Susan Hardberger recalls a trip she and husband, Charles, took up north to Wisconsin. Avid cyclists, they took their bicycles and rode frequently both in town and out of town.
“Even out in the country, people will pull way over,” she said of Wisconsin motorists who come upon bicycle riders. “They’re just so courteous.”
That isn’t the case in Rolla or Phelps County, she said.
“They’re not aware of anything,” she said of local drivers. “They’re talking, texting, not paying attention.”
For the Hardbergers and others, finding a safe place to ride can be difficult. She’s been cycling for exercise for about three years; he’s been riding longer.
They’re always on the lookout for good places to ride. They’re also quite aware of recent news about cyclists, joggers and pedestrians who have been struck or run down by motorists.
They’d like somebody to do something about it.
So would Dan Fuhrmann, owner of Route 66 Bicycles.
He paid to have 150 yard signs printed to draw the attention of passing motorists, reminding them to be careful. The yellow signs feature a silhouette of a car, a cyclist and a jogger, all sharing the road.
Fuhrmann hopes the signs will remind drivers to watch out for other users of the pavement. He’ll give a sign to anyone who has a highly visible place to put it.
“There are signs in Cuba, St. James, Lebanon, Rolla,” he said. “There might be one or two in Salem.
Beyond that, Fuhrmann said he’d like to see the city leaders become more active in making Rolla bicycle-friendly.
“There is a lot of federal money available for communities,” Fuhrmann said. “Somebody’s getting that money. I think we ought to get our fair share.”
Seeking out those grants and applying for them takes time, and Fuhrmann said he knows Public Works Director Steve Hargis and the city staff are plenty busy. That doesn’t stop him from hoping and wishing for a full-time city staff member who could plan and implement a bicycle-friendly community.
Fuhrmann said making Rolla more bicycle-friendly would be good for the university students who live here. Many of them ride bicycles to class from their homes across the interstate. Many of them don’t ride bicycles because the overpass is narrow and feels dangerous to a rider.
Envisioning a bicycle/pedestrian overpass, Fuhrmann said that would relieve some of the parking stress around the university and downtown.
Fuhrmann hopes someday to see designated bicycle lanes on the street, a longer ACORN Trail for cyclists and joggers to use and even a city ordinance to protect cyclists and joggers from harassing honks and yelling from motorists.
Page 2 of 2 - “That happens a lot here,” Fuhrmann said of harassment by motorists. “Everybody’s got a story.”
Charles Hardberger has a story about an incident on Highway O.
“It was Saturday morning several months ago, and it was a bunch of lowlifes in an old Camaro,” he said. “There’s no way to pull off on Highway O, and they were obviously looking for trouble.”
The young men in the Camaro followed him instead of pulling around him, laughing, whooping and hollering. Finally, they pulled around him, staying as close as possible to him. The passenger reached out and almost touched Hardberger, a dangerous move that could have caused him to lose control of his bicycle and have an accident, possibly colliding with the car.
Hardberger didn’t have an accident and wasn’t injured. He was only shaken up.
And that incident removed Highway O from Hardberger’s list of possible riding routes.
Even the designated bicycle paths in Rolla can be dangerous. The Hardbergers are quite wary of the ACORN Trail’s crossing on Winchester Avenue.
“They blow through that crosswalk,” Charles Hardberger said. “It’s dangerous. They don’t look. They don’t care.”
Susan Hardberger said there are other crossings that are dangerous, too, because some motorists — it only takes a few — are rude.
“The only people who are courteous are the elderly,” she said.