By Kimber Gabryszak
Cycling in Summit County, which includes much of what is considered to be Park City (but actually isn’t) as well as the rural areas and small towns extending to Wyoming, is a wonderful thing. It’s an incredibly beautiful area with many fantastic rides and I count myself lucky to have access to this environment.
But I don’t take it for granted.
Eastern Summit County (Coalville, Kamas, Wanship, Oakley, SR 32, Chalk Creek, Henefer, Francis, etc.) has a difficult situation. Here we have residents that have lived in the area for 4, 5, 6 generations. They farm the land, work hard, and have a rich connection to the community. In their eyes, the weekly cycling events are damaging to their livelihood, bringing in ‘outsiders’, and clogging narrow country roads, while leaving any economic benefit elsewhere – wherever the event originated.
With the Park City and Summit County area having 4-5 events nearly every weekend during the summer, ‘special events” start to become something other than ‘special.’ Residents also confuse casual group rides with formal events; to the residents the distinction is irrelevant as both types of rides have the same impacts. They become angry, distrustful, and ever more anti-cyclist.
It’s a two-way street. There are a lot of drivers with a sense of entitlement that don’t know the rules, and a lot of drivers that know the rules and disregard them to make a point. There are also a likely equal number of cyclists that don’t know the rules of the road and unintentionally misbehave, and a lot of cyclists that know the rules and disregard them – or flaunt them – to make a point.
As cyclists, we have a legal right to be on these roads. But taking the attitude of entitlement is only going to damage our fragile relationship with the residents and add fuel to the fire. It’s tempting to flip the bird at an angry driver, and plant our flag on the hill of our rights to the road. A smile, a shrug, a friendly wave instead will go a long way…
For an example, Chalk Creek Road up to Wyoming and back is a popular ride. As you may not be aware, Chalk Creek is one of the most dangerous and controversial roads in Summit County, with SR 32 (Wanship to Heber) a close second. Chalk Creek was considered as a no-event road by the County at one point due to the controversy; miles of blind corners and no shoulder combined with cyclists both out and back result in drivers stuck behind cyclists for miles getting angry, and then passing dangerously. Cyclists often stay in the drive lane due to lack of shoulder and high-speed descents. It is a safety issue, not an issue of rights.
In short, please obey the law of the road, and also the spirit of the law. It’s designed to help us share the road and get along. If you can snug over on these sensitive roads, do it. Smile and wave the car past. Just a suggestion: stop and get lunch at a local restaurant or buy Gatorade at a local gas station. Be visible making a positive impact in the community! But at a minimum, single file always when vehicles are present, give way / make room for vehicles to pass, don't litter, respect livestock, share the road, and don't engage with angry drivers.
I know there are some of you reading this, getting upset and thinking “those drivers need to learn some respect” and “why don’t you educate those residents on the law instead of us?” Please know that we have educated and communicated and done what we can, and remember to try on the other group’s shoes. We are dealing with long held traditions and ways of thinking and it is going to take time and ambassadorship. It’s not Us-versus-Them…we are all ambassadors for the cycling community, so get out there and ride, and leave a trail of good will in your tire tracks.
The acts of the few impact the privileges of the many, and a little will go a long way.
Thanks, and happy responsible riding!
Kimber Gabryszak, AICP
Special Events Coordinator / Summit County Planner
435.336.3132 or 435.615.3132