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Rally, others look to put screeching halt to ‘rolling burnouts’

Rolling burnouts from motorcycles can be seen all the way from Durango to Silverton along U.S. Highway 550, including this stretch in the Animas Valley. (Courtesy E.Z. Wryder)

Dear Action Line: Black lines have appeared on all highways leading into Durango and in town as well. They appeared during the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally. I don’t find them offensive, but I do wonder how they are made. Some go on for long distances, cross multiple lanes and even go in complete circles. All I can think of is that they gun the engine but keep the front tire locked so it makes a long skid mark. Is there any kind of giant marking pen the Harley riders carry? – E.Z. Wryder

Dear E.Z.: Action Line received a couple questions about this. One reader, Good Grief, noticed these marks, called “rolling burnouts,” basically all the way from Trimble Lane to Silverton. “On such a beautiful drive it was a tad distracting as one does need to focus on the pavement ahead. … One can only hope the winter snows remove the ground-in rubber.”

Let’s start off by saying that rally organizers are absolutely not fans of these rolling burnouts, and are trying to stop them.

For better or worse, there are many YouTube videos that will explain the technique of accomplishing a rolling burnout. It’s tricky. Basically, you put your weight far forward on your bike, clutch in, engine revved, front brake on, and slowly release the clutch and brake. Action Line attempted this on a mountain bike, but for reasons that would have been obvious to most people, it did not work well. The welt on Action Line’s shin will heal.

Chip Lile, owner/organizer of the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, held Aug. 31-Sept. 3, minced no words.

“We do not approve of it. It’s a problem,” he said. “We see it as graffiti.”

Lile said there is one particular group, not locals, who were the main instigators. He said their rolling burnouts on U.S. Highway 550 at Molas Pass – in broad daylight – created a distraction that led to the crash of another motorcyclist just trying to pass through. The rider was airlifted out for medical care. Authorities are in the process of tracking down these instigators.

“We are taking this pretty seriously,” Lile said. “They’re causing problems. And they’re giving everybody else a bad name.”

Action Line also contacted the Colorado Department of Transportation. It’s not certain how long the burnout marks will stay on the pavement, said David Peyton, CDOT traffic and safety resident engineer. Peyton has noted “tons” of burnout marks on frontage roads in the Bodo Industrial Park area as well as between Durango and Hermosa on Highway 550.

“They may stay on the pavement surface for weeks to sometimes years,” he said. “My guess is they will mostly be gone by spring due to the impacts of ice, snow, and our snowplowing.”

The marks probably won’t affect the durability of the pavement, Peyton said.

“They do however obstruct highway pavement striping and are obviously distracting to drivers – both of which have varying safety impacts. As we all know safety is paramount whether on the city streets of Durango or on low-speed but curvy areas.

“Last but certainly not least – the safety of all other highway users is hugely impacted while the motorcycles are performing burnouts,” Peyton said. “Other drivers may unexpectedly encounter this unsafe motorcycle activity, or an error on the part of the motorcyclist might occur. It is apparent those burnout markings drift from lane to lane and the consequences of an accident could be deadly.”

Bear Smart clarification

In an item three weeks ago about bear-resistant trash containers, Action Line incorrectly repeated an error from a previous story in conjunction with a $90,000 Human-Bear Conflict Reduction Grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The La Plata County Bear Working Group, not Bear Smart Durango, was the recipient of this grant.

Of the $90,000, one-third will go to bear-proof food lockers at San Juan National Forest campgrounds, one-third for bear-resistant containers for Southern Ute tribal members, and one-third to three commercial waste-haulers, who will offer customers $100 incentives to purchase bear-resistant containers in the county.

Members of the La Plata County Bear Working Group include La Plata County and the city of Durango, the local Colorado State University extension office, law enforcement agencies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bear Smart Durango, the Living With Wildlife Advisory Board of La Plata County, the Good Food Collective, and others.

Although people have been congratulatory about this grant, Bear Smart Durango Director Bryan Peterson said that this incorrect assumption has hampered fundraising efforts. Bear Smart itself got no money from the grant.

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Although very deserving, Action Line receives no public grants. Use that information as you wish.