• Sun July 27 2008
  • Posted Jul 27, 2008
By JARED STRONG and L. LARS HULSEBUS July 12, 2008 An ordinance that would require liability insurance for any organized bike ride in Dallas County with more than 20 riders is all but dead. County supervisors tabled the proposal in June amid resistance from cyclists who said the ordinance would hinder cycling clubs and charity fundraisers that can't afford to pay for the $1 million protection, an expense of as much as a few thousand dollars. "I don't see any real interest in bringing the item back. Certainly not in the format that it was," Supervisor Mark Hanson said this week. The proposal was written by the Iowa State Association of Counties in response to a 2004 fatality on the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It would require the sponsors of any qualified bicycle event to buy an insurance policy that also covers the county. Violators would face fines of at least $750. Hanson, who is a recreational cyclist, said the county was forced to take action against frivolous lawsuits because state legislators have failed to act. Dallas County is self-insured. Crawford County's insurance company paid $350,000 to the widow of a RAGBRAI rider who died after he was thrown from his bicycle when the tire struck a gap in the road. Dallas County officials agreed that cyclists have a right to use county roads but said they sometimes ride at their own risk. A bevy of cycling enthusiasts and lawyers from across the state challenged the proposed ordinance. They said that the definition of an organized ride is too vague and that the ordinance would be hard to enforce. They also wondered whether an insurance policy would cover the county in the event of negligence, which was alleged in the Crawford County lawsuit. Jeff Mertz, a cyclist and former Waukee city councilman, said he was glad the supervisors delayed action. He said he won't be completely satisfied until the board officially puts the ordinance to rest. The supervisors in June voted to continue public discussion at a future meeting. "It's just an overreaction to a problem that really doesn't exist," Mertz said. "The worst thing that counties can do is enact poorly written ordinances that don't provide them the protection they're looking for." Supervisors Chairman Brad Golightly said that county staff are reviewing other possible ordinances that wouldn't be specific to bicycles and would offer the same protection. "In my mind it's open. It might be talked about at some point," he said. past news about Dallas County

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