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Rep. Schrier presses Mt Rainier Park to work with RAMROD

Map and elevation chart for the 2019 traditional RAMROD route.
2019 RAMROD Ride With GPS route from the Redmond Cycling Club.
Map and elevation chart for the 2023 route with detour to Packwood.
2023 RAMROD Ride With GPS route from the Redmond Cycling Club.

Representative Kim Schrier, whose 8th Congressional District includes Mount Rainier National Park, has pressed park leaders to work with the Redmond Cycling Club to help the 39-year-old Ride Around Mt Rainier in One Day (“RAMROD”) continue.

“Since the announcement, we have been grateful for the tremendous support we have received from Representative Kim Schrier’s office,” said Joe Matthews, President of Redmond Cycling Club, in a statement. “Representative Schrier initiated a meeting with the National Park Service, Mount Rainier National Park and RCC last week.  Earlier today, she contacted me and shared her insights on the situation and possible solutions to explore.”

Rep. Schrier’s suggestion is that the park use their new timed entry system to maintain “a thoughtful balancing of cars and cyclists.” RAMROD allows a maximum of 800 registrations, though the rider count is lower due to last-minute cancellations and no-shows. The ride is also held on a Thursday, which is one of the least busy days of the week for the park.

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These adjustments would seem to address the Park’s concerns, though it is not yet clear if they accept it. “Mount Rainier National Park officials have determined that an influx of approximately 800 bicyclists and additional support staff through the middle of the park would negatively impact the visitor experience and increase congestion in the park during peak visitation,” a National Park Service spokesperson told Seattle Bike Blog last week. “The safety of all visitors is a priority for the park.”

The park’s stated concern about “visitor experience” has been confusing primarily because it’s not clear why someone biking through the park would not also be considered a visitor. RAMROD registration fees include not only the full-fare park bicycle rider entry fee but also additional funding for park ranger assistance as part of the event, according to Matthews. So “visitor experience” seems to actually mean “driver experience.” Of all places, a park with receding glaciers due to climate change should understand the value of encouraging bicycling. “RAMROD’s 800 cyclists represent the equivalent of 800 visitors arriving via 235 vehicles and a savings of 2.7 metric tons of CO2e emissions,” said Matthews.

RAMROD operates on streets open to traffic, so their permit application does not seek to close roadways like the storied car-free days in Crater Lake National Park (though wouldn’t that be nice?). In 2019, the most recent year RAMROD used the traditional route due to the pandemic and roadway construction, 750 riders joined 2,550 vehicles without any issues, said Matthews. The park’s new timed entry system aims to limit vehicles to about 1,500 vehicles per day, which should help limit overcrowding especially in popular parking lots. RAMROD riders, of course, do not need vast amounts of space for parking.

Also, our original story said RAMROD was seeking to ride on Paradise Road, but the ride is only on the road briefly and has long avoided the famous section up to Paradise due to crowding issues. The primary issue with the 2024 permit is Stevens Canyon Road. The NPS told Seattle Bike Blog that they are willing to permit the route RAMROD used in 2023 when Stevens Canyon Road was closed for construction. Without Stevens Canyon, the ride’s only option is to detour all the way to Packwood via Skate Creek Road and SR-12. Skate Creek Road is in very poor condition, but is otherwise workable, said Matthews. But SR-12 is a high-speed highway often lacking usable shoulders. It does not feel safe or fun to ride. The route also takes riders far from the park while skipping a lot of the scenic climbing that the ride is famous for. That’s right, the detour route is too easy for RAMROD, requiring them to add an out-and-back up Crystal Mountain in order to maintain the 150+ miles and 9,500+ feet of climbing the ride is known for. Rider feedback has been clear that the Packwood route “is not RAMROD,” Matthews said. Many riders said they would not be returning until the original route was available. They were willing to detour during road construction in recent years with the expectation that the route would be able to return to Stevens Canyon once the $34.5 million road rehab project was complete.

Google Street View image of a person riding a bike down a two-lane forested road.
Google Street View image of a wide highway intersection with very skinny shoulders.
Which of these two seems like a better road for a bike ride? From Google Street View (that person biking in the above photo was a happy coincidence, I dropped my pin randomly and they were there).

