Letter: Poor planning on bike race
I wish to second Robin DeYoung’s statement about the impact of the bike race on the Aspen Music Festival (“Bike race was major hassle for locals as well as guests,” Letters, Aug. 25, The Aspen Times). For the second year in a row, the race was scheduled to begin the day after the music festival ended, requiring hundreds of departing music students, faculty and visiting artists, some with luggage that included unwieldy but fragile instruments, to navigate militarized detours, blocked access to the airport and flight-canceling surprises.
My own role both years has been to help a musician whose home and orchestral job are across the pond. On Aug. 18, we stored his Aspen possessions downvalley, and on Aug. 19 he boarded a flight. Timing it as best we could, this year we returned from Silt to find traffic to Aspen backed up nearly an hour from the airport and, the greater surprise, still more jammed and serpentine across Aspen itself. On the following day, leaving the car by my friend’s temporary apartment, we walked downtown to a deliberately late breakfast and found an even greater surprise: Coming toward us by City Market was an unobstructed view of the sacred peloton itself. The charging cyclists were past us within roughly a half-minute, followed by a parade of vehicles with overturned bikes on top.
Over breakfast we discussed it. Had either of us been thrilled? Well, no, it was just a group of guys on bikes. More interesting were the support vehicles with the inverted wheels. The bicycle is considered an environmental alternative to the car, and Aspen’s bike-share program is to be lauded. But the bike race is accompanied by a peloton of gas guzzlers and attracts multiple carfuls that drive the distance to watch; it is no more earth-friendly than any other public show.
It is said that the bike race helps Aspen economically. Some businesses actually lose money because access is blocked to their doors, but others no doubt gain. More to the point, the bike race, a recent phenomenon, brings visitors to Aspen for two days, while the Aspen Music Festival, a 65-year-old tradition, attracts visitors for eight weeks. To schedule an exit-blocking event on the very day a complicated summer-long program must disperse is, in a word, blind.
There have been several dismissals of bike-race critics, summed up by one who says they should just “shut up and enjoy.” So speaks the blinkered fan. There is a greater world out there, and this is a plea for planners to change the date of the race’s Aspen start so that departing musicians and arriving cyclists no longer collide.
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