Alrighty then, Providence


While biggish with crowds and busy with vendors and billed as the crescendo of “holy week”–the self-congratulatory label given to the racing week bookended by Gloucester and Providence–Providence is also a very expensive race for participants. You pay to park in club row. You pay more to park in the UCI section. You pay lots to race. But not to worry, there’s a race for nearly everyone (“Caucasians with Webbed Feet”) which is why the elite men’s race doesn’t start until 5:05 pm. By 6:10, when this final race of the day ends, the other race is on to try to pack up before it is pitch dark.

I do hope that whoever is raking in all this money is using it for good and not just exploiting the popularity of ‘cross to line their own pockets. At the vendors’ row and conspicuous at the Builder’s Ball was the presence of the East Coast Greenway Alliance, and I’m all for getting them some funds. Having been hit by cars twice, Richie being hit twice, and a friend killed, I am a big proponent of safe places to ride bikes.

Late morning Saturday, we pulled into the venue, where we informed the person guarding club row that we had paid for two spaces. “Oh,” said the person, “there aren’t any left.” They shrugged. “But you can try.” It was then, with sinking heart, that I realized this was a replay of last week’s event at Gloucester when we were shuffled around for 40 minutes because our paid spaces in club row were non-existent.

Ever since the fairly recent advent of charging race-goers to pay for parking if they don’t want to be stuck in the North Forty has become standard procedure, there has been a quick slide down that slippery slope. Just because you can charge for parking doesn’t mean you have unlimited parking to sell. Obviously what is happening is that these spaces are being oversold.

How to prevent this? Here’s a suggestion.

Measure out how much actual space you have to sell for parking. How many linear feet is it? I think using one of the line-thingies that you wheel along would work well. Or even a pedometer—an average person’s stride is two and one-half feet.

Divide this number by the average largest length of the vehicles you expect to occupy those spaces. Add eight or so feet to accommodate maneuverability. This is the number of spaces you have to sell.

When you send out the information wherein people start to reserve parking spaces, include on that form a space where the name of the club/team is indicated and how many spaces they want. Make a spreadsheet with this same information on it.

On the weekend of the race, give a copy of the spreadsheet to the person(s) responsible for policing the paid parking areas. Have this person stop each car and ask for the team name. Check off the team name and one parking space on the spreadsheet. If the club has bought more than one space, there will still be a blank space showing until that next team car comes and claims it. If a third car comes along and says they are from that team, the person will look at their spreadsheet and see that both spaces the team has paid for have been claimed. Ergo, no space for car three and so it must go to Siberia to park.

Yes, organizing an event like a big bike race is complicated, but surely the paid parking can become just one more integer added to the equation and not the random hope-for-the-best scenario it seems to be now.

alrighty then providence


5 thoughts on “Alrighty then, Providence

  1. Debra – I am painfully familiar with the situation you have painted here. I was one of the unpaid, volunteer souls whose job up there last weekend became an exercise in herding cats.

    The formula you outlined above was precisely how it was determined that there was enough room (comfortably) for 46 Club Row vehicles corresponding to the 46 reserved tent spots which were sold. Length measured, extra footage allowed, spreadsheets, lists etc. In fact, the available parking up in that area should have accommodated more than 60 vehicles from fence to fence. What neither you nor we incorporated into the formula were the following:
    – Clubs arriving with a car towing a trailer (2 spots) insisting that there was “plenty of space” – not understanding that yes, it appears at this moment that there is plenty of space for your extra vehicle, but it is 11:30 in the morning and there are clubs arriving all day who will not have a spot if your additional vehicle remains in a space needed to accommodate someone else.
    – Clubs arriving with mobile homes towing trailers (= 3 parking spots). I was actually laughed at when I asked nicely if they would consider parking one of the vehicles outside the club area.
    – Many chose to park in the middle of a 30 foot open space rather than parking directly behind or in front of a vehicle already parked, quite literally taking their half out of the middle and not leaving room for a vehicle to fit on either side.
    – Several Elite teams who were instructed to pass through Club Row to park in the Team Tech area on the other side of the course crossing grabbed the first spots they saw in Club Row instead, (because there was so much apparently “available” space) leaving no identifiable way to reach them to get them to move once we figured out what they had done. A few more spots taken up.
    – Being told we “sucked” as we desperately figured out ways to move vehicles, double park and carve out spaces in creative places so everyone could be accommodated.
    – Elite racers coming in for the afternoon races loaded down with multiple bikes and wheels promising that they would drive down to the end, drop off near the Elite area and turn around and come back out to park outside the gates rather than park in the few remaining spaces reserved for Club row cars. A few of them actually did turn around and park outside the gates. A few, not all. We were less trusting on Sunday and literally walked them down, helped them unload and walked them back.

