The Los Angeles City Council, after having spent more than $19 million in recent lawsuit payouts stemming from bicycle accidents, voted to create a plan to inspect all bike paths and lanes and devise ways to pay for any needed repairs. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, the city in 2017 paid out more than $19 million in personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits involving bicyclists. That amount is four times higher than any other year over the last decade, according to the Los Angeles Times, which also states that 19 percent of the city’s bike lanes got an F or D grade.
Catastrophic Bicycle Accidents
During depositions, former Bureau of Street Services employees testified that the city had given up the practice of regularly inspecting all its streets about five years ago. Some of the significant payouts in 2017 included $7.5 million for bicyclist William Lao, who was left a quadriplegic after a crash blamed on a substandard street. Yao’s attorney said he got reports showing the city essentially did nothing about a bike lane about which they had received complaints.
The City Council voted 11-0 directing the city’s Department of Transportation to inspect the current condition of every lane mile of Class I and Class II bike paths and lanes within the city. The council also directed the department to produce a timeline and cost estimate to repair deficient bike lanes.
Why Bicyclists Are Affected
Bicyclists, like pedestrians, are among the most vulnerable populations on our roadways. They have very little to protect themselves. When bicyclists are hit by a vehicle, the injuries and damages sustained are significant. Bicyclists who are struck by vehicles often tend to suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord trauma that could result in quadriplegia or paraplegia, multiple broken bones and internal organ damage.
When bicyclists are left with permanent injuries or disabilities, the cost of their care could add up to millions of dollars over their lifetime. Cities tend to pinch pennies when it comes to fixing infrastructure and that is clearly a short-sighted strategy because it eventually costs them more money in the long run. And more importantly, it costs people their lives, their loved ones and their livelihoods. It cannot be acceptable for city officials to ignore dilapidated streets. We as citizens should make our voices heard so our safety doesn’t get put in the back burner.