Before the runners, walkers and crowds gather at the race start line, there a lot of work goes on behind the scenes, including getting approval for the race course. As interest in road racing has increased, so to have the demands these races put on the community. Each race course and event has a ripple effect on businesses and individuals whose lives intersect it. Several years ago, Columbus City Council passed legislation that required race organizers to apply for a permit at least 30 days prior to an event and to reach out to affected neighborhoods along the race course, sharing a map and event details.
This winter, the City expanded regulations on races to further minimize their effect on neighborhoods, particularly downtown, which is home to large numbers of race events. With increased development and residential living, the City must strike a balance between the impact of a race and the use of city infrastructure, such as roads and parks. Starting this spring and summer, when the race season heats up, race organizers will have a selection of standardized downtown race courses to choose from. Only events with more than 1,000 participants will be allowed to be held completely on a downtown street course, and only events with more than 7,500 participants will be allowed to use portions of Third, Fourth, High and Front streets.
“Columbus has elevated its status as a convention city, now hosting more tourist-based activities that contribute to the economic vitality of the city,” explained Jason T. Nicholson, Special Events Coordinator. “It is no longer feasible to provide each individual race with a unique course.”
In addition, due to safety concerns, timed night races are no longer permitted on downtown streets and traffic control devices are now required any time race participants run on a public street. Submission of a “Turn by Turn Race Course Descriptor” is still required with each race application, the fee for which was increased to cover the administrative time needed by City departments such as Police, Fire, and Recreation and Parks.
Limiting use of downtown streets to larger races means alternative courses will get more use. Luckily, the redevelopment of the riverfront has created additional recreational trails, which will now be used for race events, minimizing their effect on motorists, public transportation and residents.
“More than 200,000 participants ran or walked in races in Columbus in 2015. These efforts are not intended to restrict race activities, which are clearly so important to the community,” added Nicolson. “Rather, we hope to provide tools for better management of racing activities downtown.”
Though the race season is in the early stages, the City has already experience fewer questions and complaints from the public regarding race courses. Race organizers are adjusting to the fairly significant changes, particularly the impact of increased fees on their budgets. Most have been understanding, and the City is confident that the added efficiency resulting from the preset courses will be beneficial to all involved.
“While we know there is not a perfect solution, we continue to believe that the investment in downtown was meant to benefit everyone in the central Ohio region,” added Nicolson. “Events which draw participants for recreational or charitable experience offer a great opportunity for repeat visitation.”