Unsafe Streets Have High Costs For Its Cyclists

Apr 4, 2019

Summary of L.A. Times report

A $7.5 million settlement was awarded last year to prior-cyclist William Yao. He was riding in the bike lane on Reseda Boulevard, which was installed despite the roadway being broken (it has an F-rating). The city had received many complaints about the road prior to the accident but never took action. Mr. Yao hit a broken part of the pavement and crashed. Devastatingly, the accident caused him to become a quadriplegic.

To make a bad situation worse, the area was inspected by the city just before the crash as it was going to be cut for utility services and no one reported the substandard bike lane.

This wasn’t the only cycling-related settlement. The LA Times reported, in 2017, the city of Los Angeles paid over $19 million in settlements to cyclists and their families as the result of injuries or deaths on city streets. When looking at the past decade, payouts have never been more than about one-fourth of that amount.

L.A. falls short on goal to be bicycle-friendly

The ironic part of this story is the city has been trying to brand itself as bicycle-friendly. Officials claim that they have been improving streets, achieving an average grade of a C+, and that the miles of paved lanes hit a historical high over the last two years.

However, the more broken the streets, the more expensive they are to repair. Consequentially, the worst streets are left to get worse. Approximately, 20% of L.A.’s city bike lanes and routes have a quality grade of a D or an F.

Who’s responsible? The Bureau of Street Services is in charge of these repairs. In 2016, the organization claimed it inspects major streets four times per year (not residential) and checks the areas surrounding complaint sites for problems. However, allegedly, the city repair crews ignore hazards and the city creates bike lanes on streets that are unsafe.

A prior employee claims that the disposition of the Bureau of Street Services has changed in recent years. In the past, they would proactively go out and inspect the streets to identify areas that need attention, but now they are taking a more reactive approach; responding once they receive complaints.

What is the city doing to reduce cycling accidents?

The bottom line is the city of Los Angeles has some changes to make. The legal costs are not only increasing in relation to bicycle crashes; the city spent about $36 million per year on settlements ten years ago, and more than $200 million in 2017. The Mayor, along with various city officials, launched a cabinet to reduce the risk of legal liability of all kinds.

Following, are the actions that have been taken to make the streets safer for cyclists:

  • A consultant studied L.A.’s street infrastructure programs and reported a lack of coordination and a reactive approach to street maintenance work and potholes
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti says the city is working to improve coordination between the departments responsible for repairing and maintaining the streets
  • The Transportation Department is now surveying streets before installing bike lanes to ensure the pavement meets state standards
  • The average grade of a street that has gotten a new bikeway is a B

What should the city do about existing bikeways on streets with poor grades?

Councilman Mitch Englander says the lanes should be removed because they give riders a false sense of security. Bicycle activists argue that cyclists will still ride on the roads anyway and will be at an increased risk without the lane. The jury is out on this issue. (Share your opinion below.)

L.A. needs a proactive approach to street maintenance

One victim of a cycling accident in L.A. reported that the city is not easily accepting responsibility for its mistakes. Alternatively, it fought every step of the way, making for a stressful lawsuit. We all know that the first step in fixing a problem is admitting we have one. Hopefully, the city can take a hard look at it’s practices and create a new, proactive plan that eliminates the complacency that has permeated the government’s street maintenance practices. In doing so, they can take steps toward safer roads for the community.

Have you been in an accident in that has cost you time, money, and undue stress? Was it due to roads that were damaged or unsafe? Contact the team at Bike Legal. See how we can help. We are cyclists ourselves, as well as bicycle accident lawyers, and can help you get the settlement you deserve.

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