Some cyclists claim the bike path railroad crossing in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is unsafe after city council rejects injury claims.
In yesterday’s city council meeting, council members unanimously rejected a $100,000 claim from a Capitola woman who was injured after falling while crossing railroad tracks in front of the Boardwalk. The city council rejected a similar claim from another cyclist four months ago.
The Santa Cruz Beach Street sidepath crosses the Union Pacific railroad tracks in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The city painted the sidepath lines so they cross the tracks at a 45 degree angle.
The injured cyclists who fell at this location want more signs warning of the track crossing danger, including signs that tell cyclists to dismount. Santa Cruz transportation coordinator Cheryl Schmitt tells the Santa Cruz Sentinel, though, “We can add more signs and markings, but any traffic engineer will tell you that more signs and markings don’t necessarily mean traffic safety.”
An attorney for one of the injured cyclists says she plans to sue the city to force safety improvements. I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding that the Prokop decision essentