Bikers spin their wheels

If you ask an avid cyclist where he or she would go on a biking trip, the answer probably would be Vermont or California.

But Alex Obriecht, of Westminster, said he would go to Carroll or Frederick County.


Although he has cycled through Portugal, Spain, Morocco, New Zealand, France and across the United States, Obriecht said the roads in his own backyard are just as beautiful.

"Carroll and Frederick counties are as beautiful to ride as any place I've ridden," he said. "The people in Carroll County can't grasp what they have."


Despite rolling hills and a beautiful countryside - which he considers perfect for such an endeavor - the county has no official trails, he said.

Although the Department of Recreation and Parks requested $1 million from the county for a 4-mile trail from Union Bridge to New Windsor, the project was not included in the recommended budget, said Jeff Degitz, director of the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks.

"We didn't get the money in this capital plan, but we are going to continue to request grant funding," Degitz said. "It is absolutely a goal of the department to get bicycle trails in the county."

He attributes a growing number of other requests, such as schools and reservoirs, for causing the delay in getting trails created in the county.

It isn't the first time that plans to create bicycle trails have failed, Degitz said.

About a decade ago, a plan was suggested to create a trail from the Westminster Community Pond to downtown Westminster, winding through open space behind private residences, he said.

Although funding was secured for the project, the commissioners at that time declined the funds, Degitz said.

"The main complaint against trails was a concern that people would gather on the trails and do drugs," Obriecht said. "But the truth is that bicycle trails are proven to be attributes to the community in which they are constructed."


It was so disappointing to listen to people who are uneducated on the topic talk about it, he said.

"You can't have a logical conversation with people who are driven by their emotions," he said. "And the county commissioners back then didn't support it."

Degitz said there has been an increased demand for walking and cycling trails.

"We need to invest in trails," he said. "If we build it, they will come. If we construct trails, I think they will get substantial use."

Degitz said that county officials looked at the usage of the North Central Trail in Baltimore County.

"There are a lot of people who drive from Carroll to Baltimore County to use that trail," Degitz said.


Obriecht, who frequently uses the North Central trail, agreed.

"A lack of trails can deter people from getting on a bicycle," he said. "When my wife got back on a bicycle six or seven years ago, she rode the North Central Trail, and an important component of her getting on the cycle was that she didn't have to deal with cars."

The county has 10 roadway bicycle tours, which range from recreational to difficult and span from 8 to 33 miles.

But some riders would rather travel to trails outside the county than ride on the road, Obriecht said.

Trails that connect one location to another would be best, said Obriecht, owner of Race Pace Bicycles in Westminster. Such as a trail that takes a biker from Westminster to Hampstead, he said.

There also are people who would like to commute to work, and trails that link town to town would make this easier, he said.


"My wife works at the hospital and would like to ride her bike to work every morning," Obriecht said. "But she doesn't want to deal with the 5:30 a.m. traffic."

He said the proposed trail would also be useful for parents who want to ride with their children.

"This would be a way to get children on their bicycles," he said. "In Carroll County, some children are not even allowed to ride their bicycles to school."

Children are prohibited from riding to school because of safety issues, said Curtis Schnorr, the director of elementary schools for the county.

"Some children live in rural areas, and it isn't safe for them to ride on a country road alone in the morning," he said. "Or in some cases, they may be required to ride along a busy highway. In these types of cases, we don't allow children to ride bicycles to school because of safety concerns."

Adding trails in the county would give children a great opportunity to start a lifelong activity, said Linda Kephart, the supervisor of health and elementary physical education for the county schools.


"Cycling is a great way to stay in shape, and it's a great workout," said Kephart, who rides a bicycle 15 to 20 miles a day. "It's my outlet. I ride from where I live."

But it isn't a safe route for children, she said.

"We don't necessarily need bike trails. We need forethought," Obriecht said. "The county needs to look at the secondary roads and add three or four feet and mark them with lines to create paths. And, they need to connect the paths throughout the county. The key is to get people out on bicycles."

Degitz agreed.

"We could make a wider road, or when we do road work we could have the path laid away from the road so that they could be safer for use by children," he said. "We aren't sure what we will so at this point, but we aren't going to give up."