Palo Alto pays $400K in bike-crash settlement | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto pays $400K in bike-crash settlement

Woman thrown from bike after hitting metal plates on Bryant Street

Palo Alto will pay $400,000 to settle a claim from a 57-year-old woman who suffered brain injuries after being thrown from her bicycle in the 2100 block of Bryant Street in 2008, Interim City Attorney Don Larkin said.

Although she was wearing a helmet, Janet Pierce of Cupertino was injured after her bicycle struck a construction-related steel trench plate. Her original claim was for $1.12 million.

Larkin called the settlement "fair," considering Pierce's injuries and the potential liability to the city should the case have gone to trial.

"We think it's a very fair settlement given the nature of the accident and seriousness of the injuries and the fact that liability is really uncertain," he said.

"The reality is, nobody knows exactly what happened and there would have been experts testifying and it would depend on which experts the jury believed.

"It's fair for us to accept some responsibility, but certainly not the full responsibility," Larkin said.

The accident has prompted the city to add safety precautions around metal plates, he said.

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Like this comment
Posted by commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:02 am

The Mercury-News says she suffered very serious injuries, including brain damage and brain surgery. The settlement seems very small in comparison.

The Mercury-News also says the city is working to make these road traps safer. The metal plates are almost invisible on shady roads and their sharp corners and slippery surface is very hazardous for bicyclists (and cars). The city is now posting warning signs near these hazards and adding a rubberized non-slip to surface.

Like this comment
Posted by daily biker
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

I haven't seen any rubberized non-slip surfaces yet, but I have seen the Bicyclist Extreme Caution signs, which often stay up for days and days, with a very poor asphalt transition. It seems like with better coordination between city departments and/or contractors, the plates wouldn't need to be in place for days and days.

Like this comment
Posted by old biker
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Even the steel plates that have corrugated surfaces (but not rubberized) are very slick when wet and do not allow any kind of traction when braking on a bicycle.

Like this comment
Posted by Annoyed on Forest Ave
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 16, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Better yet would be for the city to coordinate it's underground upgrades instead of digging up the same city streets over and over again. If it was my house I had to pay each time my driveway was dug up, I would put off as long as possible, and then upgrade them all at once. I certainly wouldn't dig up my own driveway 5 times in 10 years (like the street out front of my house has been done by the city contractors).

Like this comment
Posted by working mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I completely agree with "annoyed" - the city of Palo Alto in the 17 years we have lived on our street has had the road torn up 4 or 5 times. Poor planning processes have led to the jumble of poorly paved streets all over town.

Like this comment
Posted by Bay Road
a resident of University South
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Bay Road has had big steel plates exposed for a very long time - it's crazy - if they can't finish a repair, why do they even start?

Like this comment
Posted by susan b
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Ah, yes, but if City of PA actually planned these things in an organized way they might not need so many people on the payroll or as many "consultants". PA has far more employees than are used in towns of comparable size and are the results better, faster, or more efficient? Hah!

Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm

There should be signage that warns approaches vehicles and bicyclista of any temporary change in street pavements, such as the presence of steel plates. It is true that they are not very visible, especially on gray days and at night. I have been startled many times upon arriving on them with my car. I have many times wished there was a warning sign. In Europe they have such signs for the slightest problems with the pavement. Here usually nothing.

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Posted by commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm

In the past year, I have started seeing signs near road hazards. I assume these were in response to this woman's injuries. The signs are small and close to the ground; probably aimed more at bicyclists than at high speed car drivers. Also, the signs are pretty invisible at night.

Why can't they paint the plates bright yellow with reflectors? There are rubberized paints that do not interfere with tire traction.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm

What is the deal w/the roads? I see the same ones torn up time & again. My friends joke that what folks pay to live on, say, Hamilton Ave., & they end up w/streets similar to EPA & it's ridiculous. My partner bikes to Stanford every day & between the unsafe roads & terrible drivers it's hard to find a safe route. Sheesh, if we lived deep in the 'hood it'd be even worse & not safe enough to bike at all.

Like this comment
Posted by Born in PA
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2010 at 7:26 am

I have relocated the the Midwest where roads are left torn up and construction left exposed for weeks. There are no metal construction plates, there is only a pile of debris as a warning. The city doesn't even pay for claims related to major vehicle damage due to potholes. There are no bike lanes. Riders and drivers beware. Accidents happen, but the severity does not imply that there is a party to blame.

I would feel privileged to live again in a city that employs the precautions that Palo Alto does for its residents.

Like this comment
Posted by who cares
a resident of Triple El
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:22 pm

oh well, it's only $400,000.....

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2010 at 11:48 pm

We do not have money for street repairs-we have obligations for city employee current and long term benefits that must be paid. Do not expect this to change....get over it!

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

Maybe they should do some testing and spray those plates with the same material they use for trucks and military vehicles. That epoxy rough coating they use for pickup truck bedliners. Its very durable and is non slip, very non slip depending on how much texture they put on it. Plus it stands up to chemicals and UV rays.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

The problem is not a lack of standards or good policies. The problem is the lack of city inspectors to make sure all the contractors are following the rules. Without this enforcement it doesn't matter how good your requirements are because the workers will cut corners and leave trenches without adequate covers. This has been going on for years.

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