With RAGBRAI a week away, and hundreds of bicyclists preparing to ride through area counties, law enforcement officials are asking motorists to be prepared for heavy traffic and offering alternate routes to avoid conflict.
Lt. Kelly Hindman, District 7 Commander of the Iowa State Patrol, said this year is unique in that unlike the past, many of the participants will be using major roadways instead of county blacktops.
"Specifically, the (Iowa Highway) 175 corridor will be impacted," he said. "It'll be from west of Auburn to the Stratford area, which is quite a long stretch."
Hindman said the Iowa State Patrol is trying to let motorists know where the traffic will be highest so drivers will avoid getting stuck behind hundreds of bicyclists.
"It doesn't serve any purpose for motorists to use the bike routes," he said. "More so we have problems with private passenger vehicles. That's mostly because of people who may not be aware of the event or what roadways they will be using."
Most of the traffic congestion will begin next Monday when the riders travel from Cherokee to Lake View. Hindman suggested that motorists avoid U.S. Highway 71 to Sac County Road D15 from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
"The route will then continue south of M54 to Lake View," he said. "Highway 71 and 175 in the Lake View area will be very busy with cyclists from around noon through 8 p.m., and this area should be avoided, if possible."
The busiest day for Webster County, according to Hindman, will be Tuesday, July 24. That day, bicyclists will be using 175 to go through Auburn, Lake City, Lohrville, Farnhamville, Gowrie, Harcourt and Dayton.
He said Farnhamville especially will be very busy, since that's what's referred to as a "meet-up" town.
"That's where all the vehicles are in one town where they can meet up once a day," he said. "The Highway 20 corridor is how they're going to be getting those support vehicles to Webster City."
He recommended drivers avoid that area around noon on Tuesday.
"That area from Lehigh to Webster City is less of a concern for us," he said. "We should have them off the 175 corridor by about 3 p.m."
On Wednesday, Hindman said the Webster City area will be impacted most by the bike riders.
"Traffic will be an issue in the Jewell and Ellsworth area in case somebody would use Highway 69," he said. "If people need to be in that area, they should use Interstate 35, because they won't be impacted by the bicycle ride much at all on Wednesday."
Hindman said the State Patrol will also use other means of warning drivers about the bicycle traffic.
"We'll have extra message boards up asking people to pay attention," he said. "To reassure motorists, the event itself is only in one given area for a number of hours."
He added if someone does end up in bicycle traffic, it's going to be mostly an inconvenience for the drivers.
"Motorists who venture in those areas will likely have to wait long periods of time," he said.
The ultimate goal of letting people know about the traffic is safety.
"We want to get them across Iowa as safely as we can," Hindman said. "As long as we can avoid putting vehicles and bicycles on the same stretch of roadway, particularly the same direction as bicycles, we should avoid problems."
Hindman said in addition to 35 State Troopers who are expected to help out, they will also be getting assistance from local sheriff's offices and police departments.
"The Iowa State Patrol has a long history of supporting the ride," he said. "We try to make it a positive event for them, and the safer we made the ride, the better the event it is."