• Wed September 24 2008
  • Posted Sep 24, 2008
Efforts to make bike rides illegal continue in Iowa Emmet County reviews bike ordinance with county attorney Iowa State Association of Counties continues to promote ordinance on website Despite media accounts the Iowa Counties are dropping the bicycle liability issue, Iowa Counties are still pursuing efforts to make bike rides illegal on county roadways. Recent action by the Emmet County Board of Supervisors has prompted a review of a sample ordinance provided by the Iowa State Association of Counties. A similar ordinance was briefly considered to replace a resolution by Crawford County which bans RAGBRAI and similar natured events. The concern over liability began in October 2007 when Crawford County settled a case of a bicycle fatality out of court. The fatal crash occurred on the 2004 RAGBRAI ride. The claim of the lawsuit was centered around the county's failure to warn bicyclists of a large expansion joint on a downhill section of roadway. A deputy was assigned to the area after the first of nine crashes occurred over a two-hour time period. The deputy remained on scene for 45 minutes and left. Orange warning cones were removed before the fatality occurred. Since that point, counties have expressed worry and confusion over the liability of bicycle rides. In an effort to provide protection, counties requested the legislature provide immunity to counties on all bicycle incidents, effectively denying a citizens access to courts because they choose to ride a bicycle. The proposal would have not changed the court access of automobile drivers, motorcyclists, or other roadway users even though the modes of transportation produces more fatalities, injuries, and lawsuits per year. The legislature did not accept the arguments of the counties and chose not to take action. The Iowa State Association of Counties has produced a series of sample ordinances which propose to make bicycle rides illegal. These ordinances require every bicycle ride advertised, including e-mail and Internet to obtain $1 million of insurance and provide the county with an additional insured certificate. Funeral processions, motorcycle poker runs, and tractorcade were not addressed in the ordinance. Similar ordinances have been considered in Jackson, Dallas, Hardin, and Crawford Counties. Hardin County has been the only to pass the ordinance, but has since repealed the ordinance. Maybe the most tragic part of the liability concern has been the lack of education on bicycle risk management. Decision makers at the county level have expressed they lack the experience to make decisions on the issue because bicycle fatalities are so rare. Counties have relied upon the Iowa State Association of Counties to provide a sample ordinance, but the ordinance on the ISAC website remains surrounded by legal questions. Media accounts have statements from ISAC that they will be dropping the issue, but individual counties seem to be considering the issue and the sample ordinance remains on the ISAC website under legal services. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition maintains that taking action without understanding the issue is creating a solution in search of a problem. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition has added a risk management workshop to the Iowa Bicycle Summit on January 22 in Des Moines at the Wallace Auditorium.

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