Local cyclists are fighting for the right to ride in county parks at night

A petition is being circulated by mountain-biking enthusiasts who want Pima County to legalize night use of area trails. At first thought, it seems like a reasonable request—but then it turns into one of those pesky adult things where you can see both sides of the argument.

The petition is being circulated by members of the Southern Arizona Mountain Bike Association and the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists. There is a version of the petition online that was written by SAMBA leader James DiDomenico. (Just once, I'd like to be referred to as a samba leader. Maybe at the 2016 Olympics; that's my next quest.) Anyway, he writes, "Tucson county parks currently close at dark, an ambiguous time."

I have to stop him here. "Dark" isn't a time. Dark is a visual phenomenon or a poet's general state of being, and sometimes an intrafamilial insult among certain Hispanics.

Anyway, he continues, "Dark occurs in the winter months at close to 5:30 p.m. and in the summer months around 8 p.m. These times hardly give taxpayers who work all day time to enjoy the parks! (His exclamation point.) I would like to see a fixed time, such as 10 or 11 p.m., as a closing time, if one is actually needed. This gives everyone adequate notice and allows police to patrol and ticket offenders if needed."

As I've said before, I think Tucson's cyclists are crazy, bless their insane hearts. A lot of the time, I don't even like being on Tucson's streets in a car full of airbags. I have no idea how these people can be among the Road Ragers, the Speed Racers, and the Butthole Texters with nothing between them and the aforementioned jackasses except a stripe on the pavement and a thin layer of skin-tight clothing. But they're out there every day, and more power to them.

I also readily admit that I don't understand the concept of mountain-biking. I guess it's a less-boring form of hiking, which, in my experience, is one step up from dental work. But if people like to do it, and they respect the desert, good for them.

According to cycling enthusiast Cassi Morelock, in the old days, road and trail cyclists had two options in the Tucson summer: They could ride in the 100-degree heat of daytime, risking dehydration, heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration. (That lack-of-water thing is extra bad.) Or they could try to ride at night, with little or no visibility, and risk crashing into Paul Babeu making out with his boyfriend while pretending to be on a stakeout.

Morelock says that technological breakthroughs in lighting allow runners and cyclists to work out at night. Some lights allow athletes to see several hundred feet ahead of them. However, because of pesky physics, in order to illuminate that far out, the beams have to be relatively narrow and don't illuminate off to the side.

As it stands now, the trails are only open from dawn to dusk. They're rarely patrolled at night, but if somebody gets busted, the resulting fine can be substantial. The petition-passers would like to do away with that possibility.

Right from the jump, they collected several hundred real-people signatures. They then put the petition on Facebook, which means they have the potential to collect 800 million more signatures. If they just got everybody in Uzbekistan to sign, Pima County might have to cave.

It's a tough call, really. These are adults who we're talking about, and they wouldn't be out to do any harm. If the plan is OK'd, special measures will have to be taken to make sure that minors aren't riding the hills at night. (Adults, by and large, have the right to take their lives in their own hands. Kids, not so much.) There would also need to be increased patrols in these areas to protect the exercise enthusiasts from the freaks who come out at night. There are mountain lions and snakes and bears, oh my, plus armadillos and coyotes (both kinds) and chupacabras up in those hills, not to mention the alligators in the sewers. Then you have the human freaks.

(And we all know of whom I speak. They all look like the original members of the Allman Brothers Band, and they get together to listen to white-trash death metal and smoke Caucasian ganja, then spray-paint stupid stuff all over the place, mistaking lame for badass in their stupor.)

The increased patrols will either cost more money or divert manpower from other parts of the community. In addition, there will probably be an increased need for the services of other first-responders. I don't care how careful and experienced these cyclists are; some of those people are going to be falling off mountains.

If the county gives its OK to the plan, it should definitely insist that people sign liability waivers. You just know that some knucklehead who's riding really fast on a mountain at night will biff and then sue the county because it didn't warn him that riding really fast on a mountain at night is dangerous.

Still, these people are hard-core and determined. Let 'em ride.

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