Colorado State Patrol limit on bicycle events

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Sunday, January 01, 2006
By Yokota Fritz

My state Senator, Brandon Shaffer of Longmont, sent me an informational memo prepared by a legislative research staffer.
TO: Senator Brandon Shaffer
FROM: Jamila Rockette, Research Assistant
SUBJECT: Colorado State Patrol Limit on Large Bicycle Events

This memorandum responds to your request for information on the Colorado State Patrol's (CSP) recent decision to cap the number of cyclists in any organized race or tour at 2,500 participants. Since your request, the CSP has delayed implementation of the cap for one year. This memorandum details the CSP's reasons for both implementing and delaying the cap.

Rider Limit Proposal

In the fall of 2005, the CSP announced its plan to cap bicycling events at 2,500 riders. The CSP has the authority to prohibit an athletic or special event for which the state does not have sufficient resources to properly manage. The chief of the CSP, with the approval of the Department of Public Safety's executive director, sets the rules and regulations that govern the operating procedures of the CSP.

The CSP provides state troopers to staff organized bicycle tours or races when the event's route stretches through multiple jurisdictions and uses state highways. CSP officers work these events during their off-duty time and are paid by the event's organizers. Promoters also solicit the help of local police departments to help manage the events.

Organized bicycle events range from as few as 50 to as many as several thousand participants. There are about eight common Colorado bicycle events that historically exceed 2,500 participants; most events, however, fall below 2,000 participants. Some organizers limit the number of individuals that may participate in their event. For example, Ride the Rockies, an annual bicycle event that tours the Colorado Rocky Mountains, caps the number of participants at 2,000 cyclists.

CSP commanders and representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation analyzed past cycling events and determined that for the safety of both the riders and the officers, at least one CSP officer is needed on motorcycle for every 300 cyclists. Matching this number with CSP's human resources, the patrol believes it can safely accommodate cycling events with a maximum of 2,500 participants. The department also considers the number of intersections, the size of the course, and the difficulty of the terrain when determining how many officers a cycling event requires. Beyond overseeing the safety of the cyclists, CSP officers make certain riders obey state and local traffic laws, manage motor vehicle traffic, and protect the property and personal safety of individuals and businesses along the course's route.

Public Response

After the CSP announced the cap, cycling associations, state legislators, and interested persons petitioned the department to change its decision. Specifically, Bicycle Colorado, a non-profit cycling organization, organized an online petition collecting more than 10,000 signatures. Senator Greg Brophy and Representative Terrance Carroll wrote a letter to the CSP's chief, Colonel Mark V. Trostel, criticizing the department's actions as "unilateral" and in disregard to the contribution large cycling events make to the state's economy. The Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) stated it would cancel a fund-raising event scheduled for the summer of 2006 if the cap was not lifted. According to the foundation, at least 3,500 riders are required to make the fund-raising efforts worthwhile. Opponents of the rider limit also pointed to the adverse effect the policy would have on local hotels, restaurants, and tourism.

Postponing the Limit

In December 2005, the CSP decided to delay implementing the rider cap for 12 months. The CSP said it delayed the cap to accommodate the time cycling promoters need to plan their events. The CSP plans to use the following 12 months to meet with event organizers, local community officials, state legislators, and Colorado motorists to create a policy that will best accommodate all parties involved. The CSP has met with Bicycle Colorado once since delaying the cap.

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