Billed as the world’s oldest, longest and largest touring bicycle ride, RAGBRAI is coming to La Porte City. 2015 marks the 43rd consecutive ride across the state that began in 1973 as a way for Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul to see the people and places of Iowa in a new and different way.
Over the years, the ride has grown into an event that draws riders from all 50 states. This year, more than 80% of the communities RAGBRAI tours will be outnumbered by the cyclists that visit them. What began as a few hundred bicycle enthusiasts pedaling across the state 42 years ago, is now an event carefully coordinated with the Iowa Department of Transportation, the Highway Patrol, other governmental agencies and the numerous cities along the route. RAGBRAI has been featured in national publications such as Sports Illustrated, TIME, Reader’s Digest and National Geographic’s Traveler, as well as publications from several countries around the world.
La Porte City’s previous RAGBRAI experience came in 1983, also as a pass-through community. Since that time, the event has gotten even bigger, now boasting more than 10,000 riders. In 1983, it was estimated that around 6,500 riders visited La Porte City. Another change involves the separate route that support vehicles must now follow, which has reduced the number of motorized vehicles cyclists (and local traffic) have to contend with.
Last week, at a meeting with RAGBRAI organizers, more than three dozen pass-through communities on the 2015 route were given an overview of what to expect when the bikes start rolling into town. According to RAGBRAI, most riders will average ten miles per hour and leave their previous overnight location by 7 AM, with nearly all riders on the road by 9 AM. The goal of Iowa State Patrol, ambulance crews and other support services provided by RAGBRAI is to be available along the route between 6 AM and 6 PM each day of the ride.
Day five of RAGBRAI has riders departing from Cedar Falls on their way to Hiawatha. Because of the number of riders who roll out very early, La Porte City vendors will be advised to be ready to greet them by 7 AM that morning. Though just the second city on the day’s route, La Porte City is considered a stop for a late breakfast or brunch, as the cyclists will have logged 30 miles by the time they reach the LPC Main Street.
Because riders are expected to arrive at their overnight destination no later than 6 PM, there are set times established for pass-through cities and towns that dictate when all RAGBRAI-related activities must be shut down. In La Porte City’s case, 2 PM is the designated time when all activities, including the vendor booths on Main Street, must cease to operate so that the Iowa State Patrol can encourage riders to keep moving down the road.
As preparations are being made for one of the biggest parties La Porte City has ever hosted, the RAGBRAI Steering Committee is seeking volunteers to assist in a variety of ways, including the activities before, during and after the event. For the latest information about RAGBRAI, and to add your name to the growing list of volunteers, logon to theprogressreview.co or to the RIDE LPC 7-23 Facebook page at facebook.com/ridelpc723.