Bike race to go on without commissioners’ participation
Leavenworth County officials and cycling enthusiasts agree: A time trial for competitive bicyclists scheduled for May 20 will go ahead as planned in the safest manner possible with the least possible liability to the county.
The 10-kilometer race, in its fifth year, will run along Round Prairie Road in northern Leavenworth County, crossing two chip-and-seal roads, before turning around near the intersection of 206th Road and 219th Street.
County commissioners and the sheriff's office had expressed disinterest in being a party to the event last week, citing liability concerns. County officials were more open to the race Monday but still sought to distance themselves from it.
"Our whole thing about this (race) is safety," Leavenworth County Sheriff David Zoellner said. "This race is probably the easiest to do. It doesn't cross four-lane highways, and there's not that many residents affected. ... I just don't want to assist anyone if we're helping them break the law."
Race organizer Roger Harrison of the Kansas Cycling Association assured county officials that all aspects of the time trial would be legal and safe. He said the race would not require closing any roads, riders would start one at a time in one-minute intervals and proper signage would be present warning motorists of the race without blocking traffic signs.
The board requested that any reference to a "Leavenworth Sheriff-patrolled" race be removed from Harrison's flier and that Harrison provide a copy of the race's insurance policy to show exactly what coverage is in place and to clear up any liability issues. Commissioner Clyde Graeber also said he would like to see signs that show that Leavenworth County is in no way responsible for the race and that cyclists ride at their own risk.
Harrison agreed to do his best to provide the insurance policy, which, he said covers the county.
"All I'm asking for is a sheriff's appearance out there," Harrison said. "The only problem I've ever had occurred five years ago. When riders turned around at the rest stop, a large German shepherd was nipping at bicyclists. ... I don't want to see a dog or cyclist killed."
Zoellner responded, "If you're wanting an officer there, I can assure you there'd be an off-duty officer there."
Commissioner Dean Oroke said he was concerned about setting a bad precedent for future races that go longer distances and cross several highways.
Oroke and a resident at the meeting expressed concern that, in general, cyclists who break traffic laws and ride on streets with no shoulders pose a danger to themselves and to motorists trying to pass them.
"Just like there's bad drivers, there's bad cyclists," Harrison conceded. "I see bicyclists riding three or four abreast, and that drives me crazy. But someone shouldn't try to run someone else off the road. It's a two-way street. I don't see why we can't work together. ... We need to get rid of all this animosity."
Commission Chairman J.C. Tellefson added, "In all situations, we have to tell people that they have to ride in accordance with state statutes. We need to tell them they can't close roads, and they can't ride more than two abreast."