Very lit­tle wig­gle room


West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY CAMERON MICULKA cmiculka@west­hawai­ito­

KAILUA-KONA — A cou­ple weeks ago, Kon­awaena High School math teacher and triath­lete David Wild was run­ning at the track after school, where three teams of stu­dents were prac­tic­ing cheer­lead­ing, cross coun­try and foot­ball.

While there, Wild wit­nessed a man, an­other triath­lete, “deck chang­ing,” or us­ing a towel to change clothes with­out going into a fa­cil­ity.

Wild said a stu­dent had also no­ticed and the teacher went to speak with the man, ask­ing him to change in a re­stroom rather than on the field.

Not long after, Wild logged onto Face­book and asked his friends: What griev­ances or friendly sug­ges­tions do you have for ath­letes com­ing to town?

Re­sponses poured in from friends, com­mu­nity mem­bers and par­ents of his stu­dents, all with some­thing to say or share.

Wild col­lected those thoughts and last Thursday posted “An Open Let­ter to Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship Ath­letes,” which has since been shared dozens of times, in­clud­ing by Iron­man’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count.

With tips rang­ing from “Obey all traf­fic rules” to “Do not uri­nate in pub­lic view,” Wild said his let­ter is a sin­cere ef­fort to bring at­ten­tion to the is­sues that come with a surge in visitors fly­ing into town for the an­nual event.

The cham­pi­onship race brings 2,400 ath­letes, who bring thou­sands more friends and fam­ily, and the swell can make Kona’s small streets seem jam packed.

As a triath­lete him­self, Wild said, he has a lot of re­spect for the ath­letes who take part in the an­nual race. But at the same time, he wants to com­mu­ni­cate that com­ing to the is­land is a priv­i­lege.

One big rea­son? A bad ex­pe­ri­ence with any triath­lete can leave lo­cals with a bad taste for all ath­letes, in­clud­ing those who call Kona home.

“When­ever a bad in­ter­ac­tion hap­pens with an Iron­man ath­lete and a lo­cal, we’re gonna feel that through­out the year,” he said. “This is home; we’re not leav­ing this place right after Iron­man.”

Other lo­cals get­ting in­volved

Wild is one of many ath­letes and en­thu­si­asts in the lo­cal com­mu­nity work­ing to keep up a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship be­tween vis­it­ing ath­letes and those who make Kona their home.

Franz We­ber, who sits on the board of Peo­ple’s Ad­vo­cacy for Trails Hawaii or PATH, said there are many on­go­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to im­prove safety and re­duce the chance of neg­a­tive en­coun­ters.

For ex­am­ple, the or­ga­ni­za­tion cre­ated a short safety video about the con­struc­tion area along Queen Kaahu­manu High­way north of town. The video was dis­trib­uted to all triath­letes and also posted on Face­book.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a flyer of “dos and don’ts” about swim­ming, bik­ing and run­ning was dis­trib­uted at

the air­port.

Fi­nally, a new pro­gram called “bike am­bas­sadors” is putting lo­cal cy­clists on the road to di­rectly in­ter­act with visitors to the re­gion.

For a cou­ple hours ev­ery morn­ing, cy­clists go on Alii Drive and the high­way to en­cour­age cy­clists to follow traf­fic laws as well as be cour­te­ous and mind­ful on the road.

“So kind of ease the ten­sion,” said We­ber. “That’s, I think, our main goal.”

And for the most part, We­ber said, ath­letes are re­cep­tive to hear­ing the proper rules of the road.

“I think the very few that are re­ally dis­re­spect­ful, it’s a very small mi­nor­ity,” said We­ber. “But those are vis­i­ble. Those are the ones that ev­ery­body sees. But all over, I re­ally hardly ever met an ath­lete who doesn’t un­der­stand when I ex­plain it.”

Michael Breyer, who is in Kona for his fourth time par­tic­i­pat­ing in this week­end’s com­pe­ti­tion, said his ex­pe­ri­ences in Kona have been pos­i­tive so far, but ac­knowl­edged there are a lot of bikes, ath­letes and cars in the area.

“You just have to be su­per care­ful,” he said on Alii Drive Tues­day af­ter­noon, and specif­i­cally pointed out the con­struc­tion north of town. “It’s re­ally in­cum­bent upon the bikes and the cars to be re­ally thought­ful.”

