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Wash. DOT settles bike crash lawsuit for $8 million

Posted by on October 26th, 2010 at 11:26 am

This Associated Press story (which I found via BikeHugger on Twitter) from Seattle got my attention for a variety of reasons (which should become apparent after reading the excerpts below)…

WSDOT to pay $8 million over Montlake Bridge bike accident
The state Transportation Department has agreed to pay $8 million to a bicyclist who was paralyzed after his tire got caught in a gap between two steel grates on the Montlake Bridge.

… Gendler sued over the design of the bridge, citing a gap between two steel panels on the bridge deck. At a half-inch, it was wider than his bike tire. The lawsuit uncovered another accident eight years earlier involving a bicyclist that resulted in less serious injuries.

… The gap was similar in size to the flange gap in light rail or streetcar tracks, Milton said.

Officials also assumed it wouldn’t be a problem since most bicyclists use the sidewalk or the right lane when crossing the bridge, Milton said.

Cyclists are legally entitled to travel in the bridge lanes unless a sign prohibits them, Kessler said.

WSDOT has since filled the gap with an epoxy to prevent more accidents, Milton said…”

Portland has a lot of gaps in the road — and lots of streetcar and light rail tracks — that are more than 1/2-inch wide.

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  • Schrauf October 29, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    The difference with train tracks is the gap is a known, common sense hazard visible in advance, and further, such a gap cannot be avoided with any practical engineering design (I assume).

    Gaps where one does not expect them are the ones that indicate negligence and are therefore potentially lawsuit worthy.

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  • Todd Boulanger November 2, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    I am a bit confused at the article’s iformation…a half and inch equals about 12.7 mm. So this is narrower than a the typical retail tire of 21mm. (Or am I doing my math wrong?) This is not to say that an inflated 21mm tire cannot squeeze into such a gap if its pressure where low, wet bridge, etc.

    For safer street riding in the city …one needs a minimum of 28mm or better yet 32mm around tracks and gaps.

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