Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Is A Level C Maintenance Road?

We LOVE to ride Level B Maintenance roads in Iowa, so what about Level C's?
Recently I have become aware of a trend I hope doesn't take root here in Iowa. This situation may exist in other forms in other states, but here we have what is termed as "Level C Maintenance" roads. They are kind of like Level B Maintenance roads, which you probably are well aware of from events like Trans Iowa. Level C was something I hadn't ever come across until 2005-2006 while doing recon for Trans Iowa v2. Since then my understanding of what these roads are has informed my stance against riding them. This post is a "PSA", if you will, to other riders to learn why you should not be riding these specific "roads".

First off, a little brief history. There were no classifications on gravel and rural dirt roads until the 1980's when the Iowa Legislature had to react to lawsuits being brought against the Counties where drivers had driven on these primitive roads and had been involved in accidents resulting in damage to property and loss of life in some cases. Certain roads were then marked as "Level B" maintenance and signs were posted at the ends of these sections of dirt and poorly maintained roads to warn drivers that to "Enter At Your Own Risk" would mean that you would be liable for your own actions. Obviously this was done to avoid liability to the State and Counties for loss of property, damages, and personal injuries and/or death resulting from driving on these roads. That's all well and good, but what about "Level C"? What is up with that classification in Iowa? Is a level C Road okay for a cyclist to ride on? What about the gates? What if there are no gates?

The warning on every Level B road is there to absolve the County from liability

Well, Level C is something more recent in Iowa road history. Here are a couple of excerpts found from the IDOT site when I searched the term, "Level C Maintenance".

"The Level C classification was added in 1991 by HF 419. This third classification was developed to provide a
means to limit access to roads that primarily serve adjacent farming operations and there has been resistance to
vacating them. This legislation included language stating that stated Level C roads may only be established by ordinance or resolution.

In addition, Area Service C classification roads shall adequately warn the public that access is limited. Access to the road shall be restricted by means of a gate or other barrier."

UPDATE: 11/6/20:  "Entering an Area Service “C” road without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate the road by any person lawfully allowed access shall be a trespass as defined in Iowa Code Section 716.7"

But "TRESPASS" DOES NOT MEAN : "(2) Entering upon the right-of-way of a public road or highway" -  from the Iowa Code Section 716.7

Most Level C Maintenance roads I have seen are gated, and many have a white, rectangular sign near the gate. These roads are not open to the public to drive or ride on. The gate is there to restrict access, and it is my understanding that the adjacent landowner to the road is the "local authority" when it comes to granting access to any Level C Maintenance Road. Where it gets a bit cloudy as to meaning is when it comes to Level C's being a "public road" or not. This is exacerbated when there is no evidence of a sign or gate, or if a gate is left open.  The bottom line here is don't ride on the Level C's!  

It isn't worth the risk, not only to you as a rider, but to the gravel bicycle riding community at large. Of course, if you find out who the landowner is and get permission first, then go ahead, but I'm betting most folks are not going to that level of trouble. Most folks just poach those roads and risk raising the ire of local landowners, or worse..... 

Here in Iowa we have 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt we can ride on. Don't spoil it for everyone else by riding stuff you shouldn't be on. I mean, your Level C pictures on Facebook are probably a really dumb idea, especially if a landowner gets ticked off and researches your activities. Then we all get blamed for being nere-do-wells and what then? Maybe you think I am a "Negative Nancy"? Or, maybe you are selfish and refusing to believe this is a problem. If you've read this far, you've got no excuse.

Example of a Level C Maintenance sign. Courtesy of IDOT

  I get why folks want to explore and see what is out there, but remember, these Level C's are the only way the State and County keep a possibility for a renewal of that right of way to become a road for the public again. It is also one step away from being annexed to the adjacent land owner's property, and is treated as such by those land owners. They get a bit testy sometimes if they see strangers on Level B's, (ask me how I know), and you can imagine that seeing strangers on bicycles on gated, "no trespassing" Level C's isn't going to be taken lightly by them. 

In the end, I cannot prevent any cyclist from making a bad decision, but there is no arguing that making the decision to ride a Level C is a bad idea. Yeah, you think no one will ever know...... until they do. I mean, I found out about this recently because some people were posting on Facebook that they had ridden a Level C in Butler County. So, yeah, we need to be careful out there, folks.


graveldoc said...

Reading this caused me to think about the United Kingdom and their bridle paths upon which cyclists and equestrians are allowed to ride; even across private lands.

Ari said...

I think Jay and I ran into a level C out in Jackson County. We were like no way we are going in there to piss off some landowner. We figured there was plenty of other roads to explore. We always thought of level C as “ no tresspassing”
Thanks for clarifying this issue.

Bob said...

The people of Scotland have right of responsible access to public and private lands, fondly known as a right to roam. As do Norway, Finland, and Sweden. As did Americans until about 1872 when the first national park was created. Those who control access to land control the resources, the fish, wildlife, open views, and peace and quiet.

Recently, some people are working to privatize our public lands by cutting off public access. Interestingly, it is thought that nothing in our private property laws prevents implementation of a right to roam, we just need a cultural shift to make it happen.

But until then, GT's advice is well worth heeding.

blooddoc23 said...

In Missouri those roads are usually labeled “Private Drive” with a “No Trespassing” sign. And if you ride up those you can pretty much count on being dog bit, shot at, or worse yet killed; and having some meth head boil your brains. Knowledge of that is an effective deterrent.

S.Fuller said...

Interesting situation not too far from me here in the Des Moines area. I know of a somewhat lengthy section of road that is Signed as a Level B on one end where it intersects with a gravel road and then ends in a gate next to someone's house, and is marked as a Level C on the other end. There were no gates or other signs indicating the change from B to C anywhere along the length of the road. That made for an interesting time. :)

Cory said...

We got some level c roads down here and several are gated off. But there’s one on my ride this month that the gate is not only open, it has been open for years and is off the hinges and has brush growing up around the ends. In theory though your right. Don’t trespass if the gates are closed and your warned.

Travis said...

One possibility is to have a visit with adjacent land owners or neighbors, sometimes the roads are closed due to heavy 4x4/ATV traffic, and they might not mind bicycle through traffic.