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News Archive 1992-2003

RoadBikeRider.com: Bicyclists Take On Shock Jocks And Win!

November 2003

Imagine a radio station telling drivers to throw cans at cyclists or pass them, hit the brakes and fling open the passenger door.

That actually happened in Cleveland. For a week in July, some morning-show miscreants (on a station we won't publicize) made a running "joke" out of harassing cyclists.

When people phoned in to explain cyclists' rights, they were mocked and insulted.

One of the callers was bike-shop owner Lois Cowan of Century Cycles. The DJs offered her an Lois and Scott stand up for cyclists' rightsinterview, then used it to brand her a "PMS sufferer," "stupid" and a person who "can't take a joke."

Cowan sent e-mail about the situation to cycling advocacy lists. Hundreds of riders nationwide contacted the station's owner, Clear Channel Communications, one of the world's largest media companies, with letters, e-mail and phone calls. They protested reasonably and civilly, which made the right impression.

Within days, Clear Channel execs promised to donate air time, money and other support to local cycling causes. Company reps even attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a Cleveland bike path.

The DJs were ordered to apologize publicly. Too bad they weren't made to ride to work for a month.

This story is provided courtesy of RoadBikeRider.com and Ben Delany of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Radio Company Promises Anti-Bike Rants are History

November 8, 2003

Martin Stolz
Plain Dealer Reporter

The nation's largest radio company has promised bicycle advocates to never again tolerate anti-bicycle rants by deejays and talk-show hosts.

In June, a Cleveland station set off a local furor by advocating that motorists harm bicyclists by running them off the road, ramming them with car doors or throwing objects at them. In September, the furor became national when stations in Houston and Raleigh, N.C., had similar broadcasts.

The comments on the stations, all owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., were "inappropriate and intolerable," said John Hogan, president and CEO of the Clear Channel Radio division, which operates more than 1,200 radio stations nationwide.

Hogan made his comments in a letter after meeting Wednesday with the League of American Bicyclists, a Washington group.

A Cleveland woman, Lois Cowan, owner of four area bike shops, said she felt humiliated in a July on-air interview on the "Lanigan and Malone" show on WMJI FM/105.7.

After the Raleigh and Houston broadcasts, Cowan mounted an Internet campaign against Clear Channel that created a national nightmare for the company. Clear Channel still faces complaints filed by bicyclists with the Federal Communication Commission, which grants radio licenses.

Hogan wrote, "I do not support or condone the anti-cyclists messages" and said he had taken steps to ensure they won't be repeated. He added that he had informed programmers, on-air broadcasters and local managers about "certain consequences if that direction is not followed."

In an e-mail to The Plain Dealer, company spokesman Omar Thompson declined to say what the "certain consequences" would be. He added that Hogan's "feelings and intentions have been made quite clear" to the WMJI broadcasters who participated in the diatribes, including John Lanigan, Mark Bishop and Chip Kullik.

The company explained that after the Houston and Raleigh broadcasts, a producer in Houston was fired and the Raleigh morning team was suspended. In Cleveland, after a meeting with Cowan, Clear Channel officials apologized on air to bicyclists, broadcast public service announcements about sharing the road and donated $10,000 for bike advocacy.

More than 200 Clear Channel stations have promoted more than 100 cycling events nationwide since 2002, the company said.

Cowan said yesterday that she still distrusts the company, because, "I don't think they've atoned for their sins."

The good-behavior pledge is a start, she said. But the company could further remedy a situation it created by airing bicycle safety information each year.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
mstolz@plaind.com, 216-999-4549

© 2003 The Plain Dealer

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Mountain Bikers Hope to Blaze New Trails

October 26, 2003

Douglas Trattner
Special to The Plain Dealer

With more than 65,000 acres of state, county and national parkland in the greater Cleveland area, it may be surprising to learn that there are currently only four miles of trails specifically set up for mountain biking.

Contrast this figure with the fact that there are more than 500 miles of hiking trails and 170 miles of bridle trails.

Dan Vardamis, advocacy associate for International Mountain Bicycling Association, cites Cleveland as one of the least accommodating cities when it comes to mountain bicyclists.

"There is nowhere to ride legally on trails for mountain bikers within an hour of the city limits," says Vardamis from his Boulder, Colo., office. "I can't think of another major city in the country that has that situation. There are some cities that have bad access out there, but that's pretty unique."

For mountain bikers eager to take their rugged two-wheelers out for some off-road excitement, they need to travel an hour by car from downtown. Riders are rewarded with 12½ miles of trail, which some say is a meager payoff. Members of the mountain-biking community wonder what it will take to open up some trails a little closer to home.

