After a successful first year hosting a women’s biking event in Morgan County, Wildflower Pedalfest organizers donated proceeds to the county’s food bank and Sub for Santa funds with promises for additional donations in years to come. However, talk of future biking events stirred some controversy in a recent Morgan County Council meeting.
Stacie Palmer and Erika Beckstrom recently presented a check for $2,000 to the county. They also donated $500 to the Ken Smith Memorial Park, where their event was staged. They said they had 900 riders at their Aug. 18 event, which they hope is the first of an annual tradition. They want to identify a project to donate funds to from proceeds of their next event.
“We live here and bike here,” Palmer said. “We want to make road biking here safer.”
County councilmembers suggested donating money for “share the road” signs along county roads, something that should make county roads safer for road biking.
“Bike riding is here,” Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley said. “We are a destination place. We want to make the roads safe, but we don’t have a lot of money to widen the roads. We are a rural county with rural roads, and widening the roads is not attainable.”
Kelley said that Wildflower Pedalfest’s efforts to obtain a permit and work with local law enforcement helped in the county’s efforts to keep the county safe during their event.
Many Morgan County residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with bikers on county roads.
“It is hard to get around the groups of riders who ride three and four abreast, taking up half the road. That is part of the frustration,” said Morgan County Councilman Ned Mecham said. “When something is happening, people that live here need more advance notice. ‘Share the road’ works both ways.”
“There is a bike problem on the roads. Not to say the bikers are the problem, but there is an issue and we have spent a lot of time ignoring it,” County Councilman Robert Kilmer said. “We have frustration from drivers and petitions from riders. We have hundreds of bikers every weekend on Morgan Valley Drive. A lot of our problem is those that come from outside the county. When there are eight to 14 of them in matching jerseys, and you have to travel (in your car) behind them for miles, those are the ones giving bikers a bad name.”
Palmer said she notified participants of her event to ride single file. Kilmer said he appreciated the effort.
“When you ride in Morgan, it means you ride single file and don’t block traffic,” Kilmer said.
Resident Rod Stephens expressed his concerns with bikers at a recent county council meeting.
“There are too many bikers on our roads now, and it has resulted in a lot of rudeness, from both cars and bikers,” said Stephens, who suggested the county look at regulating bicyclists with permits and fees. “They should pay if they want to ride in our community. I don’t recommend we widen our roads or provide bike lanes. I don’t pay for their hobbies, and I don’t ask them to pay for mine.”
Kilmer said he appreciated the monetary donation from Wildflower Pedalfest proceeds.
“You are willing to give back to the community,” he said. “Other races give nothing to the community. There is an impact, they ought to participate in alleviating that impact.”
He said that many bikers going through the county are using businesses’ bathrooms and water without spending money at the establishments. He has even had bikers use his hose to fill up water bottles without asking his permission.
Councilman Lyle Nelson said that motorists should also be courteous to bikers, allowing them three feet of right of way.
“Any driver who tries to run a bicycle rider off the road is subject to actions under the law,” Nelson said.
Kilmer suggested the county look closer at its mass gathering permit as it applies to biking and other large events that go through Morgan County.