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Haleakala National Park Officials Call For Safety Summit For Bicyclists


Sunrise at Haleakala National Park lures many visitors, and bicyclists, to the summit. Eric Larson Photo.

In the past year, three bicyclists have died in Haleakala National Park while descending from the park's summit. The latest death, that of a 65-year-old Ohio woman, occurred earlier this week when she ran into a bicycle company's van.

The spate of fatalities has prompted park officials to summon bicycle tour companies to a meeting next week to discuss safety aspects of their businesses.

According to a story in the Honolulu Advertiser, Haleakala, Hawaiian for "house of the rising sun," is renowned for its spectacular sunrises. Watching the sun come up at the summit has long been one of the top things to do for visitors to the Valley Isle. And in recent years, the practice of cycling down Haleakala, especially during sunrise, has proliferated.


I thought I was going to be added to the list, the way some cyclists traverse those trails. (My apologies to some of you, but I was quicker than they were. Barely.) And yet I recall a recent article pertaining to expanding mountain-biking in the park system. True, they aren't the same type of biking, exactly. But this trail, at just under 10,000 ft. is pretty ambitious for a recreational rider. It'll be interesting to see who gets the blame for her hitting a stationary vehicle. Did she suffer from oxygen deprevation and temporarily black-out at the critical moment? Did she hit the coaster brake instead of hand brake? Did a tire blow out at the most inconvenient time? Was she run off the trail by as considerate a member of the group as I ran across out there? Was the driver violating a no-parking, cyclist-only zone? Sun in the eyes? Was she wearing a helmet?

I did this ride down Haleakala over 10 years ago. It was a blast and the highlight of my trip to Maui. As long as the bicycle companies test the brakes of the bikes every day, and as long as the rides know their abilities, there is no reason why the ride should not be safe. The company I took gave a riding 'test' before we left the parking lot. They also talked all the way up the mountain about the potential dangers and that people had been killed. One woman did freak out and rode down the mountain in the van rather than continue on the bikes. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I think the park should ban the rides? No.

I did this ride on my honeymoon, because my husband wanted to.  I am not an accomplished biker, and therefore was pretty scared the entire time. Many places with no railings, you feel as though you are going to plummet off the edge to your death.  Our "leader" was like a drill sergeant.  He kept yelling, "go! go! go!  Keep up! Keep up!" and I was at the back and having the hardest time keeping up.  Yes, I got on the van at our first stop 1/3 the way down and then back on my bike for the last 1/3 because it was a piece of cake at that point.  Do I think the rides should be banned?  No.  But they should definitely be made safer, in terms of railings, speed, and expectations of the riders.  They should not have even allowed me to ride, given my skill, to be honest.  Also in light of the conditions (fog, rain, etc.), maybe at those points people should have to get off their bikes and walk them, just for safety's sake.  Keep the rides but make them safer!  Glad I got through it alive.  Would never do it again.  My husband loved it!

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