The Little 500 bike race is a Bloomington tradition – both the good and the bad.
Each spring, Indiana University cyclists gear up for the annual race, organized by the IU Foundation.
A week of celebrations leads up to the men’s and women’s races, resulting in an influx of students and alumni downtown and extra work for law enforcement. Although the races are a collegiate event, they pose changes and challenges for the entire city.
This marks the 28th annual Little 500 for Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff during his time on the force. He says the IU Police Department, excise police, Indiana State Police and Department of Natural Resources amp up their patrol for the weekend as well. Three or four times the normal amount of officers are on duty over the weekend.
Diekhoff says the most common arrests involve illegal possession or consumption of alcohol, public intoxication, drunk driving, battery and disorderly conduct.
“Usually, arrest is the last resort,” Diekhoff says. “If we can’t find a friend, they don’t have money for a cab, they have no idea where they’re at, then we don’t really have a choice but to arrest somebody. So we tend to try to put people in cabs to get them home or call friends.”
Jordan Bailey, Assistant Director of Little 500 races, says the IU Foundation has targeted its marketing efforts on shedding a positive light on the races and their history.
“As an organization, we have done a really successful job of refocusing our efforts to really educate people, both students and the community, about what the true meaning behind the Little 500 and that is to raise scholarship dollars for students on the Bloomington campus,” Bailey says.
The races also have a strong economic impact on the city, as throngs of customers flock to local restaurants. Steve Swihart, Executive Director of the Bloomington Independent Restaurant Association, says Little 500 and graduation weekends are the busiest for the local restaurant scene.
“Three years ago, two of our members, on the Friday of Little 5 weekend, grossed a little over $100 thousand in 24 hours,” Swihart says.
The women’s race takes place April 24 at 4 p.m. and the men will race April 26 at 2 p.m.