Gather up the women and children, lock the cats and dogs in the house, put away your three-speeds and cruisers. AMGEN's a-comin' to town.
Hearts are gay in Our Fair City, or at least some of them are, with the announcement that Amgen is coming back to town on a congested and traffic-restricted street near you.
A Truth In Advertising moment: Amgen is not a bicycle race. Amgen is a biotech transnational corporation, aka pharmaceutical company, aka Big Pharma. You've heard of Big Pharma. Most Progressive folx in Santa Cruz know what Big Pharma does. In this case, they sponsor the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC) with budget dust left over from their unimaginable profits gained by selling expensive drugs to people all over the world.
Amgen is joined in sponsorship of ATOC by UnitedHealthcare, "an operating division of UnitedHealth Group, the largest single health carrier in the United States." According to Wikipedia, "in 2010, UnitedHealth Group spent more than $1.8 million on lobbying activities to work to achieve favorable legislation, and hired seven different lobbying firms to work on its behalf. In addition, its corporate political action committee or PAC, called 'United for Health,' spent an additional $1 million on lobbying activities in 2010."
What's a Cruzin' Progressive to do?
That's reason #1.
ATOC is owned by The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), a sporting and music entertainment presenter, the world's largest owner of sports teams and sports events, and the world’s most profitable sports and entertainment venues.
From the ATOC website: "AEG remains committed…to the local communities that host the race as a means of increasing tourism and economic development throughout the state of California."
This "commitment to local communities" comes in the form of $200,000 in cash and contributed services that must be raised by locals to pay for accommodations for the gaunt and panting bicyclists and their overwhelming retinue. In the last Santa Cruz Amgen appearance, local hotels and businesses barely noticed any increased custom. Consequently, the City of Santa Cruz declined to sponsor the race last year at all.
So much for economic development.
That's reason #2.
Finally, AEG promises they are "dedicated to promoting the great sport of road cycling, healthy living and bicycle safety."
This is the "most unkindest cut of all." As soon as the "Amgen's coming to town" call goes out across the land, and for months after the whizz of derailleurs fades from our streets and highways, bicycling madness descends on Santa Cruz. Cadres of Lance Armstrong wannabes don their brilliant plumage, dust off their dazzlingly equipped lightweight bicycles and dash madly in every direction through our streets and highways.
One can easily tell when Amgen is imminent merely by counting the increasing number of lycra-clad bicyclists streaking through red lights and stop signs at at any local intersection. Peloton packs of panting participants clog the narrow shoulders of local highways, envisioning the final glorious moment of victory at the finish line.
How does this promote "bicycle safety?"
That's reason #3.
So we have, coming to Our Fair City, an entertainment spectacle, owned by a transnational entertainment conglomerate, sponsored by Big Pharma and Big Health Insurance, sucking money and resource out of our community, and filling our streets and highways with whizzing steel, aluminum, carbon fiber and lycra to the detriment of bicycle safety education for the rest of the year.
Remind me again why we're so happy Amgen is coming to town?