Spokane-area cycling clubs joined forces Thursday, vowing to fight a regional crackdown against racing on open state highways.
More than 50 concerned cyclists from Eastern Washington and North Idaho met for several hours, joined by lawyers, state representatives and United States Cycling Federation officials.
USCF racing official Phil Miller urged those in attendance to leave the meeting unified and ready to map out racing guidelines for the state. Such guidelines currently don’t exist.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure we are speaking with one voice,” Miller said. The group took his advice, but not before voicing fears and venting frustrations.
“I’m afraid it’s going to grow like a cancer if something isn’t done,” Baddlands Cycling Club Vice President Alex Renner said of the state action.
The Department of Transportation sent letters to the clubs on July 3, notifying them that bicycle races on open highways - a common practice statewide - are illegal and will no longer be tolerated.
The enforcement effort affects only nine Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane.
The announcement came the day after a 13-year-old Spokane bicyclist died from injuries suffered when he was hit from behind by a car on state Highway 904 near Cheney. Cooper Jones was participating in a legal Baddlands time trial.
While cyclists are convinced Cooper’s death spurred the crackdown, state officials say they are merely trying to make the high ways safer.
Open-road racing has been illegal since 1991, when the state classified bikes as vehicles, they said.
Tempers flared at Thursday’s meeting, but Miller, asked by state officials to address the group, said the prohibition may be short-lived.
A revised draft of the Washington Administrative Code, which includes guidelines for racing on state highways modeled after Oregon codes, is being reviewed by state traffic engineers, Miller said.
Eastern Washington cyclists will soon have an opportunity to help fine-tune the guidelines, he said.
In the interim, Miller and state Rep. Larry Sheahan, R-Rosalia, encouraged cyclists to launch a grassroots campaign aimed at demonstrating support for highway racing.
“Politically, what you want to do is raise awareness,” Sheahan said. “Speak with one voice. You need to get your heads together.”
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