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May 30, 2010

Utah Highway Patrol Abandons Ill-Conceived Traffic-Snarling Motorcycle Safety Awareness Checkpoint Near Miller Motorsports Park

Spectators leaving the FIM Superbike World Championship event Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park (MMP) were greeted with a lengthy traffic delay in getting back to Interstate 80, the main traffic artery between the track and Salt Lake City, where most of the hotels are located. But according to MMP Media Manager John Gardner, instead of the traffic delay resulting from road construction, a collision or extraordinarily large numbers of vehicles, the backup was caused by the Utah Highway Patrol shutting down a lane of traffic to set up a checkpoint where they were ordering motorcyclists not car drivers, just motorcyclists - to pull over for no apparent reason.

"I got a call from [track designer and former CEO/General Manager] Alan Wilson," Bryan Miller told Roadracingworld.com Sunday evening. Miller is Assistant General Manager of MMP and is a son of the track's original owner, the late Larry H. Miller. "He said, 'Bryan, you've got the worst PR thing I've ever seen going on at a track.' He said, 'You've got law enforcement pulling over bikes and looking at their licenses.' He said, 'It's backing up traffic on Highway 36.' He said, 'It could just be a sobriety check point for the Memorial Day weekend, but if I were you I would call the Governor. This is a big, big deal.'"

Miller didn't call the Governor. He laughed and said, "I don't have the Governor's number in my phone." Instead, Miller called Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner D. Lance Davenport.

"His number was in my phone. I missed him, but I got his number two guy," said Miller. "I said to him, 'Please help me understand what's happening, because as you know we're working very hard to build this event into a very special thing for the state and I don't want anything to jeopardize it'

"He knew what it was. He said there was a Federal grant that was issued in order to advance rider safety, and it was a six-hour window that the Highway Patrol had to stop riders, take them off their motorcycles, to give them a little discussion about rider safety and road awareness and give them a little pamphlet and just talk to them. The whole thing was supposed to take 90 seconds to two minutes and let them be on their way.

"I said, 'OK, but it might not be unfolding that way. If it's for public safety, great, we're behind that 100%. If it's something else can you help me understand what's going on?'

"He went there personally. He made some phone calls en route and went there personally. He called me back. He said, 'It was happening.' He said that they thought there would only be a few thousand people here, but there were more than just a few thousand people here. So the people who elected to run it tonight underestimated how great the traffic would be.

"So when the thing came off it didn't come off as the simple rider education program it was supposed to be. He just said, 'Alright, guys. We've done enough today.' He said it's not going to happen tomorrow, and you don't have to worry about it.

"There was a good message trying to be delivered here, but it didn't come off as it was supposed to."

When Roadracingworld.com staffers left the track at 7:00 p.m. local time there was no traffic back-up at all between the racetrack and I-80.

Roadracingworld.com was unable to immediately reach the Utah Department of Public Safety or the Highway Patrol for comment.