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Ordinance in Iowa County may impact bike events

By Mary Jo Ola, mola@wisctv.com
Published On: Mar 16 2014 09:12:58 AM CDT

MADISON, Wis. -

A new special events ordinance in Iowa County has some people concerned it could drive away organized bike events.

It is called the Iowa County Highway Access Special Events Ordinance. Its purpose is to regulate organized bike events after reports residents and property were mistreated by participants, as a result of an event or both.

The Schlimgens have lived off County Road K and the Military Ridge State Trail in Iowa County for 40 years. Their backyard is a sight to see, but they said the road in front of their home is also something to see during bike season.

"They go five to six deep and they're putting you bumper to bumper sometimes, hundreds of them go by here. You can hardly get out of the driveway," Jerry Schlimgen said. He and his wife said it usually happens during races and they would prefer bicyclists would stay on the trails.

It was for issues like that the Iowa County Board passed the ordinance in February. Chairman of the Iowa County Highway Committee John Meyers said work on the ordinance started two to three years ago after receiving a report of a deputy sheriff that was mistreated by a bicyclist. Meyers also said they received a report detailing thousands of dollars worth of damage to a farmers' crop because of a bike event.

The ordinance will apply to events of 100 or more riders. Organizers must meet certain criteria before their permit can be approved. In their permit application, organizers must address event duration, parking and access, sanitary facilities, rest stations, refuse removal, severe weather notification, notification of the Highway Department Offices, identification of participants, security, barricades, signage, traffic control, course markings, flagging personnel, compliance with other code provisions, compliance with regulations on all levels and extra-ordinary services.

Stakeholders met several times to work on the ordinance, but some think it still needs work.

Dave Cieslewicz, executive director with the Wisconsin Bike Fed, helped on the ordinance. He said he understands the need for some regulation but there could be improvements.

"It does give the county substantial leeway to essentially deny a permit for really almost any reason at all. So we do think that it does create a little too much uncertainty for ride coordinators," Cieslewicz said.

He went on to say the Bike Fed is concerned about groups cancelling their event, having issues planning their event or avoiding Iowa County all together.

However, they are encouraging bicyclists to move forward with their rides so they can see how the ordinance works and work with county officials.

John Meyers, Iowa County board member and chairman for the Iowa County Highway Committee, said they have not denied any permits yet. Their intention is to keep a balance between participants of these events and taxpayers.

"The intention is that any economic impact to the county that if they require extra law enforcement, things like that, they're going to reimburse the county for those because it's not fair that our taxpayers have to shoulder that burden," said Meyers over the phone when asked about the chance the ordinance could put a dent in the local economy.

The ordinance has a sunset clause that states on March 1, 2015, the ordinance will be automatically repealed. This will allow the county and stakeholders to assess its effectiveness.

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