(Soundbite of chains whirring)
BEATRIZ CASTAÑEDA (Reporter): It’s not often that you see cyclists in the car-centric city of El Paso. That’s not to say that El Pasoans haven’t tried to nurture different cycling groups. Groups like the Cycling Club of El Paso and the Miner Cycling Club. But that’s about to change. The city of El Paso recently passed an ordinance allowing the addition of bike lanes. The city voted 7-1 to ticket all drivers who crowd out walkers, runners, cyclists and people using wheelchairs.
The Kern area of El Paso has a lot of bike commuters. Ramon Villa, a graduate student from the University of Texas at El Paso. He like riding his bike daily to go to work and do errands. But he says the streets aren’t as safe as he’d like them to be.
Mr. RAMÓN VILLA (Graduate student at UTEP): I know a guy…he got hit a while back, and that was pretty depressing. He was pretty torn up in the face. He doesn’t wear a helmet, you know. And so neither do I. I’ve almost gotten hit, but I don’t go as fast. This other guy, he doesn’t even go that fast, and he got hit. His face, was, just, oh man, it was bad. He’s healed up and now he has all these scars. It’s not a good thing.
CASTAÑEDA: Ramon says things wouldn’t be so bad if only drivers would pay attention.
Mr. VILLA: Usually my close encounters are with the young people. Or with people on the phone. They’re texting. They’re looking down and they’re kind of driving. So you have to wait until they look at you kind of thing. And with older people it’s just been more of an encounter that they have to go first. There’s no yield. They apparently have the right of way all the time.
CASTAÑEDA: But not everyone thinks El Paso is a danger zone for cyclists. Robert Barrio is the owner of Crazy Cat Cyclery. He thinks El Paso has the potential to support cyclists.[Soundbite of cycle shop sounds)
ROBERT BARRIO (Crazy Cat Cyclery): There’s no other place you can get on your bikes and ride on the mountains without having to drive there. I just don’t think we have the reputation yet for a cycling community or the infrastructure in place that would encourage the cycling community to grow.
CASTAÑEDA: When it comes to biking safely, Barrio says that both motorists and cyclists need to stay alert.
Mr. BARRIO: I know a guy that was killed by a bike, I’ve gotten hit a couple times. The most common thing is to ride around obeying traffic laws, you don’t have time to stop I think it’s a very common thing. There’s an awareness issue where cyclists need to be aware of the environment they’re in, and motorists need to be aware of cyclists as well.
CASTAÑEDA: Despite the dangers of riding a bike, Barrio is hopeful the climate will change for El Paso cyclists. He says he’s seen a big change in attitude on all levels.
Mr. BARRIO: I think I’ve been in business for sixteen years. And I look at where we were 16 years ago and where we are now, and I see a thriving cycling community. I think a lot of credit goes go our City Council for being progressive. I think we should’ve started planning ahead years ago. I think the cycling community is trying to have a bigger voice. I see a real quality of life issue, and I hope we start planning for the future but I definitely see potential for both.
CASTAÑEDA: For UTEP, I’m Beatriz Castañeda.
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