Aspen: Some still struggle to share the road |

Aspen: Some still struggle to share the road

Charles Agar
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesA bicyclist pedals up McLain Flats Road outside of Aspen. Police are encouraging bicyclists and drivers to be courteous and coexist.

WOODY CREEK, Colorado ” Maybe it was a case of simple misunderstanding, but when two locals recently got in an argument over sharing a road in Woody Creek, it showed that motorists and cyclists are still sometimes at odds.

The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a spat between motorist Michael Cleverly and cyclist Michael Maple. About two weeks ago, the two apparently had a heated exchange on the side of Woody Creek Road.

A sheriff’s official said each man could face charges ” Maple, a disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge for allegedly making an obscene gesture, and Cleverly, a traffic infraction for making an unsafe pass.

Conflicts between motorists and cyclists are fairly common, according to Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office officials, who said that as winter ends, drivers speed up and cyclists hit the road. The Sheriff’s Office receives about one call every month about drivers and cyclists in conflict, Patrol Director Ann Stephenson said.

“We gotta learn to share the road and play nice in the sandbox,” she said.

Cleverly, a Woody Creek author and artist, said he was driving his red Jeep Cherokee home along Woody Creek Road on a Sunday afternoon and became frustrated when he couldn’t pass two cyclists pedaling side by side.

Cleverly followed the pair, waiting for a chance to pass, and then took his opportunity, hitting the gas to pass and scooting to the right quickly before reaching a blind curve, he said.

Cleverly claims that he looked in his rearview mirror to see one of the cyclists, Maple, flashing an obscene gesture. Cleverly pulled over immediately to, as he said, “edify them in the finer points of etiquette and physics.”

Maple, an Aspen businessman who estimates he cycles some 3,000 miles each year on area roads, said Cleverly was a threat.

“He came within six inches of my shoulder at 30 miles per hour, and I didn’t appreciate it,” Maple said. “Whoever the driver of this vehicle was, was dangerous and aggressive.”

Maple said the incident was on a deserted, quiet stretch of road and that he and his companion were only taking up maybe 6 feet of a 24-foot-wide road.

“I think there are some drivers out there who are aggressive toward cyclists,” Maple said.

Cleverly said he always thought that scooting around cyclists was the courteous thing to do, but said that in the future he might just lay on the horn instead.

Stephenson said that sometimes the disputes arise because motorists and cyclists aren’t well acquainted with the rules of the road, Stephenson said.

She cited a recent change in Colorado state law, which allows cyclists to ride two-abreast. State law reads that cyclists “shall” ride in a single file but “may” ride double if they do not impede the flow of traffic.

“Bicyclists are required when cars pull up behind to get into single file,” Stephenson said.

Brad Gibson, a detective with the sheriff’s department, said he regularly fields complaints of incidents on rural roads. Gibson said it’s really up to both bicyclists and drivers to have mutual respect for one another.

Cyclists should listen for approaching cars and not block traffic, Gibson said, and drivers should slow down and give “due consideration” to cyclists.

“They have to coexist,” Gibson said.

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