What? A huge, world-class bike race is coming to San Luis Obispo? I know it’s shocking but it is also true. The Tour De California, arguably the largest bike race on the West Coast, will finish its fourth stage in downtown SLO on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Awesome. Finally SLO will have some well-earned attention in the national spotlight. Plus, a little fun in the sun with a professional bike race never hurt anyone, right?
But wait, there is more-If you thought for a moment that Feb. 23 sounded like a familiar date, here is one for the books. That same weekend is what would have been SLO’s annual Mardi Gras celebration. A holiday formerly dominated by partying college kids, now overrun with $500,000 worth of law enforcement.
Here is a recipe for disaster: Take one professional bike race with over 200 competitors and their teams, families and friends, an inordinate amount of college kids and their visitors hoping to rekindle the crazy times of the past and 400-plus police officers with pepper spray, beanbag guns and night sticks, mix them all together and wait 20 minutes.
I know, I know, it sounds a little dramatic to predict total chaos for that weekend, but one cannot help but wonder, what on earth they were thinking allowing the tour to come into SLO during that weekend.
I contend having the bike race finish in SLO on another date would have allowed for SLO’s residents to get out and enjoy the event together in a manner that is peaceful and relatively sane. Having the race come into SLO on Mardi Gras weekend is only going to add another element to a potentially dangerous situation.
Not only will there be no parking and closed roads, but there will also be twice as many people and subsequently, twice the opportunity for things to go wrong.
OK, honestly, I don’t know how that weekend is going to turn out, but frankly I don’t really care to stick around and watch it all play out. Take my advice, if you are a weekend warrior and intend to surf, hike, bike ride or hit the beach, get out of town and find a safe haven from the crowds, traffic and marshal law.
Chris Gunn is a journalism senior and assistant sports editor. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.