. Four accidents were reported during 2007 and three had been reported as of July 14 of this year. Three tickets have been given to bicyclists this year. The incidence of complaints against bicycle riders has also remained fairly steady, with 17 complaints registered last year and nine registered so far this year.
Rules of the road
With a few exceptions, cyclists who are using public roadways are subject to the same laws that apply to motor vehicle operators. For example, like car traffic, cyclists must ride single file except when passing, they must obey all traffic signs and signals, yield to pedestrians, use signals to indicate turns, and for cycling at night they must use a headlight and reflectors.
Unlike motor traffic, however, cyclists are allowed to use sidewalks outside of business districts unless local laws prohibit their use. They may also pass on the right and they may use either hand for hand signals.
Additional safety regulations require that all bicyclists 16 years of age or younger must wear approved helmets and that baby seats must be used for passengers weighing 40 pounds or less. More specific information is available at http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/85-11b.htm.
Competitive bicycle races are allowed on public roadways when they are sponsored by recognized cycling organizations that have obtained the required approval and permits from local police departments. According to Crowe, as of July 14, no races are officially scheduled to come through town. Earlier in the summer the Pan Mass. Challenge Kid’s race used streets on the Concord side of town, and a race sponsored by Harpoon came through town. In both situations, the police were informed and on site. ∆
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