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  • Tue June 10 2008
  • Posted Jun 10, 2008
Wayne Fritzinger 06/06/2008 County officials throughout Iowa, like the Crawford County Board of Supervisors did on Tuesday, are still asking liability questions as the date nears for the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). Advertisement Bicyclists will avoid Crawford County by cycling south of the county on July 20-26, but the liability questions still exist in the 99 Iowa counties. The reason being county officials remember the Crawford County lawsuit settled in 2007 from the 2004 RAGBRAI event. It was the first fatality-related lawsuit in 30 years of RAGBRAI history. "Although most counties continue to support cycling and are willing to host cycling events, liability exposure now requires more formal arrangement than in the past," stated Iowa State Association of Counties General Counsel David Vestal. Vestal, writing in The Iowa County (June 2008), a publication of the Iowa State Association of Counties, suggested an ordinance relating to bicycle events on county roads that each county may want to consider adopting. "The ordinance," Vestal wrote, "is the only way that organized bike rides like RAGBRAI can use COUNTIES . . . Page 11A COUNTIES, from 1A county roads without putting county taxpayers at risk." The ordinance, in summary, requires that organizers of a bike ride (and there are other bike rides besides RAGBRAI that take place in the state during the summer) obtain liability insurance and have the county listed as a named insured on the policy. "As a matter of principle the better solution is legislative reform at the state level," said Crawford County Engineer Paul Assman. "Vestal's sample ordinance provides an option at the local level but the issue is broader than that and should consider cities as well as counties." State Iowa Code 670.4 (15) provides immunity for any claim "based upon or arising out of an act of omission of" the county by a cyclist riding on public property when the cyclist "knew or reasonably should have known" of the risks inherent in bike riding and the in juries arising from those risks. Vestal writes, "That's helpful. But we don't' know what it means, and there are no Iowa Supreme Court cases interpreting it. No one agrees on what risks are 'inherent'." Crawford County has warning signs, which will be posted when the county is advised of an organized ride in the county. "We still don't want the County Sheriff greeting bicyclists when they ride into the county," said Crawford County Supervisor Steve Ulmer. "The signs give some degree of warning and may limit the county's liabilities, but more is needed," stated Assman. The Crawford County Board of Supervisors will include a discussion regarding Vestal's proposed ordinance at it June 10 meeting. People can read the sample ordinance at www.iowacounties.org.

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