06 Nov Supercars Over Cyclists: Shameful Hypocrisy In the CDOT
Denying Bicycle Passport’s Special Event Permit to Ride Through the Eisenhower Tunnel
Government organizations never do anything suspicious, said no one, ever. It seems the Colorado Department of Transportation, or CDOT, is no exception. The CDOT has repeatedly denied Bicycle Passport’s permit requests for cyclists to ride through the Eisenhower Tunnel though they allowed Top Gear USA hosts to drive through the tunnel at speeds over 160 miles an hour in 2013. Even better? They deny issuing permits for any such racing event, or that the event even occurred, despite the popular episode airing on the History Channel.
What Is Bicycle Passport?
Visiting and exploring congested cities is made much easier when undertaken on a bicycle.
Before we dive in, let’s discuss some background for the issue at hand. Bicycle Passport is an app providing information such as route maps and rider reports for each of the 41 Colorado mountain passes over 10,000 feet in elevation. The completion of all 41 passes has been dubbed “The Quest,” and physical passports can be purchased online and stamped as routes are completed
The purpose of Bicycle Passport is to encourage outdoor recreation, inspire cycling tourism in Colorado, and to build a community around the pursuit of a common objective.
Applying to Cycle The Eisenhower Tunnel
One of the 41 mountain passes within the Bicycle Passport is traversed via the Eisenhower Tunnel. The famous, and sometimes infamous, tunnel enables Interstate 70 to pass under the Continental Divide at an elevation of 11,158 feet. The 1.7-mile-long tunnel is the highest point of the interstate system in the United States and one of the longest mountain tunnels in the world.
Due to its designation as an interstate highway, bicycles are not permitted in the Eisenhower Tunnel under normal circumstances. As a result, Bicycle Passport has applied for a permit to provide bicycle access to the tunnel for 2 hours on a slow-traffic Sunday morning. This would permit Bicycle Passport to host an event allowing cyclists to check the Eisenhower tunnel off their list. Like similar events that take place across the United States, and even in other locations in Colorado, this event would no doubt create an economic benefit for the areas surrounding the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Denies Permit Requests
Unfortunately, the Colorado Department of Transportation has repeatedly denied permit requests from Bicycle Passport to use the Eisenhower Tunnel. This is despite the 15,000 bicyclists who have signed a petition requesting the state approve this special event.
Without the CDOT’s permit approval, the accomplishment of The Quest, of conquering Colorado’s tallest mountain passes via bicycle, will remain unachievable.
The CDOT’s Hypocrisy
Why all the upset from a denied permit request? Surely there is a good reason why the CDOT would be hesitant to disrupt trucks and cars traveling through the Eisenhower Tunnel, even on a Sunday morning? Perhaps one could argue that the closing of such a major throughway should never occur, given the potential negative impact on the busy shipping route?
But alas, it turns out the tunnel can only be closed “for a good reason,” like racing luxury sports cars at 160 miles an hour.
Top Gear USA: Dangerous Driving Through the Eisenhower Tunnel
Portland, Oregon is easily one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the United States. The Willamette River Loop traverses 30 miles along the Willamette River beginning in downtown Portland. The loop travels from Portland east across the river, before turning south to Milwaukie. From Milwaukie, continue south to Oregon City before crossing west back over the Willamette River and turning north to Lake Oswego. After passing through Lake Oswego, continue north back to downtown Portland. Find more detailed, turn-by-turn, instructions here. Highlights of the tour include Sellwood Park, Ames Park, George Rogers Park, Salmon Spring Fountain and stunning views of the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers.
On May 4, 2013, Top Gear USA, a car enthusiast program on the History Channel, filmed an episode for their fourth season. The first episode of the season, which aired in September of 2013, entailed a 3,000-mile race from New York to California between the show’s 3 hosts. Each host drove a different supercar for the journey. Along the way, the 3 men were pitted against one another in different challenges to test the cars’ capabilities.
One such challenge involved competing to see who could travel through the Eisenhower tunnel the quickest. All 3 men topped speeds over 140 miles an hour to complete the task, with the winner hitting 165 miles an hour.
You would think that with 3 individual vehicles traveling at such high speeds, the tunnel would be a dangerous place for the other motor vehicles using the highway. Surely these men were breaking the law by speeding and driving so recklessly?
As you can see in this video, the tunnels are entirely empty, which makes complete sense from a safety standpoint. How does a T.V. show get an empty tunnel to race vehicles through? By cooperating with the Colorado Department of Transportation, of course.
Maybe the show’s producers went rogue, recklessly driving supercars through the tunnel at speeds over 140 miles an hour and just hoping no police would show up?
As you can see in this video of the actual episode, around 20 minutes in, the tunnel is closed (note the red X above the lanes) and there is a police escort. You can even see the continental divide sign as one of the hosts barrels through the underground tunnel. These are clear indications that the film crew of the Top Gear episode cooperated with both local authorities and the CDOT.
Bicycle Passport Inquiries to the CDOT
Given that the Colorado Department of Transportation appeared to have worked with Top Gear USA to provide access for these supercars to race through the Eisenhower Tunnel, leaders at Bicycle Passport were puzzled as to why they were not being given the same concessions from the government agency.
Wanting to know what permits the producers of Top Gear were able to procure for the filming event, Bicycle Passport made a CORA inquiry to the State of Colorado. CORA stands for Colorado Open Records Act, which requires that most public records be made available to the public.
CDOT’s reply? CDOT failed to find any permits issued for filming the Top Gear USA episode. They then had the gall to say that the video of Adam Ferrara was “just some guy” filming himself.
Watch the video clip again. Not only is the CDOT’s reply laughable in nature, but it also makes it appear as if, for some reason, the agency is trying to cover up their involvement in the Top Gear event.
Remember that the videos above, as well as the actual episode itself, make it abundantly clear that cooperation between Top Gear USA and the CDOT absolutely occurred. Since this episode aired on an incredibly popular television show on an equally popular channel, one can only assume the CDOT has no respect for transparency. They have abused their discretion in the matter of issuing permits for the Eisenhower Tunnel and outright lied to the folks at Bicycle Passport.
In a state renowned for outdoor recreation and bicycle tourism, it is shocking to see such pushback from the state of Colorado concerning an event that represents everything Colorado stands for.
What You Can Do
Bicycle Passport would like to provide routes enabling cyclists to traverse all 41 Colorado mountain passes over 10,000 feet. Since one of these passes requires access to the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70, we have asked the Colorado Department of Transportation to provide bicycle access to the tunnel for a single, 2-hour event, on a day with low motor vehicle traffic. This would allow those who wish to complete The Quest to check this mountain pass off their list as one large group.
The state of Colorado has presented hypocritical, abhorrent behavior when it comes to allowing supercars to race through the tunnel at dangerous speeds while also denying cyclists the ability to ride through the national landmark for a single event.
If you, like us, believe the Colorado Department of Transportation should rethink their stance on allowing bicycles access to the Eisenhower Tunnel for a solitary cycling event, consider signing our petition.
To learn more about the proposed event visit Bicyclepassport.com.