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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tribulus terrestris: Bane of cyclists

It's that time of year again. The dreaded season of the Goathead Thorn plague, also known as Puncture Vine, or to botanists as tribulus terrestris. The daily newspaper of America's leading bicycling community, Davis, California, the Davis Enterprise, had a great story this week on this painful plant by my friend Jeff Hudson.

If you are fortunate enough to have part of your bike commute on single track, a rural road, or on a bike path where these plants grow, beware! They are noxious. The best solution is to have a wide swath of this brush cleared from these thoroughfares by the responsible agencies, before it has time to produce these thorns.

In many communities, volunteers from local bike clubs will clear the brush. I can't discourage this strongly enough. For one thing, as I've said elsewhere, volunteers are a poor substitute to professional and competent public works staff. Further, brush clearing or road maintenance done by volunteers from bike clubs serves to marginalize bicyclists. It encourages government agencies to avoid taking responsibility to maintain public space for all users.

Imagine if hazardous vegetation near a road was impeding vehicule traffic. You can bet the state or county road department would be out there removing it almost immediately. If a public right-of-way is hazardous, get the governing agency to take responsibility. Bicyclists and pedestrians should never accept second-class treatment.

If clearing isn't happening often or soon enough, the next best solution is to avoid paths or roads where this pervasive plant proliferates. Sadly, I have yet to hear of any bullet proof tires or puncture-proof inner tubes that effectively resist the Goathead Thorn.

I would love to hear of tires that prove effective. Completely effective.

Image: Richard Masoner
Visit: Hi-tech tires for older bikes, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

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