This issue pits mountain-bike riders and the groups that represent them against the managers of parks such as the Cleveland Metroparks, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Geauga and Medina park districts and Summit County MetroParks.

Lorain County Metro Parks and Lake Metroparks are the exceptions, offering mountain bikers one and three miles of trail, respectively.

Park managers cite a string of concerns, including limited resources to design, build and maintain trails; potential conflict between different trail users, including bicyclists, equestrians and hikers; and fear that mountain bikers will damage the environment.

But as valid as these concerns seem, Mindy Kuth, advocacy manager for the Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association, believes the issue boils down to one of perception: The mistaken belief that mountain-bike riders require things that are vastly different from other trail users.

"What mountain bikers seek is an outdoor experience similar to many other trail users, such as hikers and equestrians - the opportunity to experience the outdoors while bicycling along narrow dirt trails," Kuth says.

With more than 23 miles of the bike-friendly Towpath Trail meandering through the Cleveland Metroparks, Summit County MetroParks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one might ask: What more do mountain bikers need?

The towpath is as wide as a car lane and as equally unappealing to mountain bicyclists. Where it isn't completely paved, as it is in many high-traffic areas, the towpath's base is composed of smooth, compacted limestone. Mountain bikers desire a trail experience that is narrow, naturally surfaced and tends to wind through and around obstacles such as trees and rocks. This type of trail is often referred to as single-track.

Tom Stanley, chief of natural resources for the Cleveland Metroparks, says that allowing mountain bikers on unimproved (nonpaved) hiking trails causes a "legitimate concern for erosion and impact on the land because they have no gravel base. Especially after a rain when they get wet."

John Debo, superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, echoes this sentiment. "Our view is that the environmental impact is too great to provide off-road mountain-biking activity."

Some research appears to indicate otherwise. In the November 2001 issue of the Environmental Journal, researcher Eden Thurston found, when examining mountain biking's impact on growth and soil in a forest, "there was no significant difference in the direct physical impacts of hikers and mountain bikers." And in the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz., one of the few national parks to allow mountain biking on unpaved trails, the impact to those trails "is not substantially different from other trails that allow horses and hikers but no mountain bikers," said Meg Weesner, chief of science and resource management at Saguaro.

Kuth concedes that not every trail is an appropriate one to open up to mountain bikers. But she questions: "Is there no appropriate trail in all of Cuyahoga County? In Summit, Medina or Geauga counties?"

The key to managing the detrimental effects of erosion, says IMBA's Vardamis, is starting with a sustainable trail. "Water is the main force that erodes trails," he says. "Trails need to be designed so that water flows off them, not down them."

So important is the proper design and maintenance of trails that Subaru has teamed up with IMBA to create the Trail Care Crew.

These teams of trail-building experts routinely travel throughout North America working with IMBA-affiliated clubs, such as CAMBA, and area land managers to build and maintain sustainable trails. This, in turn, significantly reduces the demands on resource-strapped park officials.

That expertise has been tested in West Branch State Park in Ravenna in Portage County. In 1999, West Branch decided to convert some underutilized snowmobile trails into mountain-bike trails.

Working hand-in-hand with the now-defunct Northern Ohio Mountain Bike Association, seven miles of trails were opened to riders. Then in 2001, West Branch allowed IMBA-trained CAMBA personnel to build and maintain a new 5½-mile stretch of single-track trail for mountain bikers.

Park manager John Wilder could not be more pleased with the work that has been, and continues to be, done by CAMBA. "They adopted the mountain-bike trails through our Adopt-a-Trail program," Wilder says. "They did everything from design them, build them and maintain them. They did an outstanding job. The trails have held up great."

Cleveland Metroparks' Stanley says that if mountain bikes were permitted on bridle trails, they would not cause any more impact to the trail than horses.. But the idea of opening up trails to dissimilar user groups is something he is extremely hesitant to do.

"We have had several incidents where bikers were inappropriately using the bridle trails and have encountered people on horses and the horses have been spooked," Stanley says. "We've had no serious injuries to my knowledge, but we have had impacts of that nature."

This notion of user conflict is proving to be the mountain-biking community's biggest hurdle. Debo of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park shares Stanley's conviction that "mountain bikers and equestrian-trail riders do not share the same trails very well."

National and local mountain-biking organizations counter that shared-use trails are absolutely essential, and that with proper education and the realization that there is a limited amount of outdoor resources for people to enjoy in urban areas, all user groups can peaceably coexist. Operating in a shared-use environment also obviates the need to construct new trails.

