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City may be liable for Brooklyn Bridge cyclist-pedestrian crash

When a cyclist is involved in a crash in New York City, the cyclist may not be the only one legally responsible for any injuries that result. A local government may also be responsible by not taking adequate precautions to protect cyclists and pedestrians who share the same lane. A judge recently decided that the City may be held liable for these accidents on the Brooklyn Bridge because it knew or should have been aware of the dangers on the bridge that led to a July 2010 collision between a pedestrian and a cyclist.

The bicyclist, in his litigation against the City, claimed that he suffered a fractured wrist and arm along with deep lacerations to his face, knee and fingers after he was thrown from his bicycle when a pedestrian entered the bike lane from the Bridge's walkway. The morning crash occurred when the bicyclist was approximately two-thirds from Manhattan into the Brooklyn side. He argued that the City received constructive notice of this danger because there were five other serious accidents involving bicycle-pedestrian collisions on the bridge from 2008 to 2010.

However, the City argued that it instituted it Markings Plan on the bridge walkway in 2008 to address this danger and to perform the type of government function that kept it immune from being sued in personal injury cases. Under this plan, stick-figure pedestrian images marked a lane for pedestrians while bicycle images designated a cyclist lane, which was separated by a white line. The injured pedestrian argued that this plan was inadequate for City immunity because it did not conduct a safety study before implementing the plan.

A judge ruled that a jury should decide whether the enhanced marking plan, without a study of pedestrian-bicyclist safety, contributed to the bicyclist's injuries. If the City is found negligent, the jury must also find that this negligence was the cause of the cyclist's injuries.

The bicyclist's attorney also argued that the markings are inadequate and that there should be barriers between the two lanes. Approximately 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists travel across the Brooklyn Bridge each day, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.

These type of bicycle and pedestrian accidents can have several responsible parties, such as a vehicle driver or a municipality or property owner. Accident victims should seek prompt legal representation to help assure that they can pursue compensation for their injuries.

Source: New York Law Journal, "Triable Issues Found in Bridge Crash Between Lawyer-Cyclist and Pedestrian," Joel Stashenko, May 8, 2017

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Michael J. Gaffney, Attorney at Law
1164 Victory Blvd.
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