Concerns threaten triathlon
The mayor says traffic and safety issues must be addressed before he approves a permit
Mayor Mufi Hannemann is threatening to deny a permit for next spring's Honolulu Triathlon unless the organizer can address community concerns about his past events, including the race that gummed up East Oahu traffic earlier this month.
"There were a number of concerns from residents from Diamond Head to Hawaii Kai" regarding traffic control, accidents and near-accidents, said city spokesman Bill Brennan.
On Oct. 9, the JAL Honolulu ITU World Championships age-group triathlon took competitors from Waikiki to Hawaii Kai and back for the bicycle portion of the race. The 2006 Honolulu Triathlon is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, May 27-28. (Next year's age-group championships will be held in Switzerland.)
John Korff, president of New York-based Korff Enterprises, organized this month's world championships and the Honolulu Triathlon for the past two years. He said he is willing to make whatever changes the city proposes, but no one from the city has talked to him.
"I'm just waiting for someone to call me," Korff said.
Brennan said the onus is on the organizer to show that he can make it a safe event.
Korff said he believes all the concerns can be resolved in a 15-minute meeting with the city. He said he proposed changes to the triathlon course for next year that he detailed in a letter to the city last week.
One of the changes Korff is proposing is to delete the left turn on the bicycle course from Kalanianaole Highway onto Lunalilo Home Road. Competitors would instead remain on Kalanianaole Highway and turn around at Sandy Beach.
A man from Germany making the left turn suffered several broken ribs when he collided with a motorist, said Dr. Laurence Rotkin, the medical director for the world championship race. He said the motorist ignored police instructions and entered the intersection.
Korff said there were six accidents involving bicyclists and motorists Oct. 9. He said police were present at each one.
Another change he is proposing for the May event is to have all the races on one day.
In the first Honolulu Triathlon last year, some Diamond Head residents complained they couldn't leave their homes because some streets were closed most of the day. The age-group races were held in the morning, and the men's and women's U.S. Olympic qualifying events were held in the afternoon.
Responding to a city request, Korff held the age-group races and the ones for the elite triathletes on separate days this year.
Korff is proposing to once again hold all events on one day and said he believes he can have the streets opened by 10:30 a.m.
This year's Tinman Triathlon, on July 17, followed the same bicycle course as this year's Honolulu Triathlon and this month's age-group world championships.
Tinman race director Olga Caldwell said Hannemann's comments has her worried about her own event, even though the Tinman has what is regarded as a good track record.
Caldwell said she limits the number of competitors for the Tinman to 1,000 for safety reasons and so bicyclists will be off the streets by 8:30 a.m. Nearly 2,000 people competed in this month's world championships.