Carlos Perez and Greg Fisher are the hands behind Levi’s King Ridge Gran Fondo, held on the roads of Sonoma County, California. Each fall since 2009, more than 7,500 cyclists transcend on Santa Rosa, California, and its roads take the toll. That hasn’t stopped their events company, Bike Monkey, and a merry band of volunteers from taking care of the roads that take care of the riders, many of whom travel from all four corners of the earth. The event’s organizers got permission from the county to hire their own contractors and repair the roads using funds raised from event entry fees, donations and corporate sponsorships. In all, $40,000 has been spent on patching 48 miles of road.
I spoke with Fisher about what prompted them to take action, and what they’ve done to mitigate road damage, because no one wants to see roads go neglected.
Bicycle Times: Sonoma County has its beautiful vista and oodles of roads to ride, but many aren’t the most agreeable to cyclists. Was it initially daunting to take some responsibility to get the bad roads patched? When did the ‘ah-ha’ moment come and how, and when did the process begin?
Greg Fisher: In all honesty, compared to many places in America the drivers in Sonoma County are pretty accommodating to cyclists. We take over a number of roads on the day of our event and we’ve had a lot of really agreeable folks. I think that’s largely due to the fact that the community around Santa Rosa has made our event their own and has really accepted cyclists as part of the community.
BT: Who in the county was helpful in making this happen?
GF: We’ve seen support at all levels, but it’s most impressive to see the leadership of the County, the Board of Supervisors, really share our vision of what the Gran Fondo could do for our community, including working with us to permit and facilitate the pavement repairs. They are very much a partner in the Gran Fondo and in this project in particular.
BT: How many volunteers does Bike Monkey turn to for the Gran Fondo, and were any involved with road repair?
GF: Our event is definitely one that is supported by and leverages the local community. Last year we had something in the neighborhood of 900 volunteers for the Gran Fondo. To our knowledge none of the volunteers that help with our events actually help with the road repair project. As you can imagine, road repair is a physically demanding job with some degree of technical specificity, so we like to leave it to the (licensed and bonded) professionals.
BT: How many man hours went into road repair, and who were the chief task masters behind the effort?
GF: From our side it’s tough to say how many man hours there were that went into the repair. We worked closely with a local paving contractor who is an expert at this type of work and they put their crew on it. The roads were assessed and we booked the work by miles of road patched, so it wasn’t so much an hourly estimate but rather a per mile estimate. We patched 48 miles of road and spent $40,000 so far.
Making a big difference
According to Fisher, money spent on road repair has increased dramatically between 2009-2013: $5,000 each year beginning in 2010, jumping to $25,000 in 2013. Roads that have been patched include King Ridge Road, Coleman Valley Road, Sweetwater Springs Road, Cavedale Road, Joy Road (between Coleman Valley and Bitner), Bitner Road, Mill Station Road (between Occidental and Sullivan), and Sullivan Road (between Mill Station and Graton).
Sign promoting the repairs made by the cycling community can be found at King Ridge Road, Coleman Valley Road, Sweetwater Springs Road, Cavedale Road, Geysers Road, and Ida Clayton Road.
“We also coordinate/report (but do not pay for) the locations on the Santa Rosa Creek Trail that need repair by the County,” Fisher said. “Because of the Fondo, that path receives additional attention and resources from the County.”
The Levi’s Gran Fondo team are on-track to patch at least as much road mileage in 2014 as they did in 2013.
“One of the bright sides of having no rain is that we don’t have to re-patch roads that would have been damaged in a cold, wet winter,” Fisher added.