Cyclists suing city governments over unsafe roadways
72-year old California cyclists wins $1 million from city after hitting ridges in a bike lane from tree roots and falling
(Settled out of court.)
Colman McCarthy (Washington, D.C.)
Peace activist/Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy had a bike accident in a park in D.C. in the late 80s or early 90s. He was on a bike path, and hit a pothole or a crack, fell and hurt himself. He successfully sued D.C.
Donald Hallsten ($4.35 million from the City of Chicago)
In November of 2000, Donald Hallsten was awarded $4.35 million from the City of Chicago after getting hurt and paralyzed while biking across a bridge that was under construction in 1996. The city had allowed a construction firm to erect a canopy at the corner of Dearborn and Delaware, thereby creating a blind spot. Hallsten approached the corner while riding and was hit by a cab. The city had posted "bicycle route" signs along Dearborn, suggesting that bicyclists were intended users of the road.
Please do not ask for "more information" about any of these cases. As should be painfully obvious, we put this page together to share what we know. We're not intentionally withholding some of the information from you for some bizarre reason. When we could find links to related coverage we included them. This is all we have, there isn't any more. Thank you for understanding.
How to Not Get Hit by Cars
Read our guide about how to bicycle safely.
Splendid! I have been commuting to work year round for several years, and have come to many of the same conclusions you have. You put things very clearly, and there are a few points I hadn't thought of--thank you! I'm going to pass this info around. --Ron Grosslein, Amherst, MA
I would like to say that your site is absolutely terrific. From the title to the last word, it is logical, sensible, and utterly devoted to what should be every cyclist's number-one priority: avoiding death and injury. Way to go! -- Phil Hickey, Boulder, CO
I'm saved! I have got to tell all my friends about this site! (Both biking and non-biking.) Seriously, great advice and great graphics. I am going to try to get our club webmaster to link to you. -- Gerry Maron Carolina Cyclers; Palmetto Cycling Coalition
I'm happy to share the information on this site with others at no cost. Permission to reprint How to Not Get Hit by Cars is given freely, subject to the following provisions:
The contents of BicycleSafe.com are Copyright ©1998-05 by Michael Bluejay and may not be sold for profit.
Safe Road Riding Game/Quiz
The Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation has an excellent Safe Road Riding Game/Quiz. Most bike safety stuff I see tells you little more than to wear your helmet and follow the law -- as though it were that easy to be safe. But PennDOT's quiz presents real-world scenarios: How do you avoid that car door opening in front of you? What do you do when you're approaching a sewer grate? Good stuff.
See the other sites which link to us.
Note to "Effective Cycling" fans
If you're about to send me an email telling me how stupid the advice on this site is, please save yourself the trouble. Trust me, I've heard all the arguments before (ad nauseum) and I simply disagree. I never write to EC websites to complain that I don't like their advice, so there's no need for you to complain about mine. (Here's more about the the difference of opinion for those wondering what the fuss is about.)
I have developed this site to provide what I believe is very good advice to help you avoid getting hit by cars. But of course, bicycling will never be 100% safe, and I can't guarantee you won't get hit by a car, even if you follow all the advice on this page. (Naturally, I believe if you follow this advice you will be much less likely to suffer a collision than if you ignore it.) Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety.
A Toronto Small Claims Court judge disagreed. Deputy Judge Winer recognized that cycling has increased in popularity, and is promoted by the City, because of its health and environmental benefits. He also found that the design of the lanes on Queen Street West was unsafe for cyclists, that the City knew it was unsafe, and that "they should have done something" to make the street safe for all users, including cyclists. The judge adopted caselaw which requires municipalities to respond to changing uses of public roadways. He ruled that as traffic and road use changes, so should the road design and infrastructure.
Evans won $4,500. 25% came from the city, and 50% came from the driver. She was assigned 25% of the blame for not wearing a helmet, but presumably she didn't have any trouble paying herself.
Between 1993 and 1995, the advocacy group, the Oregon Bicycle Transportation Alliance, sued the city of Portland because the Department of Transportation (DoT) refused to include bike lanes in the construction of two major new roads. The victory was due in large part to a state law that requires that bicycle and pedestrian facilities "be provided wherever a highway, road, or street is being constructed, reconstructed, or relocated."
In 1993, a new stadium was proposed for downtown Portland. The arena was centrally located and accessible to existing public transit facilities. Unfortunately, two major roads involved in the project were going to be hazardous for bicyclists. Both roads included double-lane automobile right-turns that would cross bike-traffic space. The roadways also approached two of the four bike-accessible bridges in Portland, where bridge access is extremely important.
After exhausting all other options, the BTA decided to sue the city on the grounds that it had failed to uphold a provision of the the state law, which requires that bike/pedestrian facilities be provided when roads are constructed, reconstructed, or relocated. The law also requires all municipalities and counties to spend at least 1% of their state highway funds to provide such facilities.
The City of Portland argued that it had upheld its obligation to the law by spending the required 1% on bike/pedestrian transportation projects. The BTA argued that the law required such facilities be included on "all new or reconstructed roads." In December 1995, the Oregon Supreme court decided the case in the BTA's favor. The BTA then dropped the suit, feeling it had made its point.
Consequently, the bike lanes in question exist today, and Portland's overall compliance with the "Oregon Bicycle Bill" has greatly improved. Portland city staff now commonly use the precedent as a rationale to require that bike facilities be provided in new projects. According to the BTA, city staffers say things like, "We need to have bike lanes or we will be sued."
The main issue was that the bike paths were too narrow and pedestrians and bicyclists got in each other's way: