LIHUE — Keoni Kahn Macko has been cycling for years on Kauai.
“I think people are in such a rush to get where they need to go,” he said. “That shouldn’t preclude somebody that is on a bike from going where they have to go. If you put yourself in the other person’s place they’d understand. We have to make it safe for everybody.”
There were 14 bicycle related traffic collisions in 2015, 12 of which included injury, according to the Kauai Police Department.
As of June, there have been five bicycle related traffic collisions, four of which included injury.
Triathlete Lisa Ledesma has heard her fair share of stories about encounters with angry drivers. She also has seen a rise in the number of cyclists on the road.
“We have more good drivers than we do bad, but there are always a few bad drivers,” she said. “The majority of us cyclists are street smart. But some drivers are so in a rush. They don’t think we have any rights.”
Tommy Noyes, executive director at Kauai Path, said cycling is a lifestyle and a way to stay healthy. He understands there are challenges that make it difficult to enjoy cycling safely.
“It’s complicated. Substance abuse, inattention to driving and an infrastructure that in many ways is hostile to cyclists and pedestrians,” Noyes said. “A prime example is what a pedestrian would have to walk is between Wilcox Hospital and Hanamaulu on Kuhio Highway. That little dip there has been identified as the No. 1 priority to improve by the Hawaii Department of Transportation. So it takes time, diligence and persistence.”
Noyes said his organization wants to create a more walkable and bikeable Kauai and it’s doing that by educating cyclists and helping people understand the connection between physical activity, health and streets that serve all users.
“We teach cyclists that they fare best when they act and are treated as operators of vehicles,” Noyes said. “Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users.”
According to Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 291C-1, Hawaii bicycles are considered vehicles and a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights of the driver of a vehicle.
“Bicycle John” Tanner wants to raise cycling awareness.
“The best thing that could happen is once you become a rider, you identify with bike riders,” Tanner said. “You don’t mind those extra 10 seconds at a stop light. People in cars can then appreciate it more. But if you don’t ever ride a bike, you don’t care about a bike rider’s needs. You don’t think they need those paths on the road. You want them to get out of the way. We have to raise cycling awareness, so that people can tell others to give cyclists a break.”
Cycling is all about saving a few bucks, staying healthy and finding places for the community to ride their bike safely, he said.
Noyes noted that while many motorists don’t understand what cyclists deal with on the highways, it goes both ways.
“Hostility is a recognized concern,” Noyes said. “It comes from two sources, I believe. One is motorists not empathizing with cyclists and the other is cyclists not conducting themselves in ways that aggravate motorists. What we teach is to be alert, visible, predictable and assertive.”
Kahn Macko, who throws a shaka at motorists who pass him, said there’s safety in numbers.
Group rides will help cyclists maintain contact with each other and offer everyone an opportunity to know where the group will meet at the end of the ride for socializing, Kahn Macko said.
Kahn Macko offered advice to drivers.
“You try to spot out the runners and cyclists they are on the roads,” he said. “That way you’re teaching your kids to point out the hazards out there.”
“You have the bad cyclists and the bad drivers,” Ledesma added. “But hopefully, one day we will all be on the same page.”