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.