As the nation celebrated Lincoln’s birthday this Presidents’ Day weekend, the city of Santa Cruz was celebrating another monumental event. On Feb. 16, Lance Armstrong and the Amgen-sponsored Tour of California came to Santa Cruz. The race, which is broken up into eight stages, set up the finish line for the second leg in Santa Cruz.

The event affected campus and city alike. Santa Cruz residents, students and businesses all benefited from the international exposure brought on by the race.

The Metro did not dispatch any buses on their regular routes. Instead, a few designated bus routes were established for the day. These routes encouraged spectators to use public transportation by providing park-and-ride services at various locations within the city. The race had the potential to inflict a devastatingly huge carbon footprint on the city and surrounding areas, but the park-and-ride service as well as ride-sharing alleviated some of the impact.

Estimates show that tens of thousands of spectators migrated en masse to Santa Cruz for the event, and it is commendable that alternative means of transportation were made available for environmentally conscious viewers. By preemptively anticipating the effects of traffic congestion, the city of Santa Cruz made mass commuting possible through public transportation and ride-sharing. Also impressive was the efficacy with which the city accounted for road closure and the subsequent transportation needs of local residents as well as tourists.

The Tour of California is the largest bike race in the United States, and, as such, the event provides a unique opportunity to educate people about important political and environmental issues. The publicity surrounding this race, due in part to Armstrong’s participation, helped raise public awareness about the critical issue of physical fitness as well as highlighting bicycling as an alternative means of transit. In Santa Cruz, people were made aware of their personal impact on the city by observing a traffic-free Pacific Avenue and taking advantage of public transportation.

Competitive riders from all over the world are eligible to take part in the Tour of California. Having an event of such international importance was beneficial to Santa Cruz in more ways than one. Local businesses and hotels profited from the sudden surge of tourists who might not have otherwise sojourned in our beach town during these rainy winter months. Additionally, the implementation of a car-free zone on Pacific Avenue allowed locals and visitors to mingle freely.

April 20 and Halloween most consistently draw visitors to Santa Cruz for our out-of-season tourism influxes. This city is a beautiful one with a lot to offer. The Tour of California and the publicity that came with it offered the city a chance to put its best foot forward to visitors who, if not for the race, might not have otherwise ventured to this side of the Monterey Bay.

For its display of impressive athletic skill and remarkable influence on the Santa Cruz community, the Tour of California should be commended. Not only did this international bike race provide the forum for the best of Santa Cruz to see and be seen by locals and visitors, the Tour of California put this city in the spotlight, where it belongs.

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