Crashing on Metal Plates not an “Inherent Risk” of Cycling

Crashing on Metal Plates not an “Inherent Risk” of Cycling

Death, taxes, and crashing your bicycle are all certainties in life. Whether you are a competitive cyclist, dedicated bike commuter, or simply a weekend warrior, it is not a question of “if” you are going to crash your bike; it is a matter of “when.” However, this certainty does not eliminate the duty of others to keep the road safe for cyclists. Or so says a trial court in California.

In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California, Santa Clara County (Hilai v. Sanco Pipelines, Inc., et al., No. 1-13-CV-249442), a cyclist has claimed that Sanco Pipelines and San Jose Water Company were negligent in placing a raised metal plate on the roadway in a construction area allegedly owned and controlled by the Defendants. On September 15, 2015, the court denied the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment which argued that California’s doctrine of “primary assumption of risk” bars the cyclist from recovering for his injuries because “bicyclists who practice their sport on public streets assume the risk of encountering construction on public roads.”

In denying the Defendants’ Motion, the court recognized that “falling is an inherent risk of bicycling.” However, falling because of raised metal plates on the road is not.

Applying California’s “primary assumption of risk” doctrine, the court reasoned that the parties who own or control a roadway have a “duty to maintain the roadway in a safe and useable condition because the nature of the sport of road bicycling is not altered if roadways refrain from creating potential hazards or warn of their existence.” In other words, a cyclist does not assume the risk that metal plates or other potential road hazards may be unexpectedly encountered.

Aside from these metal plates, what are the most dangerous road hazards that you’ve encountered on a bike? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

***Disclaimer: The information, comments and links posted on this blog do not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship has been or will be formed by any communication(s) to, from or with the blog and/or the blogger. For legal advice or more information, contact Rick Holzworth or an attorney actively practicing in your jurisdiction.

Rick Holzworth is a competitive cyclist and a lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA.

Rick Holzworth is a competitive cyclist and a lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA.

6 Comments

  1. I once crashed over a speed bump which had all the yellow paint worn off. Hit it going about 20mph. Never saw it coming. Ouch! That was my first crash on a road bike.

    And ironically, my last crash was on cross walk paint on a rainy day.

    Reply
    • Speed bumps present an interesting dilemma for cyclists. Road furniture is designed control the speed of vehicular traffic which, in theory, makes the roadways safer for cyclists. However, these traffic control devices are a common cause of accidents for everyone from commuters to World Tour racers. I think appropriate signage is key.

      Reply
  2. Those damn railroad tracks on River Ave, which are perfectly angled in the most dangerous direction, have giant hard lego-like rubber raised blocks around them which get hideously slick when wet and have a bunch of protruding edges to catch your wheel, and infuriatingly don’t even go anywhere. Old unused track that stretches only across that one section of road.

    Reply
    • Anna-Lena,

      I am very, very familiar with those railroad tracks, and I agree with you. Check out one of my earlier articles – “Now that we’ve build it, are they legally obligated to come.” Here, I discuss Pennsylvania’s “choice of way” doctrine. While it’s annoying to enter and exit a cinder trail, perhaps using the trail to avoid the railroad tracks is a good option.

      Reply
  3. I was riding home, admittedly too fast for dusk with a weak headlight, within a dedicated bicycle lane above the curb (next to the pedestrian sidewalk). I dropped down to road surface for an intersecting road and saw that a my path back onto the bike lane was blocked by regular curb that had been installed – about a 14″ granite wall. I braked so hard that while I saw my front wheel stop about 4″ before the curb I flipped over the handlebars, breaking my wrist and a couple of ribs. My stupidity combined with construction idiocy (those curbs are gone so that bicyclists can zip up and down to the bike lane) caused lots of pain.

    Reply
    • I’m sorry about your accident, Jim. But I’m glad to hear that the curb issue was remedied.

      Reply

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