Location: Iowa

Iowa Counties Reconcile With RAGBRAI

The Iowa State Association of Counties, which had pushed for state legislation and county ordinances aimed at regulating bicycle rides, says that concessions by The Des Moines Register, which organizes RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), have addressed the issue.

“My message to the counties is that RAGBRAI has always been the focus of our attention, and that problem has seemingly been resolved,” David Vestal, the association’s lawyer, said. This includes decisions by RAGBRAI officials to rewrite waivers signed by bicycle riders, and to purchase a $2 million insurance policy to cover counties that the ride goes through. The waiver is signed by registered participants of RAGBRAI, and the $2 million insurance policy covers the unregistered participants who ride along with RAGBRAI, Vestal explained.

The controversy arose from a lawsuit filed by the widow of a rider killed on RAGBRAI 2004 due to hazardous road conditions in Crawford County. The county eventually settled the suit for $350,000, which threw a scare into other Iowa counties about their vulnerability to similar liability claims.

Fallout from the suit has included:

  • In October 2007, Crawford County banned RAGBRAI from their roads, and still has no definite plans to repeal the ban, but will discuss the possibility of accepting RAGBRAI but still banning most smaller rides.

  • In late 2007, the Iowa State Association of Counties provided an outrageous ordinance template that counties could use to ban bicycles from county roads.

  • In June, Dallas County considered a proposal to require exorbitant insurance for all organized bicycle rides, based on the ISAC ordinance template. Local cyclists spoke at a Board of Supervisors meeting and persuaded the county to shelve the proposal.

  • In July, Hardin County passed an ordinance, with no public input, requiring bicycle rides over 10 persons to obtain a minimum of $1 million insurance policy before they can ride their bicycles on Hardin County roads, effectively banning all organized rides in the county. Hardin County now plans to overturn the ordinance.

  • In August, the state of Iowa agreed to pay $50,000 to the family of the cyclist killed on RAGBRAI 2004. The suit had asked for $1.6 million, claiming the State was negligent in failing to warn cyclists of the road hazard that caused his accident and ultimately his death.

  • In late August, the ISAC and The Des Moines Register kissed and made up, but Iowa cyclists are still rightly concerned, afraid that all this silliness is not over yet.

Read more coverage of this issue: Roger Kramer Cycling, Biking Bis, Kim West Radio Cycling Show

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

One response to “Iowa Counties Reconcile With RAGBRAI”

  1. […] Congratulations to the Ottumwa city leaders — you’ve set a great example for the rest of Iowa: RAGBRAI is not to be feared, but embraced (we’re looking at you, the Iowa State Association of Counties, and especially Crawford County). […]