As a cyclist, I was very happy to read that a bicyclist successfully held a city responsible for an unsafe bicycle path. The injured rider was riding his triathlon road bike on a bicycle route in the City of Chicago. The route is a city street, designated a bicycle route with its own lane, which later becomes a shared lane. The cyclist had ridden this road and this route thousands of times before.
On the day of the accident, the rider approached an intersection on the route and noticed that the street's surface changed from smooth to a rugged texture as a result of a resurfacing project. He slowed down to navigate. Utility covers were protruding above the road, where the surface had been scrapped away. As he approached one of the covers, he steered left around it. Suddenly his front tire lodged in a trench and he flew over his handlebars, fracturing his shoulder in multiple places. His shoulder injury was apparently quite severe, both permanent and disabling.
A week after the accident, the rider and his wife went to the intersection where this happened and took pictures. The trench on the side of the utility that grabbed his tire was not visible from any distance, and was only visible when he stood almost directly on top of it. Had he even seen it from a distance as he was riding, his choices would have been to veer right, and hit the raised utility cover, or left, directly in the lane of vehicle traffic.
The bicylist sued the City of Chicago for negligence for failure to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition. The City denied everything and also claimed that it didn't have a duty to provide warnings or barricades, that it had no notice about this condition, and that it was the cyclist's own fault. The jury didn't buy any of this and awarded the plaintiff $1.9 million dollars.
The City didn't give up the fight and it appealed the verdict. The appellate decision is noteworthy to lawyers because of the ruling about what law applied to the case. For the cycling community, it is noteworthy because the City was found accountable and responsible for the unsafe conditions that caused the rider's injuries. Hat's off to the lawyers who represented the cyclist!