Iowa Counties Urge Lawmakers to Address Liability Issues for Bikers

January 30, 2008

The route for this year’s bicycle race, RAGBRAI, is set and counties along its path want lawmakers to address the issue of their liability.

The issue arose after Crawford County settled a lawsuit with a woman whose husband died after he was thrown from his bicycle during the ride in 2004. The rider lost control after his bicycle hit a crack on a county road.

After they reached the $350,000 settlement, county officials said RAGBRAI would no longer be welcome in the county because of the risk.

This year’s ride doesn’t pass through Crawford County, but dozens of other counties have asked Iowa lawmakers to address the liability issue during the current legislative session.

Greene County Engineer Wade Weiss said Thursday his county has sent lawmakers a resolution asking them to address the issue.

“I am fairly confident something will be resolved prior to RAGBRAI; that is our hope, anyway,” he said.

Harrison County Engineer J. Thomas Stoner said that while the county won’t stand in the way of RAGBRAI, he has notified ride officials that “for a narrow-tired bicycle there may be inherent hazards that we cannot protect against and we would ask them to be extremely cautious.”

Tama County Engineer Lyle Brehm said there is concern about the liability issue. He said all county roads built with concrete have a center-line pavement joint similar to the road in Crawford County where the 2004 accident happened.

Some lawmakers, including Republican Rep. Clarence Hoffman who lives in Crawford County, want to reduce counties’ liability from bicycle injuries.

Others simply want to fix the roads.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, wants counties to be able to get grants through a Department of Transportation Grant for road repairs.

“These are public right of ways,” he said. “We need to make sure the roads are fixed.”

This year’s RAGBRAI will begin in Missouri Valley on July 20 and end in Le Claire on July 26. Along the way it will stop in Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama-Toledo, North Liberty and Tipton

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