Lauren Rabaino

Drivers along Central Coast highways will be sharing the road with participants of the Arthritis Foundation California Coast Classic Bicycle Ride today. The 500-mile ride travels through the area using parts of U.S. Highways 1 and 46.

Cal Trans spokesperson Colin Jones said that there would be no actual road closures for the event.

“We just always ask that drivers share the road with the bikes,” Jones said. “They are using the road like cars are and have equal rights to be there.”

Cal Trans and local drivers are very used to seeing bicyclists out on the road, Jones said, because not only does the Central Coast host many rides like this, but there are many recreational riders as well.

“We don’t really have to do anything over and above signs on the road and press releases,” Jones said.

Jones said that there have rarely been any problems between riders and traffic because the Central Coast is a very bike-friendly area and each group knows to respect the other and be careful.

The ride is being co-sponsored by Amgen, who sponsors the yearly Tour of California professional bike race and the Arthritis Foundation.

The ride began Sept. 29 in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf. Since then the riders have been traveling south along the coastline.

Wednesday’s stage (stage five) covers a total of 60 miles from San Simeon to Pismo Beach. The ride will continue until this coming Saturday, when riders will arrive in Los Angeles.

Participants must reach the Arthritis Foundation fundraising goal of $2,900. The money goes toward research in preventing and curing arthritis as well as improving the quality of life for those who have it. The tour is not only a reward to those who have met the fundraising goal, but also a symbolic way of showing commitment to the cause.

“The people that ride do it for numerous reasons,” said Piper Medcalf, senior vice president of development for the foundation. “Most want to do the ride because they are enthusiastic riders, but they leave tied to the mission.”

Medcalf also said that the event sees many returning riders, some of whom are riding for their sixth straight year. Some riders even dedicate their participation to a family member with arthritis or do so to help bring the disease more into the public eye. One man at the starting line Saturday was riding in honor of his 11-year-old daughter who has arthritis and wanted to use his ride to help others learn that arthritis affects people other than the elderly as well.

There is also an optional shorter ride that is only six days and 355 miles and contained within the overall ride. That ride started with the group in San Francisco, but will be finishing Thursday in Solvang instead of continuing to Los Angeles.

Backroads, an experienced company who has been planning similar trips for over 25 years, is organizing the tour. Every rider has the support of both medical and mechanical assistance throughout the ride. It is meant to be a once- in-a-lifetime experience for every participant.

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