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Cyclist gets $100,000 and an apology for sewer grate spill

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 31st, 2007 at 9:15 am

Noticed this story on KGW yesterday:

"A Portland cyclist launched to the asphalt will get a $100,000 settlement check from the City of Portland.

The city forgot to change a sewer grate when it created a bike lane in Southwest Portland.

Essentially, it accidentally set a trap and cyclist Gary Dunkley fell right into it."

The story says Dunkley was "going about 25 mph" when he hit the grate and then stopped instantly, resulting in 60 stitches, memory loss, and double vision.

Commissioner Sam apologized, said the settlement is "absolutely appropriate" and asked everyone to call in hazards to PDOT's traffic safety hotline, (503) 823-SAFE (7233).

Read and watch the full story on KGW.com (registration might be req'd).

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  • Steve October 31, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Although it is pretty obvious the city made a mistake, it seems a $100,000.00 \"fine\" is a tad extreme. Does Mr. Dunkley suffer from any long-term effects and was this settlement in lieu of medical costs or in addition?

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  • Andre October 31, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I thought that local/muni/state/feds all were immune from litigation brought by them about accidents that happen on the roadways.

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  • a.O October 31, 2007 at 9:57 am

    I\'d say 100k was the low end of what I would want if I had 60 stitches and a traumatic brain injury because of the City\'s (or anybody\'s) negligence. It\'s also probably on the low end of what he could have gotten at trial, so it probably reflects a willingness to have his medical bills paid, have compensation for lost income, and be done with it. I\'d say we, the taxpayers, came out OK here. And I hope they fired the idiots who can\'t successfully perform the simple task of changing a sewer grate.

    Because it\'s a \"settlement,\" it likely covers all aspects of his injuries in exchange for release of his claim against the City.

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  • nick October 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

    i disagree. 60 stitches IN HIS HEAD is going to have what you might call long-term effects from a aesthetic perspective, if nothing else.

    so 100 grand sounds reasonable to me. don\'t forget, his lawyer will get a chunk.

    i know folks who have been doored and ended up with permanent loss of range of motion, pins in wrists, and far less money.

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  • Paul Souders October 31, 2007 at 10:35 am

    So where *was* this grate?

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  • Jerrod October 31, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I got hit by a guy who ran a red light. Permanent neck damage, concussion, facial scaring, back pain, etc. I got 30K, but I ended up getting only about 16K. I would say 100K is pretty good!

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  • felix October 31, 2007 at 10:45 am

    learn to bunny hop!

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  • Spencer October 31, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Was there a helmet involved?

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  • Mr. Viddy October 31, 2007 at 11:39 am

    A nice payday for a retard who probably should have known better than to go speeding over any metal grate or potentially slick surface.

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  • Todd Boulanger October 31, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Previous press coverage of this incidence mentioned that the bicyclist was wearing both a helmet and gloves.

    And who knows what the traffic conditions were at the time (I have not seen the collision report/ case file or press coverage of it)...perhaps he could not pull out into the lane of traffic to avoid it, or the other grates were bike friendly vs. one old school grate, etc.

    The retrofitting of existing streets with bike lanes often leads to unforeseen (at the time of the original construction) design issues or cost compromises in the retrofit:
    - change in bike tire widths over time (balloon tires to high pressure narrow tires) and widths of motor vehicles (remember when many cars were as narrow as a Beetle?)
    - location and density of traffic (street widening that does not relocate older utility or traffic grates and covers outside the bike lane)
    - location of travel path in relation to where the pavement overlays end, and longitudinal expansion joints/ utility cuts
    - drainage grates and gutter pans vs. installing sewer inlets under the sidewalk

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  • One who knows October 31, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Mr. Viddy:

    You are an ****. The grate was located on the blind curve, and within the striped and marked bicycle lane. If a guy can\'t ride safely over grates located in the bike lane, then where the hell can he ride.

    You are obviously one of those **** who thinks all bicyclists should ride on the sidewalk.

