Iowa Groups Ask Lawmakers to Consider Bicycle Liability Laws

November 26, 2007

Several groups are looking into the possibility of a bill that would protect counties from liability lawsuits related to annual bicycling events in the state.

State and county officials met with bicycle clubs and event promoters in Des Moines to discuss a recent ban in Crawford County of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI.

The county’s decision followed a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died after he lost control of his bike on a county road during RAGBRAI 2004. The lawsuit was settled last month for $350,000.

The county did not admit negligence in settling the lawsuit but decided to not let RAGBRAI use its roads in the future.

Crawford County officials were among those who attended the meeting on Monday. The groups have appointed a subcommittee to draft legislation to address concerns of counties as well as bicyclists, according to David Vestal, a lawyer for the Iowa State Association of Counties.

He said he’s spoken to eight to 10 other counties who are interested in passing bans similar to Crawford County’s move. But the association is advising those counties to see whether a solution can be reached.

“We told them if you’re going to do something like Crawford County, wait and see if we can get a fix first,” Vestal said.

Officials are expected to discuss the issue when the counties association holds it annual conference with supervisors on Nov. 30.

T.J. Juskiewicz, director of RAGBRAI, said the challenge will be to draft a law that would ease county fears, but still consider bicyclists’ rights.

“I can see where they’re coming from,” he said of Crawford County officials. “They had their points to make. They wanted to make sure something like this wouldn’t happen again in the future.”

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