Cyclists should use bike trails

The bicycle of Jerry Nepon-Sixt of Tampa, Fla. leans against a railing after completing a bike trip from his home in Tampa to Iowa City at the Airliner in Iowa City on Friday, August 7, 2015. Nepon-Sixt outfitted his bike with food, camping and repair supplies.

(KC McGinnis / The Gazette)
The bicycle of Jerry Nepon-Sixt of Tampa, Fla. leans against a railing after completing a bike trip from his home in Tampa to Iowa City at the Airliner in Iowa City on Friday, August 7, 2015. Nepon-Sixt outfitted his bike with food, camping and repair supplies. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)

For a long time, it has been a big concern of mine about the increasing bikes on the public highways. What I am about to put into words may not be popular with some of my friends who are cyclists.

Many times I have encountered cyclists riding on the Ely Road (W6E) since the new bike trail to Ely was completed. The cyclists appeared to be experienced and serious cyclists and should know riding on this excellent trail is much safer.

Over my 25-plus years as mayor I was involved in many discussions about completing a bike trail on the old Rock Island Railroad bed. There had been many problems with this as the funding was to be paid by tax payers on all levels of government. It was and still is my contention that bikes should be licensed for two reasons: first, to help pay for trails and, second, to be able to track down violators.

Many times after the Ely trail was completed cyclists have gone through stop signs in front of me when coming off the trail onto a city street. Serious cyclists should know all the traffic laws apply to them as well. Currently, the Ely Road is being resurfaced affecting two bike crossings on the trail to Ely. Some cyclists have decided to follow the detour route on Jappa Road to Ely. This route is dangerous because of the hills and the curves with minimal sight.

I myself had a close call with cyclists when I was driving over a hill and found two riding abreast. If another car would have been coming from the other direction I most likely would not have been able to stop in time. I was not speeding nor was I distracted by a phone, bikes are just slower.

I buy license plate tags every year and pay a tax on gas to help maintain the roads. I believe cyclists should be required to do their part for trail building and maintenance by being registered, purchasing plates and an annual sticker for their bicycle. This in my mind would give them the right to use and to obey all the traffic laws on the open road and trails.

It is our responsibility to not be distracted while driving and it is cyclists’ responsibility to make sure they use a safe route to ride.

• Tom Tjelmeland is a former mayor of Ely. Comments: mayortj@southslope.net

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