By Mark Zalewski
A new policy enacted in November by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) could have some negative effects on the region's most popular cycling events. As of November 14, 2005 all events that use the CSP for safety and traffic control cannot have more than 2,500 participants. While most racing events can only dream of having 2,500 entries, charity and touring rides consistently draw a larger crowd - and two of Colorado's most popular events, the Elephant Rock and Triple Bypass, stand to lose out.
However, the rationale behind this new policy is not without reason, according to the CSP Sergeant Jeff Goodwin. "The state patrol has worked with bicycling events for decades, and we have always worked very closely with our partners. But we have come into situations where our resources are stretched to the max. So we had a committee come up with a number that is reasonable for people to come to an event and yet keep it manageable [for us.]"
Many in the Colorado cycling community are upset because they do not know how the CSP arrived at the 2,500 cap. "What we did is we looked at resources like motorcycles and officers. In most cases it is eight to sixteen, and that makes a ratio of one for every 300 riders," said Sergeant Goodwin.
What this comes down to is the perception of what safety is. The event organizers believe that a well-run event will render the number of participants as an independent variable. According to Bicycle Colorado's web site, a group organizing a petition of the cap, "A well-run event can be safe for 10,000 bicyclists and a poorly-run event can be unsafe for 100 riders."
However, the CSP's position is different. "What's happening that nobody is talking about, is the behaviour of the cyclist and behaviour of the motorist is coming into contact often. We are seeing more violent acts. There was a man who threw out a box of nails in the Elephant Rock race last year which was dangerous and affected a dozen riders, and another that involved a drunk driver trying to run over cyclists, as well as other safety issues that are growing in number - and the event organizers do not want to talk about that."
Leslie Caimi, organizer of the annual Triple Bypass ride over Squaw, Loveland and Vail passes, told the Rocky Mountain News that she will still hold the ride in 2006, but with 1,000 fewer riders which will mean less money donated to the community. "The biggest thing is the amount of charitable giving we do," she said. "This year we donated $90,000 back to the community. Next year, that will probably be cut back."
The paper also reported that local legislator Representative Terrence Carroll of Denver will work to find a solution. He said in a written statement, "an arbitrary and subjective cap on the number of riders allowed to participate hurts the bicycling community more than it helps it." When asked if there would be a way to accommodate both sides, Sergeant Goodwin replied, "They could get away from dealing with us by setting up a new venue - get their permits to use city or county roads from the other [local] departments. Some of the cities have incorporated parts of state highways which are in their jurisdiction and not ours. The event organizers could have a second event or multiple events. As long as they come in under 2500, we have no problem."