• Mon August 25 2008
  • Posted Aug 25, 2008
Hardin County recently passed an ordinance 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. The ordinance will end bicycle rides by scouting groups, church groups, and even individuals who meet on a regular basis to ride their bicycles if they are not willing to pay estimates of $300 to $3,000 per bicycle ride. If riders do not provide insurance they face a $750 fine. Worse yet, the form created by the Hardin County Board of Supervisors requires all bicycle rides to divulge their route, start and end times, number of participants, and signature provided by the Hardin County Board of Supervisors. Citizen who choose to participate in an car rally, motorcycle poker run, tractorcade or funeral procession are not required to submit similar information to the county government. The ordinance is a template provided by the Iowa State Association of Counties (ISAC) to address a 2004 lawsuit on RAGBRAI which was settled out of court. Some county officials believe unusual liability exists for bicyclists following this lawsuit despite the lack of precedence and protections which already exist for government agencies in the Iowa Code. Bicycle liability remains extremely rare and the 2004 lawsuit was the only known case involving a single bicyclist in the past 36 years. Yet, the Urban Transport Monitor reports 80 lawsuits per state per year involving motor vehicles. The 2004 lawsuit was also unusual because the claim cited a failure to warn. It has been reported by the Des Moines Register that a county deputy was assigned to warn riders, but the deputy left prior to the 2004 crash that killed Kurt Ullrich. Orange cones that were placed to warn riders were removed prior to the fatal crash. The Hardin County does nothing to address the liability incurred by the negligence of the county. Nor would the ordinance have changed the liability in the 2004 Ullrich crash. In fact, the Hardin County ordinance may increase the liability of the county by providing a notification system and a heightened expectation of service by bicyclists. What this ordinance does is obliterate recreation, tourism, and economic development in Hardin County. What this ordinance does is insult anyone who chooses to travel by bicycle yet pays the same county taxes as any other roadway user. What this ordinance does is create a second class citizen – the bicyclist. It is apparent that county officials lack knowledge of bicycle risk management and liability. Creating an reactionary and punishing ordinance makes is obvious that counties are trying to invent a solution to problem that doesn't exist.

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