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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Sunday, October 10, 2010

KIng RIdge Gran Fondo Resident Feedback

Dear Vesta,
I am a local resident shocked and enraged by the assault of Levi Leipheimer's King Ridge Gran Fondo cycling event this past Sat. 10/09/10 on the west county community. It damaged our ability to do business, disrupted our lives and endangered us on the roads. I am hoping that you will publish the letter below, because I feel it needs to be said. I spent the day asking local residents, business owners, and public servants about their experiences, and how this event affected our community. I have much more information to share, and I am hoping you will allow me a forum. This is a start. Please help!

I am posting Meredith's letter below for feedback from others. The letter is too long for my next print edition, which will come out November 4th, so please comment here and perhaps by press time I will have an edited version to publish. - Vesta

Dear Vesta,
I am a 20- year resident of west Sonoma county, currently living in Camp Meeker. My life was very negatively impacted by this cycling event on 10/09/10, along with most of the residents and business owners of west county. Many of us experienced abuse by the police directing traffic in Occidental, total disregard for road traffic rules by cyclists, disrespect for local residents and business owners in so many ways its difficult to list.

My main concern is the negative impact that this event had on the very fragile local economy. Many of us are very dependent on money spent for goods and services on the weekends. Saturday is our big money day. I typically make about 20-25% of my monthly income each Saturday. I work at Inns and B & B's all over west county, as well as making housecalls to local residents. My weekends especially consists of driving on the highways and byways of west Sonoma county. These beautiful roads are my commute. I planned my business and my life this way- it is an intentional choice. That's why I live here - I enjoy the peace and quiet as well as the beauty of this area. I enjoy being tucked away, off the main path. I commuted to San Francisco for years, and took the long drive back to west county so that I could come home to peace and quiet, and enjoy all that this area has to offer during my down-time. Many of my neighbors do the same. We value our off-time.

This past Saturday, Oct.9, 2010., our lives, our livelihoods, and our lifestyles were seriously impaired by an event which we did not invite, did not welcome, did not want. Nobody asked us. Nobody even notified us! We live and work here; our lives were disrupted, our livelihoods damaged, and we had no say about it. All the major traffic routes to the area were closed (!) on a holiday weekend! This included Graton Rd, Occidental Rd., Bohemian Hwy., River Rd, Hwy 1, and Coleman Valley. In other words, 4 of the 5 roads that intersect in the tiny town of Occidental were closed or otherwise impassable at some point between 9 am and 4:30 pm- in other words, one full business day- in a town that is dependent on tourism and local weekend business.

Not only were we shut down economically, because our customers couldn't get to us- we were actually held captive by this race. We were prevented from either leaving or returning to our homes due to road closures. I live on Bohemian Hwy. I needed to go eastbound, then out to Bodega Bay for my first appointment. As I attempted to leave my driveway, 6,000 (!) bicyclists were streaming by at about 35 mph. It was absolutely impossible to go westbound. It was frightening and daunting to go eastbound, because the cyclists were not staying inside the eastbound lane. They were coming at me. I only had a short drive into Occidental, but I was quite shaken when I arrive. The road had been closed, so I arrive at a police blockade, which I couldn't get through. Nobody had told me the road was closed. I asked the policeman who was it that had approved the road closure, and he became irrate, actually banged on my car, and told me that if I didn't move along he would arrest me. Unfortunately, I didn't get his name and badge number, but I will try to ID him. I don't think he was CHP, because he was wearing a blue, not brown uniform. A rent-a cop?

There were other CHP officers there directing traffic, and they were polite. I asked them who was paying for them to be there, and none of them seemed to know. I asked who assigned them to the race, and they said that they volunteered, but the they were being paid. Still working on an answer to that question. I spoke to the EMT/Fireman, and asked them who was paying for them to be there (Occidental Fire Dept) and was told that the event was paying for them. Good. They assured me that the community was also being served, even better than usual, because they had extra staff on hand. Good. I also spoke to a volunteer fireman from Camp Meeker. He said they were not notified- in fact, they had no idea this event was happening. Not good. So my day began with my drive to work. I was still shaken from the abusive 'cop's behavior when I arrived. Throughout the day, I heard several stories of abusive cop behavior. I'm thinking it was the same one bad apple in Occidental. His behavior was totally unacceptable and inexcusable. What is worse, to me, is that visitors to the area, people coming to spend their money here, also were subjected to this abuse, according to reports from my neighbors.

Saturday, Oct. 9 was the opening of this year's ArtTrails, an event I look forward to every year. Local artists throughout west county, and elsewhere in Sonoma County open their studios to the public, and put their wares on display for sale. This is a big boost to local artists, and they look forward to this opportunity to market themselves. It also brings tourists to the area, who DO spend money in the local shops and eateries as well. And in my opinion, it improves the quality of life in the area.

