By Derrick Miller
Drivers take care: The Dehydrator Bicycle Ride/Race returns Saturday.
An estimated 450 bicyclists will leave the Simmons Center around 8 a.m. and be streaming out onto the roads. Motorists need to be aware of them to avoid accidents. The bicyclists will be using many of the common roads in Duncan.
Band booster Bill Rowan is the Dehydrator committee chairman this year. “We’re concerned with safety of the riders,” Rowan said. “We haven’t had any specific traffic problems, at least not since I’ve been doing this.”
There are two main groups of riders: racers and pleasure riders. The two groups have different courses and different traffic situations.
Those competing in the race will have a police escort to the race course. The escort will stop traffic at certain intersections and on U.S. Highway 81. They go about 15 miles per hour and stay grouped, for the most part.
The 14-mile race course is in the Lake Humphreys area. Racers will compete in two- to four-lap races broken into age and gender groups.
At the race, warning signs are posted along the course to alert motorists of the bike riders. Each group will also be preceded by a pace car.
“In general, drivers are very considerate,” Rowan said. “At a minimum, they slow down. Some of them even pull off the road until the riders pass.”
He said most of the riders pick places in the road where they can see other vehicles in the road, and they usually avoid making blind turns.
“The course is protected but not closed,” he said.
The protection is provided by the Duncan Police Department, the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office and the Marlow Police Department.
“For the most part, the racers are experienced,” Rowan said. “They know that when it’s a car versus a bicycle, a bicycle loses every time. We try to provide a safe as possible course.”
This year, the race will be timed with a pad located at Osage Road and Day Street. Because the timing system would be easily damaged by traffic, Osage Road from Fifth to Day will be closed and an alternate route will need to be taken by drivers with the exception of the few residents who live in the closed section.
“It gives the riders a good run-out area before they meet traffic at Fifth Street,” Rowan said. “People who live there will have access to their homes.”
The closure of the street was cleared with the residents of the area and a permit was obtained from the city.
Away from the race, the pleasure riders will also have to look out for traffic.
The slower-paced ride will travel to the west and south of the Simmons Center.
“Riders in the fun ride are on their own as far as traffic goes,” Rowan said. “They’ll need to pay attention to the traffic laws, and they’ll need to follow the white arrows to stay on course.”
He said the riders are usually familiar with riding their bikes on open roads.
“We just encourage everyone to be courteous to the riders,” he said.
In addition to the traffic, Rowan said the heat was another main concern.
“Heat is a big concern,” he said. “We don’t want them to wear themselves out so they can’t make it back.”
For those riders unable to make it back to the Simmons Center, support vehicles will be available.
By Derrick Miller