The 17th annual Tour de Palm Springs welcomes thousands of cyclists to the Coachella Valley. And cyclists on the road are just one of the many things drivers should be aware of because of the multiple events in the Desert on Valentine’s Day weekend. “This may be the busiest weekend as far as number of events that I’ve ever seen in the Coachella Valley,” said California Highway Patrol officer Mike Radford. Nearly a dozen events can be attended throughout the Valley, from the Date Festival in Indio, to the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Cathedral City. But the big crowds also create a potential nightmare for motorists. Road closures have already begun near the airport in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival on Saturday morning, as well as in downtown Palm Springs for Modernism week and the bike race. Radford added, “throughout the Valley, really, for that ride there’s going to be road closures, lane closures, street closures, randomly sporadic times, and for the Hot Air Balloon Festival, definitely going to be a lot of congestion through the Highway 111 area of Cathedral City, that downtown area.”
But the extra traffic doesn’t have to lead to road rage for drivers. Radford advised people planning to get behind the wheel to do little things to better help get to your ultimate destination. He suggested leaving extra early and taking alternate routes to avoid major congestion on busy roads. He also urged motorists to drive more carefully and take into consideration the other unfamiliar drivers in our area, as well as cyclists and pedestrians. And if a driver is on the road where President Obama’s motorcade is approaching, pull over to the side of the road and enjoy watching the President pass you by.
But the road on busy weekends isn’t for everyone, especially in high traffic areas. Frank Castner’s been a Palm Springs resident for 45 years and likes the business the big events bring, but passes on taking to the roads. “We do try to avoid going downtown and going to areas where the riders are in an event like this,” said Castner. “It’s not worth the frustration,” he added. Meanwhile, other residents like Jean Freeling from Palm Desert embrace the events. “You just learn where and when to go, if you don’t like it, stay inside,” Freeling said. She gave suggestions for those who don’t like the traffic. “Read a book, see a movie, do whatever, but for us, we’re just thrilled to have this fabulous activity and this gorgeous weather and we’re happy.”