Sometimes it seems that there aren't any penalties for creating hazards in a bike lane. I can't begin to count how many times government vehicles park in them, or civilians use them to pick up or discharge passengers. Worst of all, though, are objects left thoughtlessly or deliberately in our paths.
Such an obstruction ended the career of a Securities and Exchange Commission official. In April of 2016, James Schnurr was pedaling down a bike lane in his Jupiter, Florida neighborhood when he struck a stanchion. According to his complaint, he "was ejected from his bicycle and hit the ground," causing "significant and permanent injuries." The SEC hired an interim replacement for Schnurr in July of that year and he retired permanently that November.
In addition to incurring expenses for his medical, nursing and rehabilitative care, Schnurr suffered a loss of earnings (he was making $248,000 a year) and the ability to earn money in the future, according to his complaint. So, he filed suit against the homeowner's association that oversees Jonathan's Landing and Jonathan's Landing Golf Club, Inc.
He claims that the companies erected the stanchions--which are typically used to hold up chains, velvet ropes or cloth belts to delineate crowd-control boundaries--but failed to provide pavement markings, signage or other warnings as to their "hazardous nature." It is not clear as to why the companies erected the stanchions.
The association and golf club fought the charges. Still, a Palm Beach County jury awarded Schnurr 41 million dollars but determined that all parties shared responsibility. Schnurr was deemed 50 percent responsible due to "negligence. The homeowner's association was 45 percent negligent because it failed to notify Schnurr of the dangerous conditions, while the golf club's 5 percent negligence contributed to his loss, injury or damage. Now it is up to the court to determine whether that $41 million will be cut to reflect how responsibility was distributed.
Whatever happens, I hope this leads to more awareness of how cyclists are endangered, whether deliberately or unwittingly, by obstructions in bike lanes that are supposed to be safe for us.