City Council to cap the number of Raleigh road races, parades

ccampbell@newsobserver.comFebruary 19, 2013 

— As the number of road races in the city continues to grow, some events could get run off the streets under a new policy aimed at keeping weekend traffic detours under control.

Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved rules that cap the number of marathons, races and parades that force street closings at 100 events per year. Event organizers also will pay a $100 application fee to cover administrative costs such as researching proposed routes and detouring public buses.

With more than 80 events already on the calendar for the next year, Raleigh will soon hit the new cap. That worries the running community.

Bruce Bokish, owner of Precision Race, says nonprofits could lose a popular fundraising option.

“I get an incredible number of requests from organizations that want to organize a race and raise money for their cause,” he said.

With the cap looming, leaders plan to steer smaller races to city parks, where they’ll establish several certified 5K courses that don’t use streets. Locations could include the Dorothea Dix campus and Walnut Creek Park in Southeast Raleigh.

But Bokish said runners prefer the variety of scenery that road races offer. “If you force more and more races to use the same standardized course, there’s nothing interesting about it anymore,” he said.

Residents and businesses around popular race courses such as Hillsborough Street have argued that they need the streets, too.

Brenda Jeffries lives in an apartment complex for seniors near the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets. “As a resident, I cannot tell you how many times we’ve been inconvenienced by numerous road races,” she said, adding that she and her neighbors rely on city buses that skip their stop on race days.

Jeffries suggested that the city also cap how many races take place on an individual street – something that’s not in the new policy.

Businesses are impacted by frequent Hillsborough Street closures, too. Marshall Stewart runs the weekly Raleigh Flea Market at the State Fairgrounds, and he sees attendance drop when the road closes.

“It just kills our business,” he said. “People are confused about how to get there.”

The new policy also doesn’t address another complaint: local races getting bumped from the schedule by a bigger event with national prestige. Some race organizers were upset that the City Council approved prime routes for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series and Ironman Triathlon – effectively canceling local races scheduled for the same dates. The council can still schedule “an economic development event at any time,” assistant city manager Dan Howe said.

But established local events could reserve their date for up to three years – an assurance several races need to secure major sponsorships. First-time races could reserve the same date the following year once obligations to the city are met.

Organizers successfully blocked a proposed $350-per-mile fee to race on Raleigh’s greenways. The council agreed Tuesday to drop the fee – at least for the next year – and absorb the estimated $10,000 to $12,000 to get the trails mowed and ready for race day.

“I don’t think you should target nonprofit races and say, ‘you have to pick up the maintenance that needs to occur anyway,’ ” Councilman Thomas Crowder said.

The final policy was a compromise, and Howe noted that neither side got everything it wanted. “This is a balancing act,” he said.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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