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Cyclists, residents debate courtesy on Newcastle roads

Lincoln man says head has to be on swivel when biking in the area
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Local residents raised concerns about a popular pastime in their area – road biking. But those who participate in it say there are two sides to the story. Residents: Bicyclists don’t move Newcastle resident Jenny Powell lives on Virginiatown Road and said many of the bicyclists who ride up and down her road as well as in the surrounding area are causing problems for drivers. “If you travel the entire distance of that road, it’s single lane in some places,” Powell said. “It’s very narrow and believe it or not, we get on the weekends … I would say 100 bicycle riders, 75 to 100 on a nice day. So it’s not just like there is just one or two, there are 10s and 10s of them. And to get from one point to another on the weekend can take you twice as long, and that’s OK, but if they rode single file we could scrape by them, but they don’t. I think they feel since they are going 15 to 20 miles per hour we have to stay behind them.” Powell said she is not against people riding their bikes on the road and has a lot of friends who are bike riders, but said some riders cause dangerous situations. “Sometimes they just come from behind you through a stop sign and don’t stop, and one day someone is going to get hurt and it’s going to be the driver’s fault,” she said. Powell said where Gold Hill Road and Virginiatown Road intersect off Highway 193, bicyclists sometimes stop to get a drink and won’t move when cars are coming toward them, forcing cars to go into oncoming traffic lanes to get around them. Some riders also go on residents’ property and sometimes urinate there as well, Powell said. Virginiatown Road resident Bruce Barnes said he has caught bicycle riders on his 22-acre property before and came upon one woman after she had finished urinating. “I said, ‘Look lady, I don’t want you on my property,’ and she started mouthing off to me, and I thought, ‘What can you do?’” Barnes said. Barnes said he thinks the riders should have to use bicycle lanes on roads, which don’t exist on Virginiatown Road. “We have come up on groups of them where there would be four or so of them riding side by side, and they get mad or upset at the driver … for disturbing their recreation,” he said. “Those bicycles can’t use the freeway because they can’t go fast enough, they are not powered. And I don’t know why they are allowed to use a road without a legitimate bicycle lane.” ‘Discourtesy on both sides’ Lincoln resident Bob Bourke said he rides the road several times a week and thinks the disrespect is generated on both sides of the issue. “It goes both ways,” Bourke said. “You see discourtesy on both sides. I know there are some bikers, they just kind of have a disregard for the rules of the road. There is a certain etiquette bikers follow. You try to be respectful. On the other hand, there are drivers who are disrespectful of us.” Bourke said on his Wednesday morning ride there was a female driver on Virginiatown Road honking at him and said most cyclists enjoy those types of road because of their tranquility. “It’s kind of a constant thing,” he said about interacting with drivers. “When you are on these roads your head has to be on a swivel. One of the reasons most of us ride out here though are because they are such peaceful roads. Most drivers are very good. They give you room. It’s just a few, and it’s the same with the bikers I’m sure. We can all do better.” Virginiatown Road resident Glenis Burgess said she sees bicyclists on the road all the time. She said they can be annoying when the couple is trying to get around them in a car, but the riders don’t bother her that much. Burgess’ husband, Richard, said the riders get irritating when the couple is trying to go somewhere during the day and can’t get around them. “It gets worse every year,” Richard Burgess said. “It isn’t like when we first moved in. (They come here) because it is peaceful, but they don’t realize the problems they are causing. They have got this old attitude (they) have got the same right to use the road as we do. They have got the wrong attitude on that.” Richard said he would like to see speed bumps installed on the road to slow the speeding cars and bicyclists. ‘I think it’s 50-50’ Norma Moore, who lives off Virginiatown Road, said she sees riders on the road all the time, but has never had a problem with them. Moore said she thinks both cyclists and drivers can cause tension. “I think it’s 50-50,” she said. “Some of the bicyclists I know do not respect and obey all the rules of the road, but I think there is an anger (from) the drivers who just say, ‘Get out of the way and don’t respect that the bicyclists have a right to be on the road, too.” Ron LeBard, who lives in the Lake of the Pines area and rides on Victory Velo’s cycling team in the Virginiatown Road area, said he has seen both disrespectful and respectful riders and drivers. “When I ride with the guys from Victory Velo, everybody is very aware of the cars, and if there is a car behind us they say, ‘Car back’ and everybody pulls over and lets the car go,” LeBard said. “With that said, I have seen other cyclists, they totally disregard pulling over. I’m not sure that that’s typical. Legally, there is a law that says (drivers) are supposed to pass with caution and they have to be at least three feet away, but that really doesn’t ever happen.” LeBard said he hasn’t seen a huge issue with riders urinating on resident property. “On the rides that I do typically that does not happen, and typically it’s when people have to do what they call a natural break, it’s in a very secluded area,” LeBard said. “If it’s private property, it’s very rural or secluded. I don’t think there is an issue there. People are pretty courteous with that action. Or sometimes we go up to Colfax and stuff and you just wait until you get to a convenience store, an AM/PM, or a gas station or something.” Rude run-ins Lincoln resident Tonya Clark, who lives off Garden Bar Road, said she has had issues with bicyclists coming from the Newcastle area flipping her off when she tries to pass them. “I think that they need to have some laws applied to them, or they need to be more respectful of the traffic laws,” Clark said. “They need to not direct traffic. I think in some cases drivers are rude to them too, but I know there has been several times when I’m not, and I will just be trying to drive and they won’t move. If they are not keeping up with the flow of traffic, they need to keep out of the flow of traffic as far as I’m concerned.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com