"People sometimes call a trail a hiking trail or a biking trail, and that's a misnomer," Vardamis says. "There should be no designated trails for just one group. We need to work in a shared-use system, where different users work together and get along."

CAMBA's Kuth adds: "The trails are already multiuse. How can you say 'yes to you' and 'yes to you' but 'no to you?' "

An official with a state equestrian group is open to sharing trails. "Our position is that if there is no other option, we do not have a problem sharing trails with mountain bikers," says Larry Matthews, chairman of the state trail committee of the Ohio Horseman's Council, which promotes horse use in Ohio. "Horses are like people in that they have individual personalities - some would not do well with bikes and others would not mind. By acquainting horses to mountain bikers, we have been successful in desensitizing them."

One needs to look no further than to the Towpath Trail for a successful model of a shared-use system. On any given day, this busy corridor sees walkers, runners, cyclists, dogs on leashes and babies in strollers. By being considerate and following a few simple rules of trail etiquette, various user groups share this trail harmoniously.

Henry Holman agrees. Holman is management assistant of Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, one of the few national parks to open multiuse trails to include mountain bikers.

"We did this as an experiment to determine what the impact would be," Holman says. "We found that there have been very minimal complaints from other users. We haven't had any instances where there has been physical wrecks from bikers running into hikers or horseback riders."

Wilder has witnessed similar results at West Branch. Though the mountain-bike trails are regularly shared with hikers, hunters and fishermen, there haven't been any conflicts between riders and nonriders, Wilder says.

While these practices appear to be working in other parks, Jane Christyson, the Cleveland Metroparks' director of marketing, warns against comparing apples to oranges. "Not all parks are equal. You need to look at volume and visitor pressure," she says. "Last year we had over 15 million recreational visits. That's a lot of people you are trying to make happy. It's a balancing act."

When all is said and done, park officials Stanley and Debo both feel that neither the Cleveland Metroparks nor the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an appropriate venue for mountain biking.

"Since our mandate is the conservation of natural resources, we don't feel it is our obligation to provide a venue for that type of recreational activity," Stanley says.

"Mountain-bike riders are there for the aerobic exercise and that is fine, but it's not what we provide as our first priority."

Trattner is a free-lance writer in Cleveland Heights.

© 2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Radio DJs' Remarks Incite National Concern for Cyclists

October 19, 2003

Martin Stolz
Plain Dealer Reporter

CORRECTION: Because of a reporting error, this story about bicyclists and Clear Channel Communications gave an incorrect occupation for Patrick Galla. Galla is a structural technician who works at an engineering firm. END

Cleveland radio disc jockeys created a local frenzy last summer when they advocated that motorists mow down bicyclists.

Similar comments last month on Raleigh and Houston radio stations - all owned by Clear Channel Communications - have sparked a national furor against the company. Some bicyclists have asked the federal government to punish the company or revoke broadcast licenses.

The spiritual leader behind the fight against the nation's biggest radio conglomerate is Lois Cowan, a Cleveland woman who runs four bike shops and rallies supporters using pleas posted as "idiot alerts" on a Web site and in e-mail.

The controversy began June 30 with broadcasters on the "Lanigan and Malone" show on WMJI-FM/105.7. "Cleveland's Knuckleheads," as the station promotes them, and on-air callers described ways to heckle cyclists, edge them off the road or strike them with car doors, according to listeners. Such acts could bring felony assault or other criminal charges.

The weeklong banter frayed nerves, both of motorists frustrated by cyclists on the road and of the fearful bicyclists, who have a legal right to use any road in Ohio except interstate highways.

On July 3, the show had an on-air telephone interview with Cowan, owner of Century Cycles shops.

The DJs derided her explanation of Ohio law, saying she suffered from PMS, she said.

The next week, Cowan sat down with Clear Channel officials, who agreed to apologize on-air to bicyclists, broadcast public service announcements about sharing the road and donate $10,000 for bike advocacy.

Cowan thought the crisis had passed.

That changed last month when she learned about anti-bicycle rants on Clear Channel stations in Raleigh, N.C. and Houston.

On Aug. 30, a pickup truck driver in Texas hit a line of bicyclists, killing two and injuring three. On Sept. 2, a Houston station offered bicycle-disabling advice and jokes similar to what aired in Cleveland. Then, beginning on Sept. 22, a Clear Channel station in Raleigh did the same. Both stations later apologized.

Cowan, a finalist for the National Bicycle Dealers Association "Advocate of the Year" award, learned of the Houston broadcasts from a friend of the dead cyclists. In response, she filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. She asked the FCC to investigate and to help her get tapes from WMJI. Other cyclists have filed complaints, too, the FCC said.

"They obviously haven't gotten the message," Cowan said. "I don't consider it worked out."

Clear Channel operates more than 1,200 radio stations in the United States. The company holds FCC licenses for nine stations in the Cleveland/Akron market. For years, WMJI, an oldies rock station, has consistently been one of the region's highest-rated and most-profitable stations.

The company has tapes of the "Lanigan and Malone" shows but will not release them, said Kevin Metheny, the company's regional vice president of programming. "We are not inclined to get into the tedious details," he said.

"If the bicycle enthusiasts wish to enumerate the details, they are free to do so," he added. "But we apologized, we extended numerous, substantial gestures of goodwill, and we believe we have moved on."

Lawyer Patrick Galla, 55, a cyclist who rides his bike about 9,000 miles each year, took notes on all the broadcasts. His firm, Barber and Hoffman, tunes in all day to WMJI. He was listening when the subject of bikers first came up in June.

According to Galla, sports anchor Mark Bishop complained on a "Monday Moaning" segment about encountering a line of cyclists on Lake Road in Avon Lake. Bishop told listeners that as he passed, he wanted to yell obscenities at the cyclists for blocking the road. But Bishop said he forgot to roll down the passenger-side window and shouted in his wife's ear instead.

News anchor Chip Kullik responded that Bishop could have hit them or run them off the road, Galla said.

Galla said host Jimmy Malone did not participate in the banter or respond to callers, whose comments mostly echoed Kullik's. At one point, Malone announced that he rides a bike, Galla said.

As the week progressed, callers' comments grew increasingly irate, Galla said. The station offered dinner prizes for callers with the most outlandish ideas for thwarting bicyclists, he said. One motorist suggested speeding ahead and then abruptly stopping and throwing open the passenger door in a cyclist's path.

Host John Lanigan was on vacation, though he joined the discussion the next week to complain about the deluge of e-mails, including one asking whether his show helped the public.

"Well, quite frankly, I'm not here to serve the interests of the community," he says in a recording of the show. "I'm serving my interests by being here."

After Metheny brokered peace, he explained what happened to his boss, who oversees radio stations in Ohio and neighboring states. He declined to say whether Clear Channel directed stations in other states to avoid or to allow similar programming.

Clear Channel is not new to controversy. In the past year, it has been accused of monopolizing the radio industry, banning the Dixie Chicks and acting as a right-wing mouthpiece.

The company is in the sights of U.S. Sens. John McCain, Russ Feingold and Byron Dorgan.

A Washington-based public-interest research group, Essential Information, last month challenged FCC renewal of 63 broadcast licenses held by Clear Channel stations. The complaint accuses the company of committing animal cruelty, staging fake competitions, abusing the emergency alert system and causing false emergencies by having on-air personalities commit crimes.

"Every station is required, believe it or not, to have 'good character' as part of the public-interest standard," said Jim Donahue, a researcher for Essential Information. He said the law does not appear to matter to Clear Channel. "That's why I'm not surprised that they want motorists to run over bicyclists."

"These kinds of stunts," he said, "should be considered part of the overall history of Clear Channel's violations of law."

WMJI, whose license is up for renewal next October, was not in Donahue's complaint.

Because of the pending complaints from bicyclists, FCC lawyers declined to comment on whether inciting violence betrayed the commission's Character Policy Statement.

Susan Elmore, a company spokeswoman, said Clear Channel does not "condone advocating violence in any form. We've been committed to working with the cycling community in each of these separate incidences."

Elmore said Clear Channel had no comment about the company's compliance with the FCC's character rules.

Cal Kirchick, a Cleveland lawyer and bicycle advocate, said WMJI probably violated Ohio laws against inciting violence. If a motorist were to harm a bicyclist, he added, the company could be found liable.

The FCC cannot censor content. But it restricts obscene and indecent speech.

Violators can be fined or lose their licenses.

Cowan said radio stations should be concerned about bicyclists' safety. Last year, 15 Ohio cyclists and 647 in other states died in accidents with cars.

"This is a serious problem," she said. "The media has some responsibility to the public."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
mstolz@plaind.com, 216-999-4549

© 2003 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission

Inside Business: Political Cycle

March 1992

Bicycle Business Journal: 'Something old, something new' at Century Cycles

March 1992

The March 1992 issue of Bicycle Business Journal featured the opening of the first Century Cycles store in Medina:

GRAND OPENING

The future looks bright for Century Cycles, a brand new dealership in Medina, Ohio. Pictured here are partners Scott Cowan and John Boettner who, along with other partner Lois Cowan (Scott's wife), plan to bring several new ideas - including a preferred customer card - to the store.