Public Safety

Even without RAGBRAI and Iowa's Ride going head-to-head, public safety remains challenge

Iowa State Patrol says it's devoted to 'the safety of both events'

Iowa State Patrol officers direct traffic July 25 through an intersection during RAGBRAI as riders head from Centerville to Fairfield on day five of the annual ride. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa State Patrol officers direct traffic July 25 through an intersection during RAGBRAI as riders head from Centerville to Fairfield on day five of the annual ride. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Patrolling two potentially large-scale bike rides — RAGBRAI and Iowa’s Ride — poses a logistical challenge even though the rides no longer are scheduled for the same week, an Iowa State Patrol official says

After hearing pushback, organizers of the new Iowa’s Ride earlier this month decided to reschedule their trek for a week earlier in July to avoid head-to-head competition with the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

Initial plans to have both rides at the same time created a rift for participants and their teams and jeopardized the Iowa tourism juggernaut. But now having them run back-to-back still doesn’t alleviate the burden from a public safety planning perspective, Sgt. Alex Dinkla, spokesman for the patrol, said this week.

“No matter what, having two major events that are going to involve that many resources, whether on the same week or back-to-back weeks, there’s still planning we have to do on our end and troopers will be away from assignments, from the district, and families for that amount of time,” he said.

Dinkla said Iowa State Patrol is “committed to the safety of both events,” but the patrol is not under yet contract with either ride for 2020. Not having a contract at this point — before routes are announced — is typical, he noted.

The patrol is not committing resources to either ride yet, but is staying neutral in the bike ride grudge match in which RAGBRAI’s former director and his staff unexpectedly quit last month. The director, T.J. Juskiewicz, had been on the job for 16 years and developed strong ties to many around the state, including Iowa State Patrol, before he launched the competing ride.

“We are not going to take sides,” Dinkla said. “We don’t want to be involved in any of it. We are not out here to show favoritism. We are out here to provide traffic safety.”

RAGBRAI, a weeklong, statewide bike ride held annually at the end of July, contracts with the Iowa State Patrol to provide up to 20 troopers to assist with traffic control, crime detection and law enforcement during the event. That enforcement is part of an extensive ecosystem supporting the 47-year-old RAGBRAI tradition that draws tens of thousands of riders, spectators and others each year.

RAGBRAI, which is scheduled for July 19-25, typically reimburses the patrol for overtime pay and meals up to $22,000, and in addition covers lodging for those assigned to work the event, according to Dinkla.

Troopers from the public resource unit handle the bulk of the work. The contract covers only the additional costs outside the patrol’s normal budget — for example, the patrol does not charge for troopers’ regular salary or for vehicles, Dinkla said.

In 2019, when RAGBRAI crossed the state from Council Bluffs to Keokuk on July 21-27, reimbursement was $20,975, Dinkla said.

Iowa’s Ride, now scheduled for July 12-18 and crossing the state east to west, also promises public safety support.

A contract typically is signed after the route is announced, which for RAGBRAI usually occurs in January, Dinkla said. After the route is announced, the patrol can analyze roads and intersections and traffic volumes and determine how many troopers would be needed in different places, Dinkla said. The patrol also holds six or seven law enforcement meetings across the state to coordinate with local authorities, he said.

A route for Iowa’s Ride is expected to be announced this month, according to its website.

“Once the event coordinators can provide us with more details pertaining to their rides (i.e. route and anticipated numbers of riders, etc.) we will then make a determination as to how much, if any support we can provide and will then start developing contracts,” he said in an email.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.