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Old 02-13-08, 11:17 AM   #1
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Iowa's county leaders -- draft plan to limit liability of bicycle accidents

If you see something that is a problem notify municipal officials. You will recall that last year:
Crawford County has banned RAGBRAI after a liability suit that lead to a $350,000 settlement. The settlement went to the widow of a Scott County RAGBRAI rider who died after hitting a center-line crack in Crawford County in 2004. It highlights the danger of the sport.

http://www.wqad.com/Global/story.asp...&nav=menu132_3

Associated Press - February 12, 2008 7:54 AM ET
County leaders draft bicycle liability plan

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's county leaders say they've come up with a plan to limit liability of bicycle accidents on county and city roads.

The Iowa State Association of Counties drafted legislation that bars bicycle riders from collecting damages from counties or cities for most accidents.

Counties and cities would be liable only when it can be shown that government officials were notified of a road problem before the accident and that road crews failed to take action.

Mark Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition says he opposes the proposal, saying lawsuits from bicyclists against counties and cities are rare.

===
Check out this brief:
http://www.iowacounties.org/Services...Legal12.07.pdf

Here is the problem, in a nutshell: under Iowa law, bicycles have a
right to use Iowa’s county roads. But county roads are not designed,
built, or maintained with a goal of making them safe for bikes. County
roads are designed, built and maintained for cars and trucks.
The problem is that right now the only guidance we have is
Iowa Code 321.234(2), which says bicyclists in Iowa are subject to
the rules of the road and have “all of the rights and duties applicable
to the driver of a vehicle.”
If they have all the rights applicable to a vehicle, what does that
mean? For instance, can they sue if they are injured when their bike
hits a 1-inch crack in the road? We don’t know.

There was an interesting Iowa Supreme Court case in 2002
called Vasconez v. Mills where there was a bike-truck accident on a
county road. In the lawsuit, the truck driver claimed that the bike
should not have been on the road at all, it should have been on a bike
path. The Iowa Supreme Court cited 321.234(2), giving bikers all
the rights of cars, and rejected that argument.

Any solution has to be a three-legged stool:
1)Waiver –The Register needs to make the RAGBRAI waiver as
tight as possible. They have changed the waiver twice to make sure
counties are included, so they deserve credit for that. But this is
only a partial solution. About 50% of RAGBRAI riders are not
officially registered, so they do not sign the waiver;
2)Insurance - RAGBRAI needs to purchase insurance coverage that
includes the counties along the route as named insureds. That is not
going to happen overnight, and may not even be feasible. We are
exploring whether that is a possibility; and
3)Legislation – Bike riders need to assume the risk of injuries on
county roads. Counties need clarification in the law that they are
not required to upgrade their roads to make them safe for bikes.
One way to do that would be to pass a law that clearly states that
biking has inherent risks, and that if you are injured in a garden
variety accident while biking on a secondary road, you cannot sue
the county. As a biker, you assume that risk.

Last edited by slagjumper; 02-13-08 at 11:49 AM.
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Old 02-13-08, 12:04 PM   #2
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Wow...The anti-cyclist advising the Iowa counties is a fat ****.

What are the odds?

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Old 02-13-08, 12:58 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Some Civic Tool
But county roads are not designed,
built, or maintained with a goal of making them safe for bikes. County
roads are designed, built and maintained for cars and trucks.
I have trouble believing the all these roads in Iowa are safe for all "cars and trucks" by default.

If I hit an icy patch of road with my car and slide into a tree, can I sue?
What if I don't have snow tires?
What if I catch some gravel on a corner riding a motorcycle?

I don't get the premise of this "bikes are riskier" distinction.
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Old 02-13-08, 04:00 PM   #4
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I have trouble believing the all these roads in Iowa are safe for all "cars and trucks" by default.

If I hit an icy patch of road with my car and slide into a tree, can I sue?
What if I don't have snow tires?
What if I catch some gravel on a corner riding a motorcycle?

I don't get the premise of this "bikes are riskier" distinction.
It's not about unsafe conditions like ice on the road. If the road itself has a defect-- a pothole, for example-- that would cause an automobile to have an accident, then the county will not be held liable unless it had notice of the defect and a reasonable opportunity to fix the defect.

However, the county will only be required to maintain the roads to a standard that will keep cars from having accidents. If a cyclist has an accident due to a road defect, the county will not be held liable.
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Old 02-13-08, 04:16 PM   #5
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I am not so quick to pass judgment the portly lawyer who wrote the brief. Also I had to use goggle to find the doc it was not readily available from the homepage. Can anyone find the proposed legislation? They can't be talking about the brief. From what I read hear, if you see a problem, document it and notify the county's legal office and road division, you can sue! I also found this request for legislative review.

http://www.iowacounties.org/Services...RESOLUTION.doc

RESOLUTION NO. ____________


Pertaining to the use of Secondary Roads in ________________________ County, Iowa by RAGBRAI and by cyclists in general.

