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Park superintendent Marilyn Parris said she anticipated to
announce a decision the first week of March and did not foresee
anything that would delay that time line.
As reported in TravelAge West in October, the downhill bicycle
tour suspension in the park followed the September death of a
65-year-old woman during a commercially guided ride from the
mountain’s 10,000-foot summit.
At the time, the death was reported by the park as the third
biking fatality in the year, but that claim was later corrected to
two biking fatalities. There have been three biking fatalities in
the park in the past 24 years since the guided tour operations
Individual bike riders are still allowed to ride to and from the
6,800-foot park entrance and the 10,023-foot summit. The seven
permitted commercial bicycle tour operators are currently
restricted from conducting bike tours in the park. The 40 daily
tours had been limited to a maximum of 90,000 annual bicycling
clients, a portion of the entire park’s 1.45 million annual
visitors in 2006.
While park entrance permits for five of the guided downhill bike
tours were suspended, two of the unguided bike tour operators who
held permits for vehicle tours to the summit Haleakala Bike Company
and Maui Sunriders are still operating their vehicle tours and then
launching the self-guided bike tours at the lower-elevation park
The five permitted guided bike tour companies that were
suspended from tour operations in the park have pursued different
tactics for survival. Bike It Maui, a small company offering one
daily sunrise tour, made the difficult decision not to operate
tours during this period and await its 2008 permit approval.
“We are taking reservations for mid-March, but we are telling
clients they are not guaranteed,” said co-owner Petra Johnson.
But according to owner Phil Feliciano, “that is our biggest
contention,” he said. “Fifty percent of the tour is already a van
tour,” and in bad weather the guided tour operators always had the
option to drive the vehicle to the summit and begin the bike tour
at the lower-elevation entrance.
But park superintendent Parris explained that the guided
bike-tour operators did not have specific vehicle tour permits and
that the park had put a hold on all new permit authorizations since
August 2006 when it instigated an overall commercial services plan
review, which is hoped to be completed in 2008. Paris said the park
is trying to accommodate “the best interests of park visitors, park
resources and what the park services can manage according to
Terryl Vencl, executive director of the Maui Visitors Bureau,
recommended that travel agents check with the bike tours they work
with to obtain their status and get the most up-to-date
“It would be best to check with each operator as to what they
offer,” she said.
All of the operators said their business had been hit by the
sudden suspension of the downhill, guided bike tours in the park.
Travel agents, activity agents and hotel concierges moved to the
sidelines amid misinformation about which operations continued and
the safety liabilities.
In mid-2007 insurance liability rates required of the bike-tour
companies increased from $1 million to $3 million. The Hawaii state
legislature also enacted legislation allowing the counties to
regulate biking industry operations on both state and county roads.
Joe Krueger of the engineering division of Maui County’s Public
Works Department said the county hired a consultant to undertake a
study of the industry. He expects new proposals and ordinances
could be enacted by the county this year.
Terryl Vencl said the Maui Visitors Bureau did not have any
information that the bicycle-tour industry situation would impact
any other visitor sports.
Meanwhile, the five Haleakala Park guided bike tour operators
banned together to form the Maui Bicycle Tour Association and hired
attorney James Fosbinder to represent them in preparing a safety
report submitted to the park. Fosbinder remarked that the rate of
bicycle fatalities in the park was below the national average, and
that the downhill fatalities tended to occur in a disproportionate
number of men over 60 and women over 40, rather than among the
commonly most at-risk group, particularly men between 16 and
Fosbinder’s report suggested a number of ways bicycle safety
regulations could be improved. The goal is to enable the
health-promoting, eco-friendly, biking-industry enthusiasts to
continue to be a vital presence in the National Park while at the
same time being less of a daily safety concern and nuisance to
For now, however, any changes are still to be seen.
Unguided bike tours outside park entrance:Haleakala Bike Companywww.bikemaui.com
Maui Sunriders Bike Companywww.mauibikeride.com
Guided bike tours outside park entrance
(permits suspended in park):Bike It Maui No Ka Oiwww.bikeitmaui.com
Cruiser Phil’s Volcano Riderswww.cruiserphil.com
Maui Downhill Bicycle Tourswww.mauidownhill.com
Maui Mountain Cruiserswww.mauimountaincruisers.com
Haleakala National Park extends ban on downhill bicycle
tours, permits vehicle tours to summit
By Karla Aronson
In a decision announced March 18, Haleakala National Park on
Maui extended its more than five-month moratorium on commercial
downhill bicycle rides in the Park until at least 2009. However,
the Park will permit five affected guided bicycle tour operators to
conduct vehicle-only tours to the Park’s 10,000-foot summit.
“We are very pleased (Haleakala National Park Superintendent)
Marilyn Parris has allowed us back in,” said Jon Thuro, owner of
Maui Mountain Cruisers. “We have worked with the Park since day one
(of the bike tour operations), in 1983.”
Similarly relieved, Petra Johnson, co-owner of Bike it Maui No
Ka Oi, which had closed shop awaiting the Park’s decision, said her
company was happy to be back in business.
Since the ban was enacted October 10, 2007, following a client
fatality, four of the five permitted downhill bike tour companies
began launching their guided bike tours at the lower elevation,
6,800-foot Park entrance. In the interim, the companies were
obliged to contract with other permitted vehicle tour operators to
provide clients van rides to the summit. Two unguided, commercial
bicycle tour operators who held vehicle permits for van tours to
the summit continued to launch their self-guided bicycle tours at
the park entrance. Individual bike riders are still allowed to ride
to and from the park entrance and the summit. (See TravelAge West
article “Hit the Brakes,” Feb. 18.)
All of the companies had been hard hit economically by the
Park’s sudden ban on the downhill volcano bike tours within its
borders. As many as 90,000 clients sign up for the tours annually.
Bike company representatives said it would be a slow build to
return to their prior business levels. During a meeting held March
18, Park superintendent Parris informed the companies the
moratorium would hold for a year to a year-and-a-half, they
The final fate of the commercial bike tour industry in Haleakala
National Park will be determined by a complete review of the
activity under the Park’s Commercial Services Plan, initiated in
mid-2006. As part of the commercial services review, all impacts of
the bike tour industry operations in the Park, beyond just safety
considerations, will be evaluated, including the Park’s resources
The safety report undertaken by Haleakala National Park stated
the commercially guided bicycle tours “posed moderately high risks
to the tour participants” and “an unacceptably high risk to park
visitors.” Among 15 proposed standards possibly to be required of
the companies, the report listed limiting total group size,
evaluating the number of trips per day (formerly 40 trips per day,
19 of which were at sunrise), and establishing a permit condition
prohibiting third party bookings. (Visit www.nps.gov/hale to
read the full reports.)