Ride the Rockies route approved

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Bicyclists like these from the 2015 Ride The Rockies tour will begin the 2016 tour with three days of events in the Aspen area beginning June 11. Pitkin County commissioners officially approved the plans Wednesday.
The Denver Post Ride The Rockies/Courtesy photo |

Pitkin County commissioners approved a permit Wednesday allowing the Ride the Rockies bicycle tour to begin this summer with three days of events in the Aspen area.

“We’re very glad to have Ride the Rockies here,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “I hope it’s a great weather time for you.”

Wednesday’s approval capped about two months of back and forth among commissioners, county staff and tour Director Chandler Smith, who said afterward he was glad for the approval.

“We recognize the demands on Pitkin County and the city of Aspen are quite high in the summer,” Smith said.

Ride the Rockies is scheduled to begin informally in Aspen on June 11 with a 35- to 50-person VIP ride that will piggyback on the route used that same day by Aspen Gran Fondo riders. The next day, the full contingent of 2,000 riders will pedal from Carbondale to Aspen, with many camping that night at Aspen High School. On June 13, the bikers will make their way through town and over Independence Pass to Copper Mountain.

The main sticking point with commissioners was the route bikers would take June 12 from Carbondale to Aspen. County staff initially recommended having riders take the Rio Grande Trail all the way from Emma to Aspen and then double back to the high school.

But for safety reasons, Smith said he favored breaking off the Rio Grande Trail at Lower River Road and having riders taking it to Upper River and McLain Flats roads and on to the high school. Commissioners later agreed with Smith and approved that route.

However, Commissioners Michael Owsley and George Newman in March questioned whether riders should use Pitkin County’s portion of the Rio Grande Trail at all. Both worried that 2,000 riders on the trail on a Sunday might interfere with weekend strollers out walking dogs, babies or themselves, and they felt that Highway 82 was a better option.

“There’s no reason (for riders) to be on the Rio Grande Trail at all,” Owsley said at the time. “I think they should be on (Highway 82) the entire way.”

Commissioners Patti Clapper and Steve Child disagreed with their colleagues, saying they were concerned for the riders’ safety on Highway 82 and that they felt the trail was the better option.

On Wednesday, Mike Kraemer, a planner with the county’s Community Development Department, told commissioners that the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office all felt it was better and safer for riders to use the Rio Grande Trail.

Newman was concerned about how long riders would be on the Rio Grande Trail on June 12 as well as whether Highway 82 east of Aspen would be closed when riders ascend Independence Pass on June 13. Smith said riders are asked to be on the trail between 5:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. June 12 and most would likely be to Aspen High School by early afternoon. Highway 82 would not be closed June 13, Smith said.

Newman said after Wednesday’s meeting that he’s satisfied with the route after hearing the safety concerns expressed by CDOT and law enforcement. In addition, he said he’s glad riders won’t use the more heavily traveled section of the trail between Lower River Road and Aspen.

“I think locals will still be able to use the trail,” Newman said. “I’m happy to have Ride the Rockies here. It’s a great event.”

Owsley did not attend Wednesday’s meeting.


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