WHEREAS, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is a unique event that draws thousands of visitors to Iowa annually and promotes Iowa tourism; and

WHEREAS, biking in general is an excellent form of exercise enjoyed by millions of Americans, as well as a pollution-free form of transportation that should be encouraged; and

WHEREAS, secondary roads in Iowa are not designed or maintained to meet any specific standards related to bicycle travel; and

WHEREAS, the recent lawsuit against Crawford County involving the death of a RAGBRAI participant demonstrates the need to address the use of the county secondary road system by RAGBRAI and by cyclists in general; and

WHEREAS, the current situation has created an unacceptable exposure to future bicycle-related lawsuits against this County;

NOW THEREFORE, be it resolved by the Board of Supervisors that they respectfully request that the Iowa Legislature address this issue in 2008 on a statewide basis so that the Board of Supervisors does not have to act at the local level to regulate the use by cyclists of secondary roads under the jurisdiction of the County.

Approved this ________ day of ________________, 2007


_________________________ COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

____________________________________________
Chair


ATTEST:

____________________________________________
County Auditor
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Old 02-13-08, 04:35 PM   #6
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It's not about unsafe conditions like ice on the road. If the road itself has a defect-- a pothole, for example-- that would cause an automobile to have an accident, then the county will not be held liable unless it had notice of the defect and a reasonable opportunity to fix the defect.

However, the county will only be required to maintain the roads to a standard that will keep cars from having accidents. If a cyclist has an accident due to a road defect, the county will not be held liable.
The gray area (or the sh!tty deal for cyclists) then becomes those accidents that happen to cyclists due to defects that could possibly have caused a motor vehicle accident (or did also cause a motor vehicle accident). The cyclist cannot sue but the motorist can. Seems a bit unfair.

I would think that the county would be best served by outlining what they consider a road defect that is worthy of attention and what they do not consider worthy of attention. The more specific the better. The list would need to be comprehensive as well. If it's a defect worthy of attention and they do not attend to it which then leads to an accident (whether motor vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian) then they are liable.

FWIW, I don't think the county should be held liable because a cyclist crashed due to a crack in the road.

I'm no lawyer though but I have been known to want to play like one.
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Old 02-13-08, 05:17 PM   #7
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From what I read hear, if you see a problem, document it and notify the county's legal office and road division, you can sue!
Not quite. If there's a problem, and the county is notified of the problem, and does nothing to rectify the problem in a reasonable amount of time, and THEN there's an accident, the county can be held liable...but only if the road was not maintained at a standard designed to prevent injury to automobile drivers.
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Old 02-13-08, 05:27 PM   #8
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The gray area (or the sh!tty deal for cyclists) then becomes those accidents that happen to cyclists due to defects that could possibly have caused a motor vehicle accident (or did also cause a motor vehicle accident). The cyclist cannot sue but the motorist can. Seems a bit unfair.

I would think that the county would be best served by outlining what they consider a road defect that is worthy of attention and what they do not consider worthy of attention. The more specific the better. The list would need to be comprehensive as well. If it's a defect worthy of attention and they do not attend to it which then leads to an accident (whether motor vehicle, cyclist, or pedestrian) then they are liable.

FWIW, I don't think the county should be held liable because a cyclist crashed due to a crack in the road.

I'm no lawyer though but I have been known to want to play like one.
It is an interesting gray area-- what happens if the county has notice of a defect that must be repaired to the standard for automobiles, in order to avoid liability for accidents, but does nothing? And then along comes a cyclist....

One way to interpret that would be to say that the cyclist can sue, because the defect wasn't repaired in a timely manner to county standards. But the attorney for the counties is quite clearly saying that cyclists can't sue under this proposed law, regardless of whether the county would have been held liable for injury to a motorist.

And even if cyclists could sue under the proposed law, the law still discriminates for cars and against cyclists.

