The Chainlink

Largest Settlement for Injured Cyclist (Riding on the Sidewalk)

A few thoughts about this one in addition to much sympathy for the cyclist. Very sad outcome for Clifford Brown - to need home care because a sidewalk had not been maintained. His life is forever changed. A few questions and thoughts...

1. Is it legal to ride on the sidewalk in San Diego?

2. If it isn't, how did the cyclist manage to get this settlement?

3. What would our city do if in the same position? We have some pretty dangerous conditions in some of our bike lanes and bike paths e.g. lakefront at times. Something every city should take note of - infrastructure is critical to maintain or horrible injuries can occur.

A California cyclist received a massive $4.85 million settlement this week in a personal injury lawsuit with the City of San Diego for its negligence in sidewalk upkeep—one of the largest settlements a cyclist has ever been paid by a US city.

Back in 2014, Clifford Brown was pedaling along College Avenue in Del Cerro to visit a friend when he was launched 28 feet from his bike. A tree root had cracked sidewalk adjacent to the road, creating a ramp-like effect in the pavement. Brown endured tore spinal cord ligaments, several lost teeth, various cuts and bruises, and possibly had a stroke, after sliding another 10 feet and landing on his head, according to the San Diego Tribune and court documents. He spent a month in a hospital, two months in rehab, and is still in home care today.

Brown filed suit against the city in 2015, as San Diego was responsible for repairing the damaged sidewalk that created the problem. But the case just now reached a settlement—one of the largest the city has every paid out in terms of personal injury when infrastructure is in play. (Taking the top spot in San Diego is a $7.6 million settlement awarded in 2012 to a man who was crushed by a fallen tree.)

This isn’t the first time a cyclist has won a multi-million dollar personal-injury settlement against a city with regard to infrastructure negligence. In 1992, an insurance salesman won $3.1 million from Newport Beach after a crash on a poorly-maintained path in the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve left him with severe brain damage. And last July, the City of Seattle settled with a family for $3.5 million after a truck turning killed young mother Sher Kung in 2014—an accident caused by unsafe traffic conditions on the road. Those cases are less common than the more standard payouts of a few thousand dollars in damages.

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There is no state law against sidewalk cycling in California - some CA cities such as San Francisco do not allow cycling on sidewalks, while others like San Diego do allow it.

It looks like San Diego allows cycling on the sidewalk in residential areas, but not in certain business districts.


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