Today's Letters: Triathlon route needs rethinking

Letters to the Editor
Published November 14, 2007

The organizers of the Clearwater Ironman Triathlon 70.3 have figured out how to put on a fantastic event for the participants. Now, they've got to do a little tweaking to make it tolerable for the general public.

Everyone agrees the problem is with the biking portion of the race, and while we can debate the merits of the route, the issues are ones of coordination, information and attitude.

In the vicinity of the County Courthouse in downtown Clearwater - a suggested viewing area for the event - the flaws in the planning process were on full display.

As the bikers approached downtown Clearwater on their return to the beach, a friendly traffic control officer at Court Street and Fort Harrison Avenue blocked motorists from continuing south on Fort Harrison. He did not know where drivers could cross the race route, so he told them to try Myrtle Street. Everyone else was directed westward toward the beach, with bikers racing past in the next lane.

At the next intersection, Oak Street, the woman directing traffic initially blocked south-seeking drivers from turning left in front of the parallel stream of bikers, but realizing the absurdity of sending everyone over the bridge to the beach, she eventually took on the challenge of allowing motorists to cross the route during gaps in the bikers. But she couldn't allow this turn until the shuttle bus that had been parked sideways across Oak Street was moved. The officer at the Chestnut and Oak intersection - a guy who liked to yell and scream at confused drivers - had ordered the bus driver to block the road, but eventually relented.

Motorists, many of whom had just come down Court Street searching for a way to cross the race route, were now directed back east on Chestnut Street, this time sharing the road with the first wave of runners.

I felt so sorry for the motorists and the traffic control officers, both left to their own devices to solve the riddle of the race. I actually got off my bicycle and helped direct traffic at Court Street and Fort Harrison Avenue.

As for the route, I don't understand why organizers don't opt for the Chamber of Commerce route of Alt. U.S. 19 up to the Dunedin Causeway: waterfront views, good spectator access, and residents have the back door exits of Myrtle, Marshall, Douglas and Michigan. It's a three-lane road. Use the west lane for bikes, the other two for vehicles. It's early enough in the race that the bikers will be packed closely together, so closures will be minimal. Use the Pinellas Trail to get around the two-lane bridge near the Pirate's Cove marina, and maybe use the trail extensively north of Curlew Road. Go up to Keystone Road and around Lake Tarpon and then come down one closed road - whichever one lends itself best to closings, crossings and alternative routes.

This a great event, but it needs better planning and coordination. And as for the rude treatment of motorists by some traffic control officers, that's inexcusable. The anger many residents expressed about the inconvenience of this event may actually be road rage caused by these officers. Think about that!

Dave Spath, Clearwater

Re: Ironman tenacitystory, Nov. 11

Lots of folks had gripes with race

Please be advised that I did read your article on the Ironman competition held Saturday. The article stated that there were about 60 complaints to the city of Clearwater. I beg to differ. I believe if you published a number, an e-mail address or something to where people can respond, you will see there are clearly more than 60 complaints.

Let me be 61. I desperately tried to get my very sick dog to the veterinary office 2 miles from my house. It took me three hours to get there. I tried to ask a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy for help (I needed to know what street was not blocked off in order to get to U.S. 19) and he smirked at me and waved me off. I find that completely offensive. We tried to call every information avenue we could think of and no one could help - that is if we could get a live person on the phone.

When I finally made it to the vet's office, there was another person who advised that it took her two hours to get there as well! That would be complaint No. 62.

Complaint No. 63: a bridal party trying to get to a hair appointment (I know, I know, not nearly as important as hundreds of people trying to prove something to themselves). Nonetheless, they were late to the wedding.

So clearly, if you would like an accurate count to make your story correct, you will find another way to tally the complaints.

I find it sad that an entire community has to shut down for five or more hours for something as insignificant to the rest of us as the Ironman competition.

Nikki Dudack, Oldsmar

Enough of this Ironman farce

Residents of Countryside were held near prisoners in a de facto police state by the Ironman Triathlon atrocity, local government and their corporate sponsors.

When law enforcement barricaded McMullen-Booth Road Saturday, they prevented passage toward Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Hillsborough County.

When I left my home, which borders Countryside Boulevard, I was immediately greeted by various individuals connected with the race who were telling me when and where I could not drive. My family was on our way to arranging my children's bar mitzvah and could not make our scheduled appointment. I am quite sure that the irate motorists all around the area had other things to do that they thought were important that day, such as taking care of their business, going to doctor's appointments and shopping.

This is a clear case of government colluding with corporate sponsors to pursue their particular agenda, and the citizens who vote them into office or buy their products be damned. There was a heavy law enforcement presence to provide muscle for their agenda.

I also object to the waste of tax dollars to waste the time of law enforcement.

I urge those who feel the same way to contact their local government officials to put a stop to the Ironman farce, and either have the race routed out of the neighborhoods or not hold it again.

Michael S. Greenberg, Clearwater

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