City of Pasadena Moves to Limit ‘Peloton’ Riding at Rose Bowl

What happens when a 60-year-old tradition clashes with public safety?

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Published July 31, 2007  by Pasadena News
By STEVEN CISCHKE

What happens when a 60-year-old tradition clashes with public safety?

Monday night the Pasadena City Council sided with safety by taking the first steps toward passing an ordinance designed to prevent bicyclists from riding in "peloton" formation around the Rose Bowl.
 
A peloton is a large group of cyclists riding four or more abreast. Just as in car racing, cyclists can reduce air drag, and thus the effort exhausted, by having other riders in front of and around them. After a few minutes in the front, the leaders fall back and let another group lead.

Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian told the council the pelaton events around the Rose Bowl have become too dangerous, with cyclists crossing boundary lines separating them from opposing traffic and pedestrian lanes.

Noting that there are often 75-150 riders participating in the twice-weekly summer events, the chief requested the council to consider a resolution barring cyclists from riding more than two abreast.

"I've been down there enough to see some bad accidents." Councilmember Steve Madison said.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin said the peloton creates a "climate of intimidation and fear" for pedestrians because of the speed at which the riders go. A lot of people have stopped using the Rose Bowl area during the evenings when the pelaton is there, she added.

Melekian said the police have been clocking the riders and they have stayed with the legal limits of 35 to 40 miles per hour. Councilmember Victor Gordo said that limit might be a little too fast for the area.

Councilmember Sid Tyler said he occasionally walks or rides in the area, adding:

"I do find the pelotons interesting to watch, but intimidating, particularly when they come up behind me."

But four-time national cycling champion and second-generation Pasadena resident Katie Safford told the council the Rose Bowl peloton is a major, national training ground for cyclists.

"I'm fast because of these Rose Bowl rides," she said. "You learn from the group rides."

"The ordinance won't work," she added.  "We won't get the training we need to become good cyclists."

Pasadena resident Raphael Gomez said he has been riding in the Rose Bowl peloton since 1973 and has represented the city of Pasadena in numerous cycling championships. Four of the riders who represented the United States in this year's Tour de France have ridden at the Rose Bowl, he added.
 
"We want to preserve this 60-year-old tradition for future generations," he said.
 
He blamed the problem on pedestrians walking the wrong way, causing other pedestrians to cross the boundary lines into buffer areas, but offered to lead a team of volunteers to police the cyclists to follow the rules.

Fernando Burgos, a Redondo Beach resident, told the council he comes to Pasadena to train at the Rose Bowl peloton.

"We are athletes and the ride at the Rose Bowl is a training ride so we can compete at … various avenues," he said. "It's not a recreational ride per se, it's more a training ride, and there are rules and there is etiquette. We want to coexist with everyone, but we have to train in very specific conditions, [at] very specific speeds, in a safe environment."

Melekian said it comes down to a fundamental issue of what the Rose Bowl area will be used for.  McAustin said she favored using the area for recreational cycling for Pasadena residents rather than training.

Madison said something has to be done and that he was not impressed by the training argument, but was not sure the ordinance is the way to go.

"What if a father wants to teach his two sons how to ride?" he asked. "Would they be in violation of the ordinance?"

City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris warned that the city is on notice of the dangerous condition and could face liability if it does nothing and someone gets hurt.

The council voted to move forward with the ordinance with the understanding that while the ordinance is in the process of becoming effective, the police and city staff will talk with the cyclists to try to find the best solution.