Busted streets + incompetent city employees + you + bike = potential lawsuit! At least for now.
In most cities, if you injure yourself because of a neglected or damaged sidewalk or street, you can file a “trip and fall” lawsuit and claim damages. But California may soon change that for bicycle riders.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, (R-Dana Point) has proposed a law that would provide total immunity for governments and their employees in the event of a bike accident caused by faulty city infrastructure. Public agencies already have “design immunity” under state law (i.e. you can’t sue because of the poor layout of a road or bike lane), but this bill would broadly extend that immunity:
This bill would provide that a public entity or an employee of a public entity acting within his or her official capacity is not be [sic] liable for an injury caused to a person riding a bicycle while traveling on a roadway, if the public entity has provided a bike lane on that roadway.
So OK, the state must be thinking that if you disregard the city’s very thoughtful bike lane and go riding out into the road and a city bus hits you, the city shouldn’t be responsible, right? Oh, except for this part: “The immunity set forth in this section is applicable regardless of whether the bicyclist was within the bike lane at the time of the accident.” (Emphasis mine because omg.)
And because of the broad language used, this bill wouldn’t just give cities immunity for their infrastructure — it would also indemnify the actions of city employees. As the California Bicycle Coalition puts it, “if you get hit by a drunk city employee, you’ll have no recourse.”
According to Cyclelicious, “State and local bike advocacy groups are already gearing up to fight this bill.” Hurry up, folks! And, uh, don’t trip.