Right to the road indeed.
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Old 02-14-08, 08:02 AM   #9
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Counties and cities would be liable only when it can be shown that government officials were notified of a road problem before the accident and that road crews failed to take action.
That's already a basic premise in a negligence law suit; they knew about the problem and did nothing about it.
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Old 02-14-08, 08:41 AM   #10
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I guess this means they are now free to put rumble strips on all of the shoulders. This has become a big problem in many states.
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Old 02-15-08, 06:39 PM   #11
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Not quite. If there's a problem, and the county is notified of the problem, and does nothing to rectify the problem in a reasonable amount of time, and THEN there's an accident, the county can be held liable...but only if the road was not maintained at a standard designed to prevent injury to automobile drivers.
One problem with the VC claim that the roads are designed, built and maintained with cyclists in mind.
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Old 02-15-08, 08:06 PM   #12
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One problem with the VC claim that the roads are designed, built and maintained with cyclists in mind.
Give me a break. How many roads in your area are uncyclable due to defects in the roadway? Every road has some area which if a cyclist didn't avoid they could crash. Typically it's the edge of the road and there's certainly no way to eliminate that. Motor vehicle operators, on the other hand, typically have no issue leaving and reentering the roadway even when there is quite a large dropoff on the edge.

Cyclists need to be more aware of road hazards because they are generally more affected by them then motorists. The presence of defects hardly discredits the fact that the present roadway system is about as good as it's ever going to get for a place to ride a bike. This is true regardless of if the designers even knew what a bicycle looked like when they designed the road.
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Old 02-17-08, 02:24 PM   #13
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This proposal is one step closer to being drafted as a bill. Read it & weep:
http://www.bikeiowa.com/asp/hotnews/...sp?NewsID=2836

Please do not drag the VC rhetoric into this. This is stressfull enough as it is. We don't need Forester & his followers making matters worse. Iowa cyclists have a voice speaking for us to combat & hopefully defeat this problem. VC has nothing to do with this. If anything if they got involved it would only serve to strengthen the proponents of this proposal to pass it into law. That is the last thing we need.

It does look like, if this is passed, cyclists will still have some sort of legal ground to stand on. That is if it is reported, prior to an accident, that a roadway is not safe for cyclists because of heaved or broken pavement, etc., & the governing body does nothing to repair it & there is an accident the cyclist or the family can then file a suit. Liability exemption goes out the window if the report on the road is not acted upon.

At least that is how I read the 2nd paragraph of the bikeiowa story. How do you interprite it?
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Old 02-17-08, 03:11 PM   #14
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From the Iowa Bicycle Coalition Iowa Bike Blog by Mark Wyatt:

"Just when we thought we had a start on strategy, things heated up in Des Moines this week on the county bicycle liability issue. There was a presentation of the counties policy at the House Local Government Committee. The Iowa State Association of Counties made their case, but the Iowa Trial Lawyer's Association laid out the facts of the Crawford County case. The committee is considering to not allow damage claims if there was no prior notice given of a dangerous or unreasonable road condition. It is hard to write a law that covers every situation. We don't want to see the frivolous cases giving bicyclists a bad name, but we don't want to see indefensible situations without remedy. That seems to be the role of the courts to decide if the claims are worthy of a day in court.

It was nice to know bicyclists were seated at this important meeting. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition can continue this work based upon the strength of it's membership. We are lucky to have staff that can drop what they are doing and rush to the statehouse. More importantly, we have been working on relationships with other organizations so we aren't fighting for cycling alone. The bicycle is a simple solution for many of the problems in our community, but it takes a partnership to improve. Please join the Iowa Bicycle Coalition today."
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Old 02-17-08, 03:29 PM   #15
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This proposal is one step closer to being drafted as a bill. Read it & weep:
http://www.bikeiowa.com/asp/hotnews/...sp?NewsID=2836

Please do not drag the VC rhetoric into this. This is stressfull enough as it is. We don't need Forester & his followers making matters worse. Iowa cyclists have a voice speaking for us to combat & hopefully defeat this problem. VC has nothing to do with this. If anything if they got involved it would only serve to strengthen the proponents of this proposal to pass it into law. That is the last thing we need.

It does look like, if this is passed, cyclists will still have some sort of legal ground to stand on. That is if it is reported, prior to an accident, that a roadway is not safe for cyclists because of heaved or broken pavement, etc., & the governing body does nothing to repair it & there is an accident the cyclist or the family can then file a suit. Liability exemption goes out the window if the report on the road is not acted upon.

At least that is how I read the 2nd paragraph of the bikeiowa story. How do you interprite it?
Quote:
Originally Posted by BikeIowa
Counties or cities would not be liable for injuries or damages resulting from bike accidents on their roads unless it was shown that government officials were notified of a road deficiency before an accident and that road crews neglected to take action, according to the legislative proposal.
That's already the law, so the proposed law must do more.

