Manny Mirabal gives a nervous chuckle to the odd reality of cycling in San Antonio.
Cycling is his passion and when training, he prefers the challenge the hills in that small town provide. As serene as it sounds, there's the high level of angst that comes with it.
For years now, some cyclists and residents have mixed about as well bike tires and potholes. Mirabal, owner of University Bicycle Center in Tampa, said for that reason, he rides in a group. That way he's not targeted by a frustrated driver.
"That's always a fear in the back of your mind," he said.
The relationship between some residents in San Antonio and the bicyclists that pedal through the town multiple times a week – if not daily – has been rocky.
Both sides have levied serious complaints.
Some residents have seen cyclists disrobe in parking lots to change out of riding gear into street clothes. Others have seen a few cyclists relieve themselves on the side of buildings.
The grumbling isn't one-sided.
Some cyclists have complained of motorists not giving the proper passing distance, which has led to riders being buzzed or worse. Riders have been clipped and then crashed.
Sgt. David Buhs of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office believes the key in moving toward a better relationship between residents and cyclists is to respect each other.
"It's just going to be a matter of our presence out there and getting to know these people and letting them know we're out there," Buhs said. "Let them know there's rules of the road to follow and the main thing is to be cordial and polite to the neighbors that live there and obviously follow park rules when you're in the park. … I think everyone is on the right track. If we could just work as a team, together, I think it's going to be a positive thing, really."
San Antonio officials, residents and cyclists met Saturday morning under a pavilion at the San Antonio Athletic Complex to discuss their differences. San Antonio Mayor Tim Newlon and County Commissioner Ted Schrader attended the meeting.
As the participants avoided sheets of rain, there was an honest discussion of the issues. San Antonio resident Lou Rinaldi coordinated the meeting of roughly 40 people and said it was a step in the right direction.
"Enforcement, education and of course my key point was that police enforcement is the last result," Rinaldi said. "Citizens need to see something and say something, motorists, bicyclists, everybody needs to self-enforce and do the right thing."
Part of doing the right thing, according to Rinaldi, is for everyone to refresh their knowledge on the rules of the road. Read manuals that spell out what you can and can't do as a motorist and bicyclist, and share the road.
"This isn't anti-bicyclists," Rinaldi said. "It's pro-community values."
Mirabal said he took several things from the meeting and hopes to help assemble a bike safety event for kids in the near future.
"One, the community is receptive to cyclists coming up there to ride. That's not an issue," Mirabal said. "However, they made it very clear there are certain activities and attitudes that they're going to be intolerable to. We completely respect that position. Secondly, in listening to them, I gather what they're encouraging us to do as a cycling community is to police ourselves as much as possible and to encourage cyclists that go up there to be respectful and to know what things are tolerable or not tolerable to the community."