    It is easy to see how the 60+ available spots shrank down to about 42, leaving us scrambling for more spots. Ultimately we were able to find a spot for EVERYONE on Saturday, and begged those arriving on Sunday to park with far less space between them and their neighbor. Sunday worked out fine. No formula can adequately account for human behavior that is not focused on making accommodations for others. We we so lucky it didn’t pour.

    Please do not take it out on the race promoters. It should have worked fine. We tried very hard to make it work and keep a sense of humor and be kind to everyone. To make assumptions about who might be “raking in this money… to line their own pockets” is grossly unfair and so very far from reality. Club Row was a bargain. Race promoters take on tremendous risk and often barely break even – especially after an event of this magnitude. I personally would never work the hundreds of hours all year planning an event like this for so little pay and assume the risk of not being paid at all after all of the bills are sorted out. I’m painfully aware that yours was one of the few unhappy experiences with parking up on Club Row and I am very sorry it wasn’t much easier for you. I feel personally responsible. Believe me, we tried very hard to make it work for you and the others who arrived later in the day on Saturday. Ultimately everyone got in, but it took a bit of ninja parking, a few cars up on the grass etc. I have specific suggestions for how to avoid all of this next year and have passed them along to the race directors. Roger Williams Park is an amazing venue and I almost can’t believe how fortunate we are that we can race there, but parking has always been a big challenge. Come back next year and I promise you a happier Club Row experience. (Maybe by then I won’t still suck. 🙂

    Trish Morse

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful response. It illuminates the flaw in the reserved parking system as it stands now—which is that it is the honor system—both in the size of “cars” paid for and the parking job that they do. It must have been frustrating and understand that my critique was in no way aimed at the volunteers who were trying their best to carry out a difficult task. If, while trying to do your volunteer job, someone rolled down their window and told you you “sucked”, that is reprehensible and not worthy of our cyclocross community.
    Perhaps one effective solution would be to sell, not parking spaces, but linear feet offered in predetermined blocks. And then mark these blocks out at the venue. It would then be the responsibility of the club to determine how many linear feet they need and buy accordingly, and not the responsibility of the volunteers to find a spot for a car with a trailer attached that reserved a car-sized parking space.

  3. Thanks Deb. I’ll suggest that, or perhaps the option to add on a trailer or oversized vehicle. The trailers might even be given the option to park up next to the tents, and we could lay them out so that would work. There was room in the tent area for a trailer next to or behind a number of the tents. Overall, I thought Club Row had a really nice vibe both days and was truly a great viewing location. Better sound distribution and maybe a few more festive touches, along with a bomb-proof parking system will make it even better if the event is held again next year. And thank you for the cookies… they were shared around and appreciated!

  4. Hi Deb,

    That sounds irksome. We’re sorry to hear that was the case for the team.

    Nonetheless, thanks for your support of the East Coast Greenway Alliance! While we have not yet done a good job at making it obvious in marketing/branding the event as such — the New England Builders’ Ball is our annual fundraiser.

    Despite our being a bit outside the typical bike-scene/cross/industry/race milieu, it’s a really important event for us as an organization because it helps us engage with folks outside our typical supporter base. We need cycling enthusiasts of all disciplines, scenes, abilities, and ages in New England and throughout the Eastern Seaboard to know about the ECG.

    It’s also an honor and a pleasure for us to get to know the people behind the craft and the sport. We really appreciated having Team Richard Sachs Cycles/CX exhibit at the Ball and share a kind smile with us at the expo.


    Vanessa Roth
    Comms Coordinator, ECGA

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