The vibrant Cayman cycling scene is gradually attracting youngsters into the sport, which was an obvious fact at last week’s time trial.
The 10-mile ride from Paradise Seaside Grill is one of the most popular events on the cycling calendar.
Antoine McLauglin won the junior section easily, but he would have been pushed by Josh Weaver had he not suffered a puncture.
Another kid contesting the race was 8-year-old Alex Dailey who had just received his new bike for his birthday from dad Tim. The bike was a reward for hard work over the summer where he assisted for several weeks at dad’s company, Cay-Shred.
Alex and his twin sister Sarah love riding and have been having fun on BMX bikes since they were tiny.
Tim likes to do road rides and on a couple of occasions he took Alex on longer rides, outside the familiar neighborhood streets.
Once they did that, Alex wanted to get a “proper racing bike” so he could go faster.
During the summer he tried one out at a bike store in the U.S. and has talked about it ever since.
“We got this one from Jerome Ameline a couple of weeks ago and he has been on it at every opportunity – even in the mornings before school,” said Tim, who added that Sarah has been a little slower getting into the riding. She is more into swimming at the moment but is showing a lot of bike interest now.
Alex really enjoyed the time trial. His previous farthest ride was a slower Sunday afternoon session of about 4 miles.
He made it a little over halfway, and having previously discussed it with the organizers, the pair turned around and ended up completing about 6-1/2 miles.
Alex’s top speed was just shy of 17 miles per hour and he averaged a little over 12.5 mph.
“He enjoyed the idea of racing and I think once he gets some more practice and stamina, he will be keen to come out more often,” said Tim, who feels Cayman has the perfect cycling environment in terms of weather and flat roads.
“Sadly, however, a lot of drivers don’t have respect for riders and frequently misjudge their driving around them,” he said.
“To make it more challenging, the roads were also not designed to accommodate cyclists. The best thing that could happen to the Cayman cycling scene would be to put in proper cycling lanes any time road upgrades are done.”
The West Bay Road and Harquail stretch have ample space for riders, but the problem is the lanes are often littered with glass and the roads are not cleaned often, added Dailey.
“With proper safe riding options you would likely see a lot more people getting out on bikes – which in turn would lead to a healthier population.”
Dailey would love to see riding clinics set up to not only encourage kids to get out and exercise, but also to learn the rules of the road and safe riding practices.
A big proponent of safe riding for kids is Claire Hughes, the physical education teacher at Cayman Prep Junior School.
“We’ve discussed offering riding classes to kids in a safe area where they can first learn to ride then practice turning and skills before moving on to longer rides,” said Dailey.
“Personally, I would like to see the government get behind some initiatives to promote general healthier lifestyle options.”
He feels that with most people having less than a 10-mile commute and in many cases only one or two, and with the limited parking in some areas, Cayman could be the perfect commuter cycling place.
Alongside offering safe options, there needs to be education for drivers and stiff penalties for offenders when it comes to cycle related incidents, he added.
“A lot of drivers don’t provide sufficient space as they pass. There are frequent incidents where drivers shout abuse to riders to the effect that they have no road rights. That is completely wrong.
“There should be a strong emphasis on drivers being taught to respect the riders and vice versa.”
Dailey acknowledges that there are some riders that are guilty of road offenses too. “But the drivers need to remember that riders have very little protection.”
Ample space should be given when passing, and an overall awareness kept in mind when there are riders around.
Overtaking and then cutting to turn in front of a rider or pulling over and pulling out without indicating or allowing for the fact that there is a bicycle in the area are frequent problems.
“Drivers need to remember cyclists have very little protection, but cyclists shouldn’t expect drivers to be psychic.”
Another perfect example of lack of consideration of riders is when a motor vehicle comes up behind a cyclist overtaking another cyclist.
Drivers often think it is OK to overtake the bikes as they are overtaking each other.
“You would never overtake a car overtaking another, but when it comes to bikes, many drivers seem oblivious to the dangers they are placing themselves and the riders in.”
He feels that vehicles should slow down and remain observant and respectful when around bikers. And bikers should ride in such a manner as to safely share the roads without hampering the flow of traffic.
“A lot of people won’t dare ride because of the dangers. That is sad because our island is perfect for it.”
Dailey wants to encourage young riders to learn to ride and have fun. “It is a rewarding and healthy lifestyle. It would be nice to see more events targeted at younger riders as well.”
These can be mini-races, shorter time trials by age and other such events, similar to the annual Kiwanis Club of Cayman Bike-A-Thon.
“It is great to see families out for this, but there could and should be more such events if we are to encourage the youngsters into the sport.”