What is a Street?
On March 2, 2022, the Iowa Court of Appeals decided a case that turned on the question of “What is a Street?” The City of Riverdale had placed a fence across a five-foot wide asphalt path that runners and bicyclists used as a shortcut between two recreational trails. The Cornbelt Running Club brought suit against the City claiming that the City’s fencing across the path created a nuisance and violated Iowa law by obstructing a street. The City countered that the path was not designed nor used by motor vehicle traffic and, therefore, failed to meet Iowa’ s statutory definition of a street.
The Iowa Court of Appeals found that the type of vehicle traffic traveling over a surface that is contemplated by a street, excluded bicycles and electric bicycles from providing the necessary vehicle traffic. The Court also found that the fact that the path would be accessible by emergency vehicles was a unique circumstance that also did not provide the requisite vehicle traffic to qualify as a street. The Court found that because the path was not a street, the City’s placement of a fence across it did not meet the definition of a nuisance under Iowa law and ruled in favor of the City.
The Iowa Court of Appeals noted that it was not asked to decide whether the path was a sidewalk for purposes of the City’s duty of repair and maintenance, suggesting there may remain an argument to challenge the City’s conduct of blocking the path, under an assertion that the path constitutes a sidewalk. The case is captioned “Cornbelt Running Club v. City of Riverdale,” a copy of which is linked below.