• Thu August 27 2009
  • Posted Aug 26, 2009
Clear Lake, IA Organizers say they decided to scrap an annual bicycle ride to raise money for Clear Lake law enforcement agencies after police and sheriff's officials refused to provide traffic control. Authorities said that while they have nothing against the budget boost, they want no part of Billy's Bike Ride this year because of the event's increased emphasis on alcohol. "They stop at several places along the route to drink, and some are blasted by the time they get done," Cerro Gordo County Chief Deputy David Hepperly said. "It's not very good for our image to condone people getting on their bikes drunk and then provide them an escort, too." Billy's Bike Ride was launched in 1995 when local businessman Billy Cavanaugh invited 20 buddies for a leisurely 18-mile jaunt around the lake. "Some of them knew they couldn't make it without stopping for refreshments, so they asked their wives to drive along with some beer in the back of a pickup," said organizer Katie Showalter, who expected up to 600 riders Saturday. "Within four years, there were so many riders they had to have a registration system." Last year's event drew 530 riders from Minnesota and Iowa. The $3,500 raised was split between the police department's drug-sniffing dog program and Clear Lake's volunteer firefighters. Local police had traditionally controlled traffic but backed out last year over concern that drinking had supplanted riding as the event's focus. So Showalter paid for two of Sheriff Brian Pals' off-duty deputies to control intersections. "When Katie called this year for the escort, we declined due to a few bikers getting intoxicated and having some trouble making it all the way around" the lake, Pals said. Showalter, who also runs Rumorz tavern, said there was "not one fight, not one accident" on the ride. The deputies "did such a fantastic job, I can't see doing it without them," she said. "I'd be stupid to put riders out there without" help to direct traffic. Showalter said that city leaders have put in a bid to be an overnight host for RAGBRAI next summer. "If they can't handle 500 people, how are they going to handle 10,000?" she said. "Billy's ride is one of the biggest things Clear Lake has, and they're shutting it down." Several Billy's loyalists have pledged to carry out an "unofficial" ride Saturday, with plenty of stops along the way. Authorities have warned that pickled pedalers will be prosecuted. Hepperly said: "We'll be called the bad guys, the fun- haters, whatever. But if something happened to someone, it would be on us. We're not going to win either way."

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