Credit Raleigh City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin with a balanced, common-sense view regarding a dust-up over the Ray Price Capital City Bikefest now in progress for the 10th year downtown. Some Raleighites say the noise the event generates is excessive and want it moved.
Baldwin acknowledges the changes in downtown since Bikefest arrived – including more residents and more businesses – but she believes the city shouldn’t make any radical changes without careful thought.
“We can’t forget,” she said, “that they were a part of the effort to revitalize downtown. Our first step should be to work with them to reduce impacts and/or work with them on a new, mutually beneficial location for next year.”
Bikefest organizers want to stay downtown, on Fayetteville Street, which they believe is good for everyone. Mark Hendrix, general manager of the Ray Price Harley-Davidson dealership, says riders like the cool factor of being right in the middle of town and cites the “tremendous” economic impact the festival has had.
And, he says, Raleigh leaders wanted Ray Price to choose downtown for its festival.
Indeed, in 2005, when Bikefest moved downtown, the city was in the process of tearing out the Fayetteville Street mall and replacing it with the Fayetteville Street of today, the one teeming with offices and businesses and restaurants. There was not much going on throughout the weekends. Price previously had held its events at Walnut Creek Amphitheatre.
Bikefest organizers have a good point. They were downtown before downtown became the place to be, with apartments and condos now in high demand. So the city has an obligation to Bikefest that cannot be ignored.
That said, residents who say the noise from Bikefest just about drives them out of downtown – and some do leave for the weekend – also shouldn’t be ignored. And neither should business owners who say the festival, unlike music events such as the upcoming World of Bluegrass, hurts their business instead of bolstering it.
Bikefest has been, by the estimates of organizers, a rousing success, so it’s no wonder those in charge want to stay put.
Might Baldwin’s notion of working with organizers be able to keep it in the city’s center? Perhaps there could be limits on hours or noise. Failing a compromise, perhaps the venue could change with the city’s offering special incentives to sponsors.
This is a good event, and it entices people downtown who might not otherwise go there. It’s in the city’s interest to keep them coming.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, a good negotiator and reasonable leader, could team with Baldwin to find a solution here. This would be a good time to rev up work on it.