Rio Grande Trail not wide enough for large bike event

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

The Rio Grande Trail was not wide enough to accommodate the hundreds of bicycle riders on the Ride the Rockies Tour last month and should not be used in the future for such events.

That’s according to two Pitkin County commissioners and a ranger with the county’s Open Space and Trails program who said he had to write a $100 citation to a Ride the Rockies official for not complying with conditions of the permit issued for the event.

“Frankly I don’t think an 8-foot (wide) trail is wide enough (for 2,000 bicyclists),” said Ranger John Armstrong. “I’m grateful the (Sheriff’s Office) allowed the tour on county roads where I think a tour should be.”

Armstrong said some marshals who were supposed to police intersections between the Rio Grande Trail and roads didn’t show up or were late. Further, he said that one spot he was particularly concerned about because of a blind curve had no marshal at all, forcing him and another open space ranger to police the area for about an hour and a half during the Sunday portion of the ride from Basalt to Aspen.

That was when he called the tour’s director and wrote him the ticket for failing to post a marshal, Armstrong said.

Commissioner George Newman agreed with Armstrong’s concerns.

“What I take from this is that an 8-foot trail just can’t accommodate that many cyclists,” he said. “It’s a great trail, but it’s not wide enough to handle these large events.”

Commissioner Michael Owsley agreed with Newman, while Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested building fines into the permit process for such events in case event organizers don’t follow permit conditions.

“You do everything you can for safety, but then if the commitments are not fulfilled, what do you do?” Richards said.

Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies had no problems with bicyclists on county roads coming from Basalt or heading up Highway 82 toward Independence Pass.