Cyclists’ riding style spins concerns

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Fernando Burgos risks the worst of rush-hour traffic to join in a massive cycling group whipping around the Rose Bowl in formation.


Published August 6, 2007 by the Pasadena Star News
By Kenneth Todd Ruiz 

Video: 8/6: Peloton at the Rose Bowl

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Fernando Burgos risks the worst of rush-hour traffic to join in a massive cycling group whipping around the Rose Bowl in formation.

For Burgos, who said he's been hit twice by cars on the open road, it's the only safe place to practice what is called peloton riding, a type of sport familiar to most in events such as Europe's annual Tour de France race.

Cyclists have been riding in peloton for more than 40 years, but growing unease and complaints from residents and others trying to enjoy Pasadena's communal playground have the city working to put an end to their revolutions around the stadium.

Tonight, riders will make their case again before the City Council following a Wednesday meeting with police and stadium officials after the council took action July 30 that could spell the end of peloton in the Upper Arroyo Seco.

Police Chief Bernard Melekian, who also serves on the stadium's board, said the peloton posed a public safety hazard, and supported a new ordinance that would ban cyclists from riding more than two abreast.

Last week he showed the council video footage of cyclists riding up to seven abreast, straying into other lanes and forcing cars to the side of the road.

For the cyclists, it's about speed, teamwork and sweat.

Riders riding in the wake of the pack's leaders ride in a resistance-free draft, allowing them to reach greater speed with less work.

"By making it two abreast that ability to draft is in effect eliminated, but it doesn't impact the recreational use of the Rose Bowl, it just eliminates the peloton use," Melekian said.

At full velocity, the peloton careens around the bowl at speeds reaching 30 mph.

The gaggle of more than 100 riders dominates any other traffic around the stadium concourse, making the pedestrians and motorists sharing the roadway uneasy.

Over the years, police have received complaints that have ranged from minor injuries to at least one incident of several riders kicking in a car door they were angry with.

Riders fire back that pedestrians should only be walking counter-clockwise and need to stay within the right of way for walkers and joggers.

Pasadena resident Raphael Gomez has rode peloton around the bowl since 1973. He's offered to organize the group into policing itself in lieu of banning the ride outright.

One alternative discussed Wednesday, according to Rose Bowl General Manager Darry Dunn, was bringing organization to the ad-hoc nature of the peloton, possibly requiring membership, and enforcing a code of conduct.

Dunn said he found the riders receptive and willing to take action.

"They agreed that something has to be done, they didn't dispute that," Dunn said.

The issue has been percolating at meetings of the Rose Bowl Operating Company for months, as its members have mused over means of curtailing the peloton.

Former Pasadena Mayor Jess Houston essentially legalized the peloton by removing stop signs along the road ringing the bowl, but it was decided that would also impede casual cyclists.

On Thursday night, residents and neighbors repeated their complaints and demands for action before the RBOC board.

Several riders also attended the meeting.

Most on the council weren't swayed by the cyclists' need for a place to practice.

"I don't think any of us is highly enthused about protecting the rights of someone from Redondo Beach to come to Pasadena to train for their next race in safety," said Councilman Steve Madison.

But worried the rule could have unintended consequences such as preventing parents from riding alongside their children, Madison supported working with the riders to see if a compromise situation could be reached.

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