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Dubuque County Special Events Ordinance

Has anyone else been following the proposed Dubuque County Supervisor’s Special Events Ordinance? It will require all walks/runs/rides/cruises on county roads to apply for a permit 6 weeks before the event, pay a $50 fee, meet with the sheriff, and pay $50/hr for any time above 2 hrs for the event. Violators will face a $500 penalty. They claim it is for safety/budget reasons. Since most rides are for nonprofit organizations or for fun, and not for profit, I think this will be a huge detriment for organized group rides. Bad for cycling and any other events that utilize county roads, bad for area businesses that rely on tourism, and bad for non-profits. Unfortunately this is going to encourage other counties to do the same. If this ordinance passes, I think Ragbrai should boycott and avoid Dubuque County in future routes.

7 Replies

T. Gap Woo, October 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm


I read an article about this on the KWWL website. I share your umbrage over this outrageous scheme to extort money from non-profits.

While a RAGBRAI boycott of Dubuque County might seem like a popular thing to do, it’s not very practical. After all, you are asking the Des Moines Register to risk alienating a portion of their readership base. From a business perspective, this just ain’t gonna happen.

Here are some actions I would suggest that local residents could take:

(1) Go to the public hearings that, by law, must be held before an ordinance is passed. Speak out about the negative impact of this proposed ordinance. Believe it or not, politicians DO listen when their political necks are on the line!

(2) Organize a writing campaign so that interested parties who cannot attend the public meetings can voice their opinion. This would allow out-of-staters like me to put in my two cents’ worth. By law, there is a time period for the public to submit written comments which the politicians must consider. To generate a greater written response, please post the names and addresses of those county officials responsible for making the decision.

(3) Join forces with like-minded organizations in their public relations efforts. I see that local business groups are already speaking out against this proposal. The more voices that are heard,the greater the liklihood of success.

If there is enough public outcry, this ill-conceived notion will wither and die on the vine.


Ragbrai Nation, October 9, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Well, most interesting, Duh Buque!


Sandaltan ., October 9, 2014 at 10:15 pm

T Gap Woo, I am reasonably sure the DSM Register sells very few newspapers, either hard copy or online, in Dubuque County Iowa. Further; RAGBRAI does not go where it is not invited, government and civic organizations must submit a request to be considered as an overnight, start or end town. I suspect that Dubuque County would have to offer to suspend the ordinance should the county wish to be considered for RAGBRAI. Should the ordinance pass I don’t see RAGBRAI ending in Dubuque County Iowa….ever.



“Bicycle Bill”, October 10, 2014 at 3:00 am

Speaking as someone who used to organize recreational rides in La Crosse County (WI) — which has had a similar ordinance since the early 1990s — it does have a chilling effect on activities like bike-a-thons or large group rides.  But I’ve also noticed that even before the ordinance went into effect that walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, and other events of this nature were already in decline.

I feel this is mostly due to the amount of manpower and other logistics involved in running, say, a fundraising bike-a-thon spread out over 25 miles or so on the open road as opposed to hosting a “Jail-and-Bail” at the local mall or a “Relay Against ___________” in which participants walk laps around the quarter-mile high-school running track.  The charities get more money for less time and effort involved, and can also have everything located in a far more compact and convenient location.  Food, water, and creature comforts (such as restrooms) are close at hand; and if you can get a local radio station involved they can probably do a live remote or even provide a band for musical entertainment to hold the interest of spectators.



Sexton, October 10, 2014 at 4:15 am

Must agree with Mr. T.G. Woo here.
Leave The Register out of this, it would come off as a large media outlet trying to bully a county. But if many thousands of people speak up and say ” not only are we boycotting your event, but we’re boycotting the businesses within that jurisdiction, think of the revenue you will be losing”.
Turns the businesses into an ally. Money talks.


mootsman, October 10, 2014 at 9:05 am

The amount the local government money demands are small compared to how high some organizations are charging for their 1 day events. When it’s a group of bicyclists putting it on for other bicyclists it seems to stay reasonable in most (not all) cases. But some rides have a standard progression like the HHH in Wisconsin. A bicyclist put it on and organized it for many years and even at $65 it was reasonable because it included a great meal, post ride beer and timing services. Once he moved on and the local group that reaped the profits from it took charge (profits were in return for being volunteers), prices got out of control. Since the event fills they have a lottery but they have been charging $5-$10 just to enter the lottery whether you get a spot on the ride or not. And the ride fee had climbed to $90 last year. Plus they cut out the timing service, not that most cared about that service though.

I do understand that the time Sheriffs spend on traffic control costs money so why shouldn’t the rides pay for that. Especially with so many rides demanding services. Why should it fall to tax payers.


“Bicycle Bill”, October 10, 2014 at 11:56 am

Can’t speak for the ordinance in Dubuque County, but here in La Crosse the ordinance was proposed in response to someone who was in somewhat of a position of authority who was “inconvenienced” by a group of cyclists during an organized ride … and let’s face it; we’ve all been on organized rides (like RAGBRAI) where the riders seem incapable of remembering that they are just sharing the road; they did not buy it.  This guy, on the other hand, over-reacted and got a measure introduced and passed through the county board to impose regulations (such as insurance and the need to obtain a parade permit) on any organized event using the public roads or sidewalks in order to keep those G…D… cyclists out of the way of us important people with cars.  The idea of raising revenue through additional fees and surcharges, while it is a common cry amongst the Tea-Bagger mindset to make everybody pay for what they are using (or conversely, not have to be charged for something that they personally do not use), is only a secondary benefit.

In fact, if you attend the public hearings you will be treated to a procession of people relating stories about “the time someone on a bike was riding without lights” or “was on the wrong side of the street” or “riding three wide so that I couldn’t get past them and had to slow down”, which means that the real reason for ordinances of this type (in my own not-so-humble opinion) is to try to make the roads clear for cars and other motor vehicles.  It’s not about the money or even safety; it’s so that someone who works in Dubuque but lives in Asbury, Centralia, Peosta, or Farley doesn’t have to slow down on their commute or their trip to the JFK Mall.



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