A bill approved by the Senate Transportation Committee this week is designed to help ensure the future of RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s annual summer bicycle ride across Iowa. Lawmakers are intervening because Crawford County banned RAGBRAI after paying a large settlement in the death of a bicyclist in 2004. County officials want the legislature to exempt counties from damages for bicycle accidents.
Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Waterloo, says the Senate bill would instead direct money to counties to fix up roads ahead of RAGBRAI or any other statewide event. He’s hoping RAGBRAI and county officials across the state can still reach a separate agreement, “but this gave us an opportunity to at least keep the parties working together and coming to a resolution,” Danielson said.
The money would come from a special grant program which makes awards to counties to encourage economic development. Critics of the bill, including Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, says there are better ways to prioritize the grants and they should not be used for a week-long event.
“The people that make those awards – they prioritize things based on traffic or safety reasons. And I just think it’s unfortunate and wrong for us to spend money on a one week event,” Zaun said.
But, Danielson says the bicycle event is important to the state’s economy. “Not only an economic impact, but it improves the overall image of Iowa as a place that’s bike friendly and community friendly,” Danielson said. “And (RAGBRAI) has exposed Iowa to people, not only across the country, but all around the world.”