More bikes in Colo. Nat’l Monument worry officials
COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT, Colo. – The exhilaration of racing downhill amid red rocks is drawing a burst of bicyclists to Colorado National Monument, but officials say the landmark’s roads weren’t designed for the traffic that comes with the thrill-seekers.
Bicyclists to the western Colorado landmark were up 31 percent from 2008 to 2009, when there were 13,347 bicycle visits. This year could see more than 16,000 visits, beginning with next month, when some 2,000 participants of Ride the Rockies will head up and over the monument, starting at its east side.
The chance to include a ride over the monument into the more than 500-mile tour is a “huge draw” for the event, tour director Chandler Smith said.
But Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said it’s “beyond belief” that there hasn’t yet been a bicycle-car fatality on the monument’s Rim Rock Road, which wasn’t designed for the uptick in recreational car trips.
The road, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has hairpin turns and steep cliffs that make even basic maintenance tricky. It also can’t be widened because of the sheer cliffs.
“We are living on borrowed time,” Anzelmo told the Daily Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction.
“We have reached a point where it’s responsible to look at the growth rate. Rim Rock Drive was not created for the weight and traffic we are seeing on the east hill,” she said.
A six-month transportation study last year showed the monument’s motorist recreational travel could double in the next two decades, reaching an annual 750,000 vehicles.
Anzelmo said park officials may consider restrictions requiring cyclists to travel only one way during certain hours. Rangers are planning to crack down on safety rules, such a requirement that road cyclers travel single-file and use headlights in tunnels.
Cyclists insist that they’re good for the monument – and the economy. The Ride the Rockies event is projected to draw $500,000 to Grand Junction as cyclists bed down for two nights.
“It has that kind of appeal,” Smith said of the monument. “It’s gorgeous, and the road is in good condition.”