“We remain optimistic that a win-win-win situation is still available, enabling RAMROD to run in 2024 and within the Park’s goals for visitation and positive environmental impact,” said Matthews.

The thing is, people don’t need the Redmond Cycling Club in order to bike around Mount Rainier. The roads the park is denying to RAMROD are open to people who show up on a bike outside of the event. RAMROD provides a central point of contact as well as communications and safety support for riders. RAMROD organizers can and have worked with the park over the past several decades to adjust the ride so it works for everyone, which is why it is on a Thursday instead of a weekend like most major bike events and why it is capped at 800. It is a legendary ride with a long wait list, and people will not stop riding it just because there is no organization behind it. Riders train for many months in preparation for what may be the most ambitious athletic accomplishment of their lives. It’s in everyone’s best interest that RAMROD continues to provide structure and support to make it as safe and fun as possible.

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11 responses to “Rep. Schrier presses Mt Rainier Park to work with RAMROD”

  1. Greg

    ramrod has always been a dangerous event. the small narrow lane roads are not capable of handling the mass of bikers and the traffic they carry. the bikes cause traffic backups and dangerous passing situations due to the slow bikes which will ride two and three wide. i have seen aid and police vehicles struggling to make there way past them. this event should have been stopped years ago.

    1. Roberto

      Spoken like a true non-cyclist. It’s a lot easier for an aid or police vehicle to get past cyclists riding two-abreast than it is to get past a gas-guzzling “everything including the kitchen sink” RV the size of a city bus, especially around the curves on some of there roads. If anything should have been stopped years ago it was access to the park for vehicles spewing tons of CO2 emissions. If you don’t want to drive slowly behind or with a large group of cyclists and actually enjoy the view, don’t go to Rainier National Park on that one single Thursday every year.

    2. Tom

      This is baloney. I’ve done RAMROD twice and I volunteered at a rest stop twice. Didn’t feel unsafe at any time, ESPECIALLY in the Park. There is no “mass of cyclists.” The 800 riders get stretched out even before Enumclaw. And you have not seen “aid and police vehicles struggling to make there way past them.”

      1. Tom

        Oops, I meant Eatonville, not Enumclaw. RAMROD starts and finishes in Enumclaw.

  2. Jessie

    I’ve been aspiring to ride RAMROD for years and am also a former Park Service employee, having worked at Lake Mead and Cape Cod. This was supposed to be my year for RAMROD and I was so disappointed to learn of its cancellation. NPS should consider more than just the traffic inconveniences for cars. I love my national park, I love cycling, and experiencing the park from the seat of a bike brings you so much closer than a car – not to mention, getting to see the sun rise and set. The race promotes human health too: don’t mistake it for something reserved for a certain kind of stereotypical cyclist. I’m a 46 year old woman, gaining weight and fighting fatigue as I near menopause. This ride was supposed to be the thing that would inspire me to get out of bed and into the saddle. I wrote the park and received a disappointing form letter in return. I’m grateful to everyone who continues to advocate for RAMROD and hope to find myself at the starting line one day!

  3. Haywood

    The park roads were designed for motor vehicles with zero room for bike lanes. With Rainier being one of the most popular parks in the US, partially shutting it down for a bunch of wanna be Lance’s in lycra doesn’t make sense.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      As noted in the story, the ride is not asking them to shut anything down or to build bike lanes.

    2. Brian

      The park was created in 1899. I highly doubt that the roads were “designed for motor vehicles”; rather, I tend to think they were designed for people. I also doubt that anyone wants to be like Lance Armstrong at this point (no need for the apostrophe there).

  4. Philip

    > Also, our original story said RAMROD was seeking to ride on Paradise Road, but the ride is only on the road briefly . . . The primary issue with the 2024 permit is Stevens Canyon Road.

    Any details about “briefly”? I am logistically confused there, as the 2019 map shows the use of most of the length of Paradise Road. (Which cyclists should be given access to!)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      As in it skips the long winding loop up to Paradise Inn.

  5. Margaret Wilson Johnston

    Each cyclist needs a Timed Entry Permit. Pretty simple.

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