And while he said he has seen peo­ple snap on the road, it’s a rare oc­cur­rence he’s only wit­nessed once or twice in his four years com­ing to Kona.

“The vast ma­jor­ity, 99 per­cent of the peo­ple, go out of their way to be cour­te­ous and safe around the ath­letes,” he said.

In­ter­na­tional dif­fer­ences

We­ber said for some in­ter­na­tional ath­letes, there can be some un­fa­mil­iar­ity with lo­cal rules and road cus­toms.

In many coun­tries, he said, cy­clists have the right of way and some coun­tries man­date cy­clists ride side-by-side rather than sin­gle-file.

“So there’s a dif­fer­ent cul­ture, and that may re­sult in very dif­fer­ent rid­ing habits,” he said.

Two cy­clists from two dif­fer­ent coun­tries said Tues­day that trav­el­ing on the right-hand side of the road was an­other thing to which they had to ad­just.

“For us, rid­ing on the right-hand side of the road is for­eign, be­cause ob­vi­ously we’re usu­ally rid­ing on the left,” said Jamie Ed­wards, a coach from Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia. “So ob­vi­ously, be­ing a bit cau­tious be­cause you’re in a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment.”

Ma­ri­ette Hat­tingh, an ath­lete from South Africa, also said she was used to driv­ing on the left.

“So this is now new for me to be on the right side,” she said.

Ac­ci­dents, close-calls, tips

On Mon­day, a cy­clist trav­el­ing along Kuakini High­way struck the pas­sen­ger side of a ve­hi­cle while the ve­hi­cle was mak­ing a left turn into King Kame­hameha Mall, ac­cord­ing to Hawaii Po­lice Depart­ment Maj. Robert Wag­ner.

Wag­ner said the cy­clist, 63, sus­tained some in­juries, but none that were life-threat­en­ing. She was not a triath­lete, he added. No ci­ta­tions were is­sued.

Com­mu­nity polic­ing Sgt. Roylen Valera said po­lice have wit­nessed many close calls with not just bikes, but also pedes­tri­ans.

“Peo­ple are just not aware of their sur­round­ings,” he said.

He said mo­torists need to be very care­ful when check­ing their mir­rors, look­ing be­hind them and when ap­proach­ing cross­walks, re­gard­less of whether there is a pedes­trian cross­ing at the time.

The same holds true for cy­clists, even when they are trav­el­ing in a marked bike lane.

“Even though there are marked lanes for bi­cy­cles,” he said, “it doesn’t pro­vide a wall of pro­tec­tion. So cy­clists need to re­mem­ber that even though you’re where you’re sup­posed to be, it doesn’t mean the ve­hi­cle has seen you.”

That means cy­clists need to do a head check be­fore mak­ing any move­ments and use hand sig­nals.

“And for the most part, in my pa­trols around town, I have seen a good per­cent­age of the bi­cy­clists us­ing hand sig­nals, do­ing the head check, stay­ing within the bike lane or rid­ing to the right side of the road­way,” he said. “It’s just a few that all of a sud­den, they think that they’re in­de­struc­tible, and they just dart into a lane or they make a lane change with­out sig­nal­ing or do­ing a head check.”

For ev­ery­one to re­main safe, it takes ef­fort on ev­ery­one’s part.

Breyer sug­gested cy­clists go slow on roads like Alii Drive and con­sider going on prac­tice rides dur­ing times traf­fic is less busy. And for drivers, he said, the big­gest thing he’s seen is dis­tracted driv­ing and asked mo­torists to give cy­clists space to the side.

“We’re hu­man be­ings on bikes that weigh 20 pounds,” he said. “And it’s scary for us. We’re tak­ing risks ev­ery time we go out there, and we know it.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, We­ber said lo­cal cy­clists could con­sider start­ing their train­ing far­ther out­side town where there’s less traf­fic.

“It’s scary for us. We’re tak­ing risks ev­ery time we go out there, and we know it.” MICHAEL BREYER, IRON­MAN PAR­TIC­I­PANT


Cy­clists travel down Kuakini High­way on Oct. 11.


Triath­letes cy­cle on Queen Kaahu­manu High­way, train­ing for the Iron­man.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.