According to local artist Barbara Hoffman, who's studio is on Occidental Rd., her business was non-existant Sat. am. She even sent some of her staff home, because no-one came to the studio. She didn't know THE ROAD WAS CLOSED! When visitors began arriving later in the day, they arrived shaken and angry, telling more tales of police abuse, road closures of 20 minutes, no alternate routes, and white-knuckled rides amidst the cyclists. Those were the patrons who arrived. How many turned away, unwilling to submit themselves to the ordeal?

>I worked in Bodega Bay and Jenner. I had to cancel my Forestville appointment, because I couldn't get there due to delays. I lost additional work because I was stuck in a no-cellphone zone, couldn't get to my usual hangout in Duncan's Mills, where my cellphone works. So I lost at least $200 because of the race. How much did others lose because their customers couldn't reach them, or they couldn't get to their customers? This west county economy is pretty fragile, and we are all hurting with the economic downturn. We can't afford to lose money, nor do we want to.

More to the point, who approved this? Who thought this was a GOOD idea? I know there were permits involved- somebody approved them, clearly without thinking about the consequences. I want to know who did this, and WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? I have been unable to get any answers. I called and emailed our west county representative to the board of supervisors (Efren Carrillo, (707)565-2241, as soon as I saw the notice of 'possible' road closure on Occidental Rd. at Hwy 116 THREE DAYS BEFORE THE EVENT. His office was closed until next week BECAUSE IT'S A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. No response to date. 

I called the Parks and Permits and Resource Management Dept., City of Santa Rosa (Shirley Zane, Permits and Transportation, 565-1900). Left a message. No response to date. I called the Finley Center, GranFondo Headquarters (Santa Rosa Parks and Rec. Dept). Got a taped message to call back 'during business hours'. No phone number given anywhere by GranFondo folks. Called Santa Rosa Police Dept. They had no phone number for GranFondo folks. Emailed No response. Will call CHP next. I want to know who paid for CHP to direct traffic for this event? Us taxpayers? or the GranFondo? Wouldn't that be a conflict of interest? Either way, NOT OK by me.

I drove on Hwy One from Bodega Bay to Jenner. So did my clients, guests at the local inns along the coast. The cyclists were going southbound en mass to Coleman Valley Road. I usually take Coleman Valley home for lunch. This was not possible. I asked the CHP officer directing traffic (ie closing the road to automobile traffic) who had approved the road closure. He said he didn't know. I asked who did know. He said "Talk to my supervisor" and gestured across the road, into on-coming cyclists. I said "Where can I park?" and he said " I don't know, but you have to move along, you're blocking traffic. There are officers down the road." I drove down the road. There were no officers, but there was a 'rest stop' for cyclists at Portugese beach. In fact, the parking lot was CLOSED, as well as access to the beach. I don't think the beach was closed, there was just no access to it, and nowhere to park. This is a STATE BEACH. You and I pay to make sure it is there for PUBLIC use. Who approved closure of this beach? Did you vote on it? I didn't. I saw a park ranger there, but he quickly disappeared amongst the crowd of cyclists. Did the race pay his salary also? Or did you and I? Is this legal? I was unable to find him, but I'm going to hunt somebody down for answers.

I tried to locate a race official. You would think there would be someone at a rest area. There were more EMT's and numerous volunteers. And LOTS of port-a-potties, and lots of people using them. I was directed to a table, which turned out to be more volunteers who told me there was a woman named Pilar in a red shirt. I looked amid the crowd, and saw many people in red shirts, but no one helpful. They told me to contact Finley Center, and you know what happened there. So, there were only volunteers, who knew nothing, in charge. No-one taking any responsibility. No answers to my questions.

I spoke with some of the cyclists. I asked where they were from. Canada. South Africa. Fremont. I was told that 49 states were represented, and several countries. I asked them if they were aware of the damage that they were doing to our local economy. They all said "No." Some were shocked to hear it. Some didn't care. Some said they wouldn't have participated had they known, and they won't be back next year. Thank-you.

I'm all for bicycling. It's healthy and a good mode of transportation and recreation. I'm all for fundraising. I'm all for sharing our bounty with visitors to the area. But this was pure foolishness. And it was dangerous foolishness. It was dangerous for everyone on those roads. I spent the next half-hour driving up the coast amid an onslaught of cyclists going south, dodging the numerous cars crossing over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic - ie: ME. This is against the law. It is against the law because it IS NOT SAFE.

There were signs for the cyclists to stay to the right, single file. Nobody did. Not anywhere, any time, all day. I did see MANY, MANY, MANY cars crossing over the double line, on blind curves, all day long. So did the CHP officer sitting at Hwy 116 and Hwy 1 in Jenner (Officer Post). No arrests were made- motorists, or cyclists who where obstructing traffic. I spend the day narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic as well as cyclists. I narrowly missed two cyclists myself. One of them swerved in front of me, another one disappeared in the shadows as light hit my eyes driving through the trees. But that happens every weekend out here.

