FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COURT OF APPEALS RULING AFFIRMS RIGHT OF CYCLISTS TO SAFE ROADS
The California Court of Appeal recently rejected an appeal by the County of Sonoma that would have threatened the safety of everybody who rides bikes on roads “for recreation.”
The case stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Catherine Williams, who suffered severe and permanent injuries when she struck a large pothole on a county road. The 4-inch deep, 13 square foot wide pothole had been reported to the County six weeks earlier. The jury sided with Williams, declaring the road to be an illegal “dangerous condition.”
The County’s appeal claimed that Williams was engaging in a “sport” and therefore had to assume the risk of a crash, according to state law that exempts the state from liability for dangers inherent in a sport. The Court disagreed, stating that the County already owed a duty to other foreseeable users of the road to repair the pothole, the policy reasons underlying the primary assumption of risk doctrine support the conclusion that the County owes a duty not to increase the inherent risks of long-distance, recreational cycling.
The decision is incredibly important to everyone who rides a bike on public roads.
Eris Weaver, Executive Director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, hailed the victory. “As California burns, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get people out of cars is visible in the smoky air. The vast increase in bike sales since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates great interest and willingness among our residents to shift their mode of transportation. The ruling in this case affirms the rights of ALL users to safe transportation and puts cities and counties on notice that cyclists cannot be treated as second-class citizens.” with the County, the government would have no expectation of safe conditions on the roadway
Napa appellate specialist Alan Charles “Chuck” Dell’Ario represented Williams on appeal following an excellent trial presentation by Oakland lawyers Todd Walburg and co-counsel Celine Cutter. “This is an important victory for the cycling community statewide,” Dell’Ario said. “All public entities have a duty not to increase the inherent risks of cycling.” The state association of counties and league of cities had filed briefs supporting the county.
“We’re grateful that the Court demonstrated common sense. Bicycling is a joyful thing and not a dangerous sport if the government maintains the roads in the condition that they should,” said Dave Snyder, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition.