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The bike trail without bikes

What is a bike trail for, anyway?Ride the Rockies, Colorado’s favorite annual weeklong bicycle tour, will roll through the Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood to Aspen on June 21, and we’re going to tell all those riders that they’re not allowed on our valleywide bike trail? Because of safety concerns, we’re going to send them out on Highway 82?This must be a joke, you say.But it’s not.An estimated 2,000 riders will pedal up the valley on a Thursday in late June and, not surprisingly, the tour sponsors would prefer to use the Rio Grande Trail from Carbondale to Old Snowmass. But staff from Pitkin County wants to throw a wrench in the spokes; they say the trail is too narrow for so many riders, and conflicts will occur with other users, from moms with strollers to dogs on leashes. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority staff’s position is a bit ambiguous at this point.We’d like to call for a reality check.This is the Rio Grande Trail we’re talking about, a beautiful paved trail on a former railroad grade that’s been touted for years as a tourist amenity and attraction for our tourism-dependent valley. So when an opportunity comes along to treat 2,000 cyclists to one of our finest summer recreation experiences – think of the word-of-mouth publicity here – our local government agencies want to steer them out to the four-lane (and a network of side streets)?Pitkin County and RFTA should find a way to make this work. Ride the Rockies uses bike trails like the Rio Grande almost every year. Signs, road cones and other markers can alert riders to curves, blind corners and narrow sections of trail; the same warnings will alert local moms, dog owners and joggers to the fact that they’ll have to share the trail with a parade of cyclists for a day.It’s also worth noting that Ride the Rockies will move uphill through the Roaring Fork Valley. This in itself will slow riders down, and a system of signs and markers can do the rest.Whatever the risks of using the Rio Grande Trail, they don’t compare to the potential problems out on the highway, especially at the Snowmass Creek stoplight where riders would have to turn left onto Lower River Road.There’s also an issue of simple hospitality: Telling Ride the Rockies to share the road with cars while locals use the Rio Grande Trail is like stuffing all of our out-of-town restaurant customers in the smoking section while reserving the clean air for ourselves.Let’s step up here and provide a little customer service.


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