Tour de Gripe…Squid was tooling around Seaside on the Fourth of July on a bike, thinking that would be the best way to get to Bayonet and Black Horse to see the fireworks, no parking required. But the marine layer was so thick, Squid turned Squid’s attention to the unofficial firework shows in the city’s neighborhoods where the rockets’ red glares were well below the wet blanket of fog. The city had pledged to crack down—“You lite it, we cite it”—but despite Seaside’s warnings of enforcement, people lit up the city anyway. Squid’s English bulldog, Rosco P. Coltrane, hid under the bed shaking, but Squid enjoyed it.
Speaking of bikes and wet blankets and government crackdowns on fun, Squid watched the Carmel City Council meeting on July 2, eye-rolling sequence fully engaged. The owners of the charming Carmel bicycle shop called Mad Dogs and Englishmen were appealing a previous decision by the Carmel Planning Commission banning the shop from offering guided bike tours of up to 10 riders with a trained guide for a total of 11 people on bikes. The two- to three-hour tours would start and end at the shop at the corner of Mission and Ocean, twice a day from June through October and once a day the rest of the year.
This is not the shop’s first foray into the ridiculous nature of Carmelites coming out against anything fun to do in town. In spring of 2018, the shop barely got a permit to offer bike rentals after planning commissioners complained that the tiny narrow-street town was too dangerous for bikes, period. (The request was denied by the commissioners but approved by the council on appeal.)
At the council meeting last week, bike shop owner Martin Watson pointed out that there have been zero accidents or complaints since the shop started renting bikes last year. In fact, the shop has been getting loads of positive attention from the outside world. Mad Dogs was featured by American Express as part of its small business ad campaign with a video shown to millions of viewers during the U.S. Open last month. Watson told Council that the shop is getting lots of requests from visitors to offer tours so they get the most out of their time taking in the scenery, instead of fumbling around with maps.
As soon as Watson finished his pitch, Squid began the countdown to residents’ complaints—3…2…1…
“I love that the business in town, bicycles in town are fine with me but they are not safe, especially in groups of 10,” said Darlene Mosley, a resident and Carmel Residents Association board member, who prefaced her remarks with something of a shudder. She walks the town daily and often sees people on bikes “enthralled” with the beauty of the ocean and forest, which means the bicyclists don’t have their eyes on the road. “It scares the heck out of me that people are going to be hurt,” Mosley said.
One point that came up in the shop’s defense was that it would be unfair to ban a business practice available to bike rental businesses in neighboring jurisdictions—there’s nothing to stop bike tours from outside of Carmel to ride into the city, something Mosley latched onto.
“Yes, in fact today I saw two people on rental bikes from Pacific Grove,” she said. “Maybe they rode them there, maybe they trucked them in, but we’re going to open ourselves up to hordes of bicycles.”
Squid did a double take. Trucking in bikes from Pacific Grove? Hordes of bikes overtaking Carmel’s genteel village? Please. Fearmongering about outside riff raff much? (At least outsiders on bikes aren’t outsiders in cars, causing traffic and taking up parking spaces, Squid thought.)
That wasn’t the end of the fear-based arguments. Councilmember Jeff Baron was generally in favor of allowing the tours, but said he wanted the maximum number of people to be smaller. Just the week before, he’d taken an electric bike tour of Boulder, Colorado, and the experience gave him pause.
“I felt like I was a little bit of a menace,” he said, repeating the word—or a variation thereof—four more times as he made remarks. The tour’s size was “menacing.” He recalled recently speaking to a couple of Carmel tourists on rental bikes, struggling with their map, calling that activity a “bit of a menace,” as well.
Mayor Dave Potter wanted to move ahead with allowing the tours of 10, plus a guide. He suggested a report with an update on safety in six months. The council voted 5-0 in favor of the full-size tours, despite the “menacing” fear of outsiders on two wheels.
Phew. Squid was happy to see that the wet blankets of Carmel were prevented from stamping out a few sparks of safe, legal fun. And if anyone cares about a dog's view: Rosco will take hordes of cyclists over illegal fireworks any day.