Dave Shanahan, Cherokee County Engineer, showed the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors a form that was developed to reduce county liability for accidents that occur during the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI).
However, the form to be signed by registered RABRAI participants will not entirely eliminate the possibility of lawsuits against counties.
The attempt to reduce the liability exposure of county governments throughout Iowa resulted from a lawsuit against Crawford County after a bike rider had a fatal accident on a county road during the 2004 RAGBRAI.
The county subsequently settled the lawsuit filed by family members of Kirk Ullrich, 49, Davenport, for $350,000. Ullrich had gotten his tire caught in a crack on the road, resulting in the accident.
Ullrich was a registered participant of RAGBRAI and had signed a waiver dismissing any liability of RAGBRAI itself or RAGBRAI's sponsoring organization, the Des Moines Register. However, individual counties and cities were not exempted from lawsuits under the waiver, a situation that the newly developed form was intended to correct.
Shanahan pointed out that the majority of the riders during the RAGBRAI event are not registered and therefore do not sign any waivers.
There is also some question as to whether such a waiver can actually prohibit family members from filing a wrongful death lawsuit, although the family of Ullrich apparently respected the waiver and didn't name RAGBRAI or the Des Moines Register in the lawsuit.
Shanahan said it would be impossible to avoid all dangerous cracks on county roads. "Roads are designed for vehicles, not bicycles with thin tires," he said.
The Crawford County Board of Supervisors has voted not to have RAGBRAI come through that county again, a decision that has raised objections by some citizens in Crawford County.
Most counties and cities still actively seek inclusion on the RAGBRAI route for the economic benefit.
The liability issue still remains a concern, including in Cherokee County, which is not on the route this year.
Dave Scott, sheriff, and Barb Staver of the Law Enforcement Center presented the quarterly report to the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors.
Scott said he is staying within the budget for fuel but indicated that it is getting increasingly difficult.
"What do you think about getting something with a little better gas mileage. We really don't need big motors like we used to," Scott asked the supervisors about the purchase of the next vehicle.
For comparison, Scott noted that the Nitro gets 28 mpg, compared to 17 mpg from the Durango.
Scott noted that hybrids get good mileage but have considerably more initial cost, more than the sheriff's department has budgeted for a vehicle.
Staver said that the county is serving more papers now, primarily for unpaid bills, indicating poor economic conditions in the county right now.