Plans going nowhere for bicycle races on ‘Bridge’

Great idea or the greatest idea? Let’s hold the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic criterium on the Bridge to Nowhere. Tell me where I’m wrong. – Chuck

Criterium races, for those of you who are sprocketly challenged, is an event in which riders compete on a relatively short looping course, typically on closed-off downtown streets.

It’s a crowd favorite because of high speeds, multiple laps and – let’s be honest – there’s a strong likelihood of a crash.

Let’s see, you have competitors going around in circles, rabid fans cheering and curves fraught with peril. Hmmm. Bike crits are basically NASCAR races without gasoline and logo-covered jumpsuits.

Come to think of it, bike jerseys are also plastered with sponsors. Maybe even more so.

At least NASCAR drivers have to good sense not to wear skin-hugging stretch fabrics.

The thought of Kyle Busch or Dale Earhardt Jr. tarted up in a clingy Lycra uniform is just plain wrong.

On the other hand, an exception could be made for Danica Patrick. But that’s another matter altogether.

Let’s get back to the Bridge to Nowhere Criterium. Can it happen? Action Line asked Jeff Frost, new director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.

You’d think the notion would be dismissed out of hand. But Jeff was intrigued.

“That’s a really interesting question,” he said during a phone call on Friday. He paused. You could hear the wheels spinning in his head.

“Wow. That could be cool. I can see possibilities of share-the-road advocacy, promoting a bike-friendly community, a totally unusual event that’s never been done before,” he said.

Jeff, like virtually everyone around here, has traveled under the Bridge to Nowhere many times but never actually driven on the $47 million interchange.

“I’m going to go out there and check it out,” he said.

After breakfast on Saturday, Mrs. Action Line likewise suggested an exploratory trip, which would conveniently go right past Bed Bath & Beyond.

Action Line needed to get a couple of things and a $5 off coupon was about to expire. Fortunately, the store was open. So was the Bridge to Nowhere.

If you have spare moment, you should check it out. (The Bridge to Nowhere, not Bed Bath & Beyond, just to be clear.)

The complex features several ramps to and from U.S. Highway 160 and a large roundabout. There’s also a one-way road west-bound leading from Three Springs.

“Well then,” Mrs. Action Line harrumphed after a leisurely drive through. “There’s a lot of roads, but they all lead back to the highway.”

And therein lies the problem. The Bridge to Nowhere isn’t a closed loop. If a bike criterium were held there, the racers would need to get back up to the bridges. And that would require riding on the highway.

“A crit on a U.S. highway? Afraid that’s not going to happen,” our friend Nancy Shanks, Colorado Department of Transportation spokewoman, said via email.

It’s one thing to close U.S. Highway 550 between Silverton and Cascade early on a Saturday morning.

Blocking off U.S. Highway 160 at Grandview, the area’s busiest highway, in the middle of a Sunday afternoon is quite another.

How would residents of Durango, Hesperus and Hermosa get to the hospital in an emergency?

More importantly, how would people from Bayfield, Ignacio and the Florida Mesa conveniently access Walmart or Home Depot?

So the Iron Horse event will remain in the friendly confines of downtown Durango.

Still, a Bridge to Nowhere Criterium would add an ironic footnote to road-construction history.

Suppose the event attracted a couple hundred competitors and a thousand spectators.

It would establish a multi-modal milestone. A highway interchange, built to accommodate traffic growth, would be used by more pedestrians and bikes than by motorized vehicles.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you still have your Christmas tree up.

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