Police prepare for RAGBRAI 2013
FAIRFIELD — RAGBRAI will stop in Fairfield this summer for the first time since 1997.
Many of the city’s residents remember RAGBRAI’s most recent visit. Washington Police Chief Julie Harvey rode her bike through town that day, not as a participant but as an officer.
Harvey was part of a police bike patrol that made sure the riders found what they needed in town.
“The riders came in on Glasgow Road by the Sunset Roller Rink,” she said. “My beat was Madison and Maple. We had to give directions to the bikers. I gave so many directions that by the end of the night I couldn’t talk. All we did was give directions for 12 hours.”
Cycling is a hobby of Harvey’s. She has gone on RAGBRAI four times, so she knows exactly what the riders are looking for.
“They want to know how to get downtown,” she said. “You don’t give them street names because they don’t know the names. You just give them the directions and let them go because they don’t want to unclip from their bikes.”
Harvey is glad RAGBRAI is making another stop in Fairfield, because she thinks it will be good for businesses in town.
“It will be a money-maker for Fairfield,” she said. “A lot of community organizations will make a lot of money on this. We’ll also have a lot of sales tax coming in.”
Harvey said it will probably be difficult to find a hotel when RAGBRAI stops in Fairfield on the night of July 26. Harvey said she has heard of hotels being booked solid just hours after the route announcement was made.
The police will spend ample time preparing to handle the enormous number of riders who will come to town.
“Traffic control is going to be a huge thing, because businesses will have to make and receive normal deliveries,” Harvey said.
Harvey said she doesn’t yet know where the riders will enter town or the route they’ll take once they’re in town. She said the police will put up four-way stops at intersections where they don’t normally have them.
In 1997, Jefferson County Park housed the RVs. The campers used any area with large grassland such as Pence Elementary School and Fairfield Middle School.
“If it’s like last time and a lot of the campers come to Pence school and the middle school, you probably won’t want to go down Sixth Street that day,” she said.
Riders set up shop in local parks such as Chautauqua, Lamson, Howard and Wilson.
“You’ll have tents everywhere,” Harvey said. “Don’t be surprised if you wake up and someone has pitched a tent in your yard.”
Harvey said she and the other officers had a blast the last time RAGBRAI came through. Despite the large number of people, there were very few infractions the police had to respond to.
“One local person got arrested last time, and that was way before the majority of the bikers got here,” she said.
Harvey said she was pleasantly surprised there were so few problems in 1997. She said the last stop on the route is usually the “party night.”
Not only that but many more people tend to visit the final stop because they’ll be in the area to pick up the cyclists the following day.
A few reasons why the problems were kept to a minimum last time was that it was extremely hot that whole week, Harvey recalled. She said the riders came to Fairfield after a long day of biking, too.
The days leading up to the riders’ stop in Fairfield will be smooth sailing compared to 1997.
“This time, there will be three days prior to this of easy rides of only 50 miles,” Harvey said. “This is absolutely one of the shortest routes.”
The 2013 route is 406.8 miles long, which according to ragbrai.com is the second shortest route in the event’s history. The shortest was the fifth RAGBRAI in 1977 when it was 400 miles long. The 1997 route was 464 miles long.
The 1997 route started in Missouri Valley and stopped in Red Oak, Creston, Des Moines, Chariton, Bloomfield, Fairfield and ended in Fort Madison.
Three of those cities will be the same in 2013. This year’s route begins in Council Bluffs and stops in Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield and once again finishes in Fort Madison.