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  • BURR October 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Way to be a ****, Mr Viddy! There are bike lanes all over this city with sunken double-wide drainage grates that occupy 2/3 to 3/4 of the bike lane, the city is lucky they aren\'t paying out money like this on a routine basis for their substandard bike lane designs.

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  • Moo October 31, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    If he wasn\'t a **** for hitting the grate before...he may be one now. 100k sounds piddly.

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  • Greg October 31, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I agree that 100k isn\'t much for a traumatic brain injury - and for everyone else - think about running fatter tires on your city bikes.

    Bicycle Quarterly did an article a ways back on tire efficiency in the real world - result is that suppleness, not high pressure is what matters most. (Or at least you can have fat and supple tires that are not slow.)

    Fat tires also give a nice ride. My grocery bike runs 50mm tires (which admittedly are a bit slow) and my commute bike runs 38mm tires (which are pretty speedy). I used to run 23/25mm tires in the city and I feel a lot more confident when I hit a road hazard now :-)

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  • rixtir October 31, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Bicycle Quarterly did an article a ways back on tire efficiency in the real world - result is that suppleness, not high pressure is what matters most. (Or at least you can have fat and supple tires that are not slow.)

    Fat tires also give a nice ride. My grocery bike runs 50mm tires (which admittedly are a bit slow) and my commute bike runs 38mm tires (which are pretty speedy). I used to run 23/25mm tires in the city and I feel a lot more confident when I hit a road hazard now :-)

    I used to run 25mm for years, and while they were quite fast, they were also quite inadequate for handling surface defects. I\'m running 38mm now, on a bike I bought specifically for city riding, and they\'re a lot more forgiving when I hit one of the inevitable cracks or potholes that exist in the real world.

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  • Mark October 31, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    None of us can tell Mr. Dunkley how to spend his money, but wouldn\'t it be noble if he donated a portion (after medical bills, etc.) to a reputable organization (e.g. BTA) to fund some worthy bike program/cause.

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  • Moo October 31, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Yeah Mark, maybe he should take all the bloggers out to lunch and buy us all new rain and safety gear too.

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  • felix October 31, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    It would be better if he spent his money to someone who debunks frivolous law suites! Sucks you got hurt but sometimes shit happens.

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  • Boo Hoo October 31, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    As JT says...Cry me a River.
    Get a car instead.

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  • rixtir October 31, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    It would be better if he spent his money to someone who debunks frivolous law suites!

    And some of those suites are quite frivolous....or at least ostentatious.

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  • Jeff Ong November 3, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Does the city have anyone actually ride these bike routes before \"opening\" them? It seems like some extensive beta-testing, if you will, might have helped spot the omission before the accident happened.

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  • gary November 7, 2007 at 11:08 am

    In reply to the posted comments.
    I was wearing a helmet and gloves. My tire size was 35 mm - adequate for city riding safely.
    The sewer grate had been left unchanged after they a had redone the roadway there, when it
    definitely should have been replaced.
    Another rider had made the city aware of the grate issue two ( or three ) months prior to my accident.
    Actually, a motorist had entered ( in a hurry to get to the intersection ) the bike lane when I came around the blind corner. The result was I had no choice but to go over the grate to miss hitting the car.
    The settlement, will in my belief not cover the long term medical costs or lose of mobility ( will need a shoulder replacement in the future), have had cognitive changes, double vision and other issues. I lucked out that I was not a pretty face before the accident
    Yes, the settlement releases the city from all future claims and leaves me to deal with the future
    medical expenses and issues I will incur. As one person said I was tired and wanted to settle and move on.

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  • Mike November 4, 2008 at 8:39 am

    This settlement amount seems pretty low to me. Based on what I saw on TV and Mr. Dunkley's comments above, it will not even cover his future healthcare costs. I settled a similar case this year for approximately five times that and the insurance company was eager to settle, as a jury would have likely awarded my client much more.

    I don't think there are too many cyclists in Portland who would trade their health for $100,000, minus medical expenses. I know I would not.

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