I Received Another Email

After the Lake Anna Century, the ride organizer saw fit to send me an email explaining why some of the problems (ie., no food or drink for the last 40 miles) occurred on that ride.  In what is quickly becoming a routine for me, I received today an email from the Event Director of Bike DC, which I include below unedited for your edification:

Subject:  Bike DC Afterword

Bike DC Participants,

From the comments we have received since Sunday’s Bike DC, it is clear many of you had the great experience those of us who plan and produce this event had hoped you would. Equally clear however is that many of you did not. There were three things that contributed to the unfortunate situations that impacted some of you.

The first factor is the growth in the number of participants. This was by far the biggest Bike DC yet and some of the routing that had been adequate with a smaller ride, was unsatisfactory for this larger group. The good news is that we can make the changes necessary to accommodate a larger field.

Second was the road construction near Iwo Jima. That project grew dramatically in scope late last week, seriously impacting the ability to get thousand of cyclist through that section. As the magnitude of the problem became apparent, National Park Service and Arlington police made tactically decisions on how best to keep the situation from becoming dangerous. I cannot argue with any of the decisions they made.

The third and by far most significant factor was decisions made by DC Police. Unfortunately the Washington police officer assigned to this event for the past several years left work on medical leave late last week. Those who were left to oversee the event made some unfortunate decisions. They spontaneously re-routed the approach to the finish line, sending riders onto streets with live traffic. They re-opening of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to motorized traffic while thousand of cyclists were still in Arlington. Though both of these errors were eventually corrected, they should not have occurred.

I apologize to those of you whose ride was impacted negatively. I wish you all a full summer of safe and enjoyable bicycling in and around Washington.

Rick Bauman

Event Director

Bike DC

It’s good to see the Event Director provide an explanation, which heretofore has been lacking on the event’s website or Facebook page.  Although Mr. Bauman doesn’t give a specific number of riders, the Facebook page reports approximately 5,000 people signed up before the event and many more registered on the day of the ride.  That’s quite a crowd.

While I am still shaking my head at the very avoidable problems which occurred (everything seems so much easier in hindsight), I am encouraged to see the event acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes.  Perhaps they will be able to apply the lessons learned to next year’s ride.

As for me, my next goal is to participate in an event that does not enduce an apology letter from the event organizer, as my last two have done.

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13 thoughts on “I Received Another Email

  1. I think it is only a matter of time before the “There & Back Again Letter-Free Century Ride” becomes an annual cycling rite of passage in your area.

    I’m sure many of your loyal readers will help you setup and organize this ride. Best of luck with it.

    Remember to have food and water at your rest stops!

    • You know, I’ve thought about throwing together a group ride, but the majority of my most frequent commenters live hundreds/thousands of miles away from me. Most “local” commenters live in DC or the wrong side of the Potomac River. None live in my county. It would seem the closer you live to me, the less appealing my blog is. There’s probably a very profound meaning to this, but I don’t think I’d like to learn it so I don’t dwell on the issue very much.

      • Steve, As a fellow resident of PW County, I enjoy reading your blog. Sadly, I no longer can find or justify the time to load up my bike and go. Even then my joy was finding the rocks and mud which are more suited to my mountain bike which now gathers dust. (I am not as brave as you to ride the public roads since I live in the very busy section of “DC” where even last night there was another automobile accident at my intersection.) Please continue to ride safely out there.

      • Thanks, Polly, for the kind words. I have yet to catch the Mountain Biking bug, though I am sure I would like it if I tried it. Like you, time is precious for me and road cycling fills up most of my free time. Thanks for reading and don’t be afraid to take the occasional spin down an inviting dirt lane!

  2. I find the wording of the letter culturally interesting. It makes use of words like ‘unfortunate situations’ and the fault-avoiding employment of the passive voice. If that had been a letter from a Japanese organizer (where I lived for many years), it would be grovelling from beginning to end. If it was one from a French organizer (where I live now) you wouldn’t find any apology at all, most likely.

    Mr. Bauman hits the perfect North American tone of blaming everyone else, and apologizing (seemingly) on their behalf!

    I’m with Fizzhog, by the way. Bring on the There and Back Again Century Ride!

    • You’ve hit on exactly what left me flat when I received the email. The organizers seem to accept no responsibility for their actions/inactions in all of this.

      Here’s to uneventful events!

    • I tried to be polite, but since you raise the issue (and formerslug seconds the motion) I will share that this was my reaction as well. Americans have a difficult time apologizing and tend to put many qualifiers in any attempt to do so. Phrases like, “If I offended anybody, I apologize…” are common, as is passive voice and attempts to pass blame on others or to show “nothing could be done.”

      Fact is, Bike DC organized the event and is therefore responsible for its conduct. If the ride failed to go off as planned, it is their fault and they should take responsibility for it. All three issues raised by Mr. Bauman were avoidable, given a more proactive stance by Bike DC, and therefore they should own up to their failings.

      1. This was by far the biggest number of participants. Why didn’t they cap the total number of riders? They have years of experience in running this event and surely they had a sense of what their capacity was. Leaving registration open-ended courted disaster.

      2. Road construction at Iwo Jima didn’t magically appear Sunday morning. Who was in charge of checking the route and noting potential problems? Who was responsible for developing contingency plans in the event these problems occurred? Seasoned event staff should have identified the potential issue with construction at a choke point and developed a plan to mitigate it. Instead, they let the crisis develop and say (correctly) they cannot fault the police for making a decision based on the safety of the group. Best not to let the situation get to that point, in my view.

      3. A single Washington DC police officer went on medical leave and the opening of an Interstate Highway is screwed up? What did the event staff do to insure this wouldn’t happen? What rehearsals were conducted? When it became known to the event staff that the police officer critical to successful execution would not be present, what extra steps did they take to ensure the police were aware of what needed to be done?

      I gave my money to Bike DC, not the police of Arlington or DC. It was Bike DC’s responsiblity to run a safe, successful event. That didn’t happen and it is their fault. That’s what the apology should have said. End of rant.

  3. Hi Steve,

    Well, I had an idea that I have hesitated to offer up, but will now. You mentioned the list of centuries in Bicycling magazine. How about convincing your wife, known only to me as the sharp looking cyclist, that the Rockland, ME, ride would be the perfect first century? It just might be. Well established, in a cycle friendly part of New England, on the ocean, probably little climbing. I haven’t read about any organizational disasters in its history. I’m thinking for me it might be a good first century. Yes, I know, there is the little matter that it is quite a bit further away than the drive into DC took you.

    And you do have the DC Randonneurs right there.

    • I am approaching a level of confidence on the bike where I no longer feel the need to pay for support on a ride. I therefore am very happy to set off by myself for an extended distance or do the occasional brevet with the DC Randonneurs. However, I do still enjoy unique experiences and look for those in organized rides. Now that I have enjoyed the experience of cycling past the Capitol and the White House, I have checked that block and will move on in search of other neat events.

  4. At least 1 of the excuses wasn’t the fact that a 15yr old organized the event! I’m surprised to see all sorts of crazy things happen to you. Last year, I paid only $18 for a ride that was amazingly organized!! I’ll see what my luck is this year. Organized rides don’t start for me until this coming weekend!

    • Just my luck, I guess. Good luck on your ride and here’s hoping you achieve your goals without the drama that seems to be finding me lately.

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