The City of San Diego is poised to pay out another large sum for failing to maintain safe bike lanes and roads for pedestrians.
On Tuesday (December 13) city councilmembers are expected to finalize a $235,000 legal settlement to Cathleen Summerford, who was seriously injured after her bicycle struck a pothole in 2014 on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla. The money will be paid from the city's public liability fund.
According to a October 2015 lawsuit, Summerford was riding her bicycle on Torrey Pines Road near the Salk Institute when her tire went into a pothole three inches deep and fifteen inches wide. The collision sent Summerford over the handlebars and onto the pavement, causing injuries to her head, pelvis, and lower back.
Summerford's attorneys say the city had been made aware of dangerous potholes on that stretch of road and failed to make the necessary repairs in response to the complaints.
"Numerous complaints over the years established the poor conditions of the roadway in that area and the temporary fixes applied by the City of San Diego to alleviate the multitude of potholes in the area did not resolve the long-term cause of the potholes," reads the October 2015 complaint. "In addition, the particular pothole at issue had existed for a sufficient enough time that the City of of San Diego should have known of its existence."
Summerford is not the only cyclist to sue the city for failing to maintain safe lanes for bikes. As reported by the Reader, cyclists have filed numerous similar suits over the course of the past five years.
Samantha Ollinger, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group BikeSD, says the city can be proactive by spending money on improving road conditions as well as enhance safety for cyclists and pedestrians instead of having to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements.
"I hate to state the obvious, but this is completely avoidable — both the dangerous road conditions that harm bicycle riders, pedestrians, and drivers, along with the settlements the city has to keep making," says Ollinger.
The city has been slow to respond to other improvements as well, says Ollinger.
In 2012 BikeSD began lobbying elected officials and city employees to install protective barriers along bike lanes to prevent collisions. Their efforts have mostly been ignored.
"Bike San Diego has been advocating for protected bike lanes since 2012, and the city only seems to install them after there has been an avoidable tragedy instead of being proactive.
"Paying out settlements for avoidable problems can't be the long-term strategy for a government eager to be fiscally responsible while ensuring the safety and livability for her residents and visitors."
City councilmembers will discuss the settlement during the 10 a.m. Tuesday (12/13) meeting in council chambers.