These roads are not safe for cyclists. Not on a good day, under the best circumstances. If a cyclist falls in front of a car, it's all over for them. It happens all the time. It's their choice if they chose to take this risk. We are obligated to 'share the road'. But so are they. And, most of the time, they don't.

The choices we motorists are left with are:
1) drive behind the cyclist at their speed, because there is no room to pass them safely on a road with a double line
2) Cross over the double line into oncoming traffic, usually on a blind curve (which is why there is a double yellow line!), which is also breaking the law, and subject to citation, or
3) try to slowly pass them, and hope that they don't swerve or fall. None of these choices are good ones, and NONE of them are acceptable to me as a motorist. I don't want to be in that situation. Not on a good day. And especially not when 6000 cyclists invade our community, uninvited, unwelcome, and without regard to our community.

If you are as outraged as I am, please speak up! 
For starts, contact Efren Carrillo, our west county representative to the board of supervisors, who vowed to do right by us if elected. Find out who OKed these road closures, beach closure, use of our public services and resources. Let's stop this from EVER happening again to us.
Meredith Evans


I needed to get from Joy Road to Forestville at 8:30 Saturday morning. Thought about the ride when i went to bed and then completely forgot it in the morning until I ran into it. It was fun to see the cyclists but the people handling traffic did not know the local roads or knew what the exact route was. I was told I could turn at 116 but could not. I was only 15 minutes late but had to drive all the way into Santa Rosa on Occidental Road and then go out Guerneville Road. As a friend put it, "6000 cyclists - that is a lot of Lycra!" - Barbara

"Rainbow Butts" "yuppies in court jester suits" "eco-road-ragers" - Jamie

Well, I don't live in Cazadero or Occidental, but I think it is a glorious event. I had to wait 10 minutes on 116 to cross Occidental Rd, & re-think my route into SR - I had to ask myself, what's the hurry? All these people have come to Sonoma County to appreciate the beauty, do something healthy & raise money for a good cause. I say thanks, Levi. - Betsy 

Hi, Vesta, Sara and I were going up Stony Point to West College at almost 5 PM and found ourselves stopped in traffic with bikes about ?2 hours after the announced end. I understand a love of biking, but we have bike trails. I found it a disruption, but it only slowed us about 15 - 20 minutes. - Cecile 

An amazing event! Have heard nothing but kudos! Cheers to the Gran Fondo staff, volunteers and riders! (BTW, the route and closures were published in the PD for weeks before event.) - Jonathon 

I commented about the route announcements as well - but not everyone reads the PD - I was in Occidental on Friday and on the coast Wednesday and signs were posted along the roads. The event has been planned for a year and brings people from across the planet to our community. I have to believe it brings a lot of money along with the recognition. You can't make all of the people happy all of the time....” Yes, I stayed away from the roads on the route this Saturday. - Vesta

Your right Vesta. It raises to the tune of $100,000, if my recollection serves me, last year. This year it raised money for: Forget Me Not Farm, schools along the Gran Fondo course, Keep The Tour, Live Strong and other cycling charities around the county. All this can be found on: - Ty

Hey don't spend that much money locally..they are rude on the road...they stay in healdsburg and sebastopol...they are not nice to locals.....I had a pack change tires in front of my house this morning and I woke up on my Sunday to "Divorce...fuck the bitch...she needs more botox...My Lawyer......I am going to sue his ass despite the point because he does not have the money to win.........lets ride this out and get home." I understand peoples feelings. - Jamie

Held me up about 10 minutes at a time when it was kinda important, but I did have a delusion of granduer that the traffic was held up because of my Legacy Sale....I don't read the PD, and there were no signs on Hwy 116 at Occidental rd. that I saw. Not that big a deal, helps to hear the nonprofits that they help. Forget Me Not Farm is WONDERFUL. - Sherry

Like so many things in life - it's a mixed blessing/curse. With a pack of 6,000 and all the related people involved, there are going to be bad seeds with negative behavior. What so many of these benefits and organizations don't realize is that publicity is VITAL and they rely on word-of-mouth too much - and the w-o-m of the internet. In essence - like anything that needs true public awareness - there has to be enough money to guarantee exposure (paid advertising) across the entire communication network...which is basically impossible to accomplish without HUGE money spent. If it's a benefit then the beneficiaries lose out in the long run. Not an easy win/win. - Vesta

Big deal. So I had to drive a little more carefully for ten minutes. - Cary

West county roads can't handle 6000 bicycles. People who live on the back roads are asked too much to host an event that benefits, for the most part, Santa Rosa. Being stuck at a major intersection like 116 and Occidental is nothing compared to needing to navigate the same back roads as 6000 bicycles that have completely forgotten the meaning of "share the road." Close down the city of Santa Rosa next year instead. Oh, and make sure it's on the opening day of ARTrails again. - Lou

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