06 November 2017

When Using "Bicycle Infrastructure", Be Sure To Take "Proper Precautions"!

Sometimes the bicycle infrastructure we get is worse than no bicycle infrastructure.  Three lawsuits that have been filed, and another that was recently settled, in San Diego bear this out.

Eight months ago, Clifford Brown won a $4.85 million for injuries he sustained in a crash on a tree-damaged sidewalk.  City officials had been notified about the damage five months before the September 2014 crash, which left Brown with several lost teeth, torn spinal cord ligaments and brain damage that has rendered him incapable of functioning independently.  

In San Diego, as in other cities, cyclists sometimes use sidewalks because they feel safer on them then on streets that are designed for vehicular traffic and thus have no shoulders, or even passing or parking lanes.  Cyclists might also feel safer on sidewalks than on some bike lanes, especially one like the Balboa Avenue path where a man who has filed one of the pending lawsuits crashed head-on into another cyclist.  

That man, Douglas Eggers, suffered injuries similar to Brown's.  His suit alleges that the accident resulted because the lane, which runs along the north side of Balboa, is built only for eastbound traffic.  According to the suit, the city should have built that lane wider, with a divider in the middle, to accommodate bicycle traffic going both ways, or a separate westbound bike lane on the south side of Balboa, one of the city's busiest thoroughfares.  

Michael Cizaukas, who filed one of the other lawsuits, was launched into a move most BMXers would admire when he was thrust into the air from a section of a bike lane buckled by a tree.  Not being a BMXer, though, he was thrown from his bike and, as a result, suffered fractured bones, a separated shoulder, muscle tears, hearing loss and a concussion in the May 2016 incident.

Warning: Shock Hazard!

Unfortunately, I've heard of crashes like the ones Brown, Eggers and Cizaukas endured.  But the third lawsuit filed I'm going to mention involves something I never before would have envisioned:  injuries sustained at a bicycle parking rack.  Oh, but it gets even better: Jasper Polintan says he's suffered damage to his upper extremities and other injuries that have reduced his earning capacity when--get this--he was electrocuted while locking his bike to a city rack.

His suit alleges that the city didn't properly install, maintain or provide adequate safeguards for that rack. In preliminary responses to Polintan's, Cizaukas' and Eggers' cases, however, attorneys for the city say that officials were unaware of the problems and the injured cyclists didn't take "proper precautions."

Sometimes, it seems, "proper precautions" involve simply avoiding bike lanes and much else of what's offered up as "bicycle infrastructure" in too many places.

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