Road riders say they are not happy about soon becoming rough riders |

Road riders say they are not happy about soon becoming rough riders

Allyn Harvey

It appears a compromise reached Wednesday concerning “improvement” of Castle Creek Road hasn’t resulted in any smiles, especially among local bicyclists.

“The road is in great shape, better shape than it’s ever been,” said Bil Dunaway, retired publisher of The Aspen Times and a cycling enthusiast. “They’ll ruin it if they do that work.”

The work being planned is a chip-and-seal treatment from the highway to Little Annie Road, tentatively planned for next summer. The compromise that got everyone frowning was between the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Pitkin County Commissioners.

The Skico isn’t happy because it must pay half the $132,000 cost of the work, because the county says the road was damaged by trucks heading to Little Annie Road during construction of the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. The company thought its road repair obligations had already been fulfilled.

The county road department isn’t too happy either, because it had hoped to bill the Skico for the entire cost of the treatment. Now, the cash-strapped department is trying to figure out how to come up with $66,000 of its own for the chip-and-seal.

But no one’s as worried full-time as local cyclists about the future of Castle Creek Road. .

Fred Pearce, an attorney in town who spends a fair amount of his spare time on a bicycle, has been lobbying the county commissioners to consider alternatives to a chip-and-seal treatment.

“Chip-and-seal is a disaster for road riding. It’s comparable to spraying water on Buttermilk every day all winter, just to make sure it’s good and icy,” said Hub of Aspen owner Charlie Tarver.

Chip-and-seal involves spreading hot oil over the road, covering it with gravel, and then topping it off a few weeks later with a slurry seal. The problem with the process, say the cyclists, is the gravel. It makes the road too rough to ride, sometimes for years.

Tarver said the roughness is a safety issue. Riders have trouble braking because the vibrations cause their hands to fall asleep. The piles of gravel left over from the treatment can force falls, sometimes at high speed.

And the fact that the road is no longer easy to ride on forces people to use other cycling routes, which increases congestion and the likelihood of a collision, either with another bicycle or an automobile.

Tarver pointed out that Castle Creek Road is the second most popular road for riders in the upper valley, after Maroon Creek Road.

And with Maroon Creek Road scheduled for major resurfacing work next summer, the Castle Creek Road chip-and-seal could cause even more problems than usual. Tarver worried that bicyclists would be forced onto Highway 82, which isn’t safe in either direction.

Brian Pettet, who oversees the road department, said the county will consider the closure of Maroon Creek Road before deciding what to do with Castle Creek Road. He also said his department would use materials that will hasten the road’s return to ridability.

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