Lyman Orton: Brutal chip-and-seal
September 3, 2011
As we luxuriate in the slipstream of last weekend's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, I hope the Routt County Board of Commissioners recognize the great economic and social value that cycling can bring to our community. When the dean of TV cycling announcers, Phil Liggett, used "Bike Town USA" while describing our community, it not only made us proud, it laid a marketing foundation whose value is beyond immediate calculation.
The camaraderie of the thousands of locals who appeared on TV having the time of our lives while watching the Friday sprint-finish on Lincoln Avenue, or lining Rabbit Ears Pass to cheer on world-class pros up close and personal, is still thrilling and could not fail to have been noticed by viewers the world over.
What a great place for a race and what a great place to ride a bicycle. Until, that is, those skinny tires with 100 pounds of pressure make contact with the county's fresh chip-and-seal roads.
One can just hear the visitors exclaiming, "Whoa, no one told us about this when we made our reservations to come cycle in Steamboat Springs and Routt County!"
If we allowed our ski mountain to be in such poor condition, there would be an outcry to end all. Fortunately, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. understands the importance of quality.
Now is the time for the Routt County commissioners to address this issue anew and manage their employees. While the Routt County Road and Bridge Department formulated its quiet plan to lay down the recent brutal chip-and-seal, the commissioners fiddled, not aware enough of the outcome to make their employees produce quality cycling surface.
It's time for the commissioners to lead and to lay out paving policies to their road department that support actually being Bike Town USA and to assure that what gets specified for paving is actually what gets done.
Commissioners, it's time you understand that your Road and Bridge Department is not giving you good advice. Certainly there has to be a balance between cost, durability and a quality cycling surface, but you are being given a Hobson's choice that has as much smoke and smell associated with it as hot road tar on a summer day. We can't call ourselves Bike Town USA and then not deliver the experience visitors and locals expect.
It won't take long for disappointed cycling visitors to vent their disappointment on all sorts of social media, and once that's out, there it lives forever.
Commissioners, you were great to listen to us cyclists eight years ago but you have now slipped back into prior poor habits just at the wrong time. The stakes are too high to screw up this time around. There are plenty of experienced cyclists in our county willing to help you get it right, and we stand ready to do so.