At a minimum, it proposes that roads must be maintained only to standards suitable for automobile traffic. But the language of the General Counsel suggests more--

Quote:
Originally Posted by General Counsel
Bike riders need to assume the risk of injuries on county roads. Counties need clarification in the law that they are
not required to upgrade their roads to make them safe for bikes. One way to do that would be to pass a law that clearly states that biking has inherent risks, and that if you are injured in a garden variety accident while biking on a secondary road, you cannot sue the county. As a biker, you assume that risk.
This analysis from the General Counsel suggests that cyclists would be barred from suing the county for negligence for any injury, under any circumstance.

Last edited by Blue Order; 02-17-08 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 02-17-08, 04:15 PM   #16
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I thought that is how the law works in the first place so I don't see this as adding or subtracting anything.
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Old 02-17-08, 06:08 PM   #17
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Here is the oronic thing about this whole fiasco. According to the Urban Transportation Monitor, there are an average of 81 lawsuits filed agains the state of Iowa & 3 per county/city per year by motorists. There are 99 counties in Iowa. Yet no one tries to limit liability when motorists do this.

Yet when one, out of countless cyclists have an accident because of a defective roadway, is killed & his family sues the county everyone is in an uproar over it.

I am 36 years old, been cycling for about 18 years. I have never seen or heard of a lawsuit because a cyclist was killed or injured until now. And all of a sudden law makers want to pass legislation on it.

Why?
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Old 02-18-08, 03:29 AM   #18
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Here is the oronic thing about this whole fiasco. According to the Urban Transportation Monitor, there are an average of 81 lawsuits filed agains the state of Iowa & 3 per county/city per year by motorists. There are 99 counties in Iowa. Yet no one tries to limit liability when motorists do this.

Yet when one, out of countless cyclists have an accident because of a defective roadway, is killed & his family sues the county everyone is in an uproar over it.

I am 36 years old, been cycling for about 18 years. I have never seen or heard of a lawsuit because a cyclist was killed or injured until now. And all of a sudden law makers want to pass legislation on it.

Why?
I figure it's because when a motorist tries to get paid out 0.35 million dollars they'll be thrown out on their ass from laughter alone, the cyclist was a wakeup call: 100% court success rate against the city so far.
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Old 02-18-08, 11:10 AM   #19
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Lets hope that durring this year's ride folks bring cameras and notify the relevent counties of any road issues. That way if the issues still exist next year and there is a problem the cyclists will be able to sue. Can anyone get a court acccount of what happened? It should be public info. I've heard it described as a one inch crack and having something to do with occuring at the bottom of a hill.
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Old 02-18-08, 12:08 PM   #20
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Lets hope that durring this year's ride folks bring cameras and notify the relevent counties of any road issues. That way if the issues still exist next year and there is a problem the cyclists will be able to sue. Can anyone get a court acccount of what happened? It should be public info. I've heard it described as a one inch crack and having something to do with occuring at the bottom of a hill.
Slots or ridges approximately parallel to the direction of movement have been long recognized [since the days of high-wheelers] as hazards to cyclists. The California Highway Design Manual states the following for surfaces of bikeways:

Direction of Travel Grooves Steps
Parallel to travel 12mm max width 10mm max height
Perpendicular to travel no standard 20 mm max height

It is recognized, of course, that defects exceeding these standards present hazards to cyclists. But it is not expected that all roads be maintained to this standard such that the presence of such is evidence of negligence by the highway authority. However, if the authority has been notified that such and such a hazard exists, then it is expected that the authority will repair it.

One type of such problem is that of concrete surfaces that consist of separate blocks of concrete with the joint between filled with tar, to allow expansion and contraction. In that case, the problem is designed into the road as the filler material gets removed by traffic. Such cracks do not constitute a hazard to motorists [they are filled with tar to prevent the entry of water under the concrete], but they do to cyclists.

It is my opinion that cyclists should know of such hazards, but I recognize that many do not. In the case of concrete roads with expansion joints, the existence of a groove at any joint is to be suspected, and all such grooves parallel to travel should be crossed with the appropriate caution. Same goes for drain grates with suspicious appearance. But the existence of other kinds of grooves in places where there is no reason to suspect such is a different matter, and difficult to answer.

A similar event occurred in Illinois a few years ago. A crew repairing a bridge left the repair area covered by planks parallel to travel, which left a groove into which a cyclist got his wheel trapped. The Illinois courts decided that Illinois law (somewhat unusual, it appears) distinguishes between invited users and permitted users. Roads have to be made safe for invited users, which include motorists at least, but not for permitted users, such as bicyclists. The Iowa situation appears to be similar, but without, I think, the legal differentiation between invited and permitted users.

This situation existed with streetcar tracks, when those existed, and nobody thought that streetcar companies should be sued for what is an unavoidable characteristic of the tracks that government allowed them to lay.
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Old 02-18-08, 02:06 PM   #21
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100% court success rate against the city so far.
Nope, no precedent set as it did not make it to court. The county's insurance company asked to settle. As I understand it, they didn't want it to go to court not because of the inherent flaw in the road (it was an expansion joint), but because the LEOs did not stick around to warn riders after other riders had already crashed at the exact spot. There is the negligence on an organized ride. It was on RAGBRAI with 10,000+ bikes. Several crashed there. The death was an experienced rider going appr. 45 mph and caught the expansion joint crack with his tire. Why he was riding right on that crack is anybody's guess, but he wasn't the only one. This was a pretty normal type of crack in most concrete roads.
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Old 02-18-08, 02:56 PM   #22
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Nope, no precedent set as it did not make it to court. The county's insurance company asked to settle. As I understand it, they didn't want it to go to court not because of the inherent flaw in the road (it was an expansion joint), but because the LEOs did not stick around to warn riders after other riders had already crashed at the exact spot. There is the negligence on an organized ride. It was on RAGBRAI with 10,000+ bikes. Several crashed there. The death was an experienced rider going appr. 45 mph and caught the expansion joint crack with his tire. Why he was riding right on that crack is anybody's guess, but he wasn't the only one. This was a pretty normal type of crack in most concrete roads.
I'm just trying to draw lines using data, as opposed to pulling the "they must hate cyclists" card.
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Old 02-18-08, 03:07 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by one_beatnik View Post
Nope, no precedent set as it did not make it to court. The county's insurance company asked to settle. As I understand it, they didn't want it to go to court not because of the inherent flaw in the road (it was an expansion joint), but because the LEOs did not stick around to warn riders after other riders had already crashed at the exact spot. There is the negligence on an organized ride. It was on RAGBRAI with 10,000+ bikes. Several crashed there. The death was an experienced rider going appr. 45 mph and caught the expansion joint crack with his tire. Why he was riding right on that crack is anybody's guess, but he wasn't the only one. This was a pretty normal type of crack in most concrete roads.
Your description, plus the earlier one that the crashes were caused by hitting a centerline joint in the road, and minus the behavior of the RAGBRAI officials, agrees with a similar event some ten or more years ago at a large ride in, as I recall, Ohio. Many riders crashed over another centerline joint.

The hazards of such joints are entirely predictable. Oh, you won't be upset by all of them, but by such a large proportion of them that any experienced rider ought to know enough to avoid those hazards by using the appropriate technique. It's the front wheel that gets caught and upsets you; rarely much effect from the rear wheel. So swerve across it at as large an angle as you can manage while simultaneously lifting the front wheel over it.
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Old 02-18-08, 04:01 PM   #24
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Forester, please do not preach your VC rhetoric in here. If you can not refrain from doing so then stay out of this thread. No one here cares about California road design standards. This is Iowa, not CA.

You obviously have never even ridden let alone seen what kind of event RAGBRAI is. You pretty much stopped short of blaming the RAGBRAI officials of the accident which kille Kirk Ullrich that day. There were also other accidents along the same stretch of hwy because of the center line seam.

Being formerly associated with the state wide RAGBRAI safety committee I am familiar with how the route is surveyed. It is done more then once, by many people, in both motor vehicles & by bicycle. More then one report is sent to the governing body of the roadway. But ultimatley it is up to the governing body, in this case Crawford County, to act on the report to make repairs to the roadway.

If anyone is to blame is is the officials associated with Crawford County, NOT RAGBRAI!

Do you even have a remote clue as how huge RAGBRAI is & what it means to Iowa?

Get off of your high horse, come to Iowa, check your VC attitude at the border when you leave California & try at least a day of RAGBRAI. You may actually have fun. It will be somewhat of a culture shock for you though. VC pretty much goes out the window on an event like RAGBRAI. With 10,000 participants it has to.

I'd love to see JF trying to preach VC to RAGBRAI'rs. He'd probably be lynched or told to STFU.
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Old 02-18-08, 04:10 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by frmsncyclst View Post
Being formerly associated with the state wide RAGBRAI safety committee I am familiar with how the route is surveyed. It is done more then once, by many people, in both motor vehicles & by bicycle. More then one report is sent to the governing body of the roadway. But ultimatley it is up to the governing body, in this case Crawford County, to act on the report to make repairs to the roadway.

If anyone is to blame is is the officials associated with Crawford County, NOT RAGBRAI!
Do you happen to know if this particular road defect had been brought to the attention of Crawford County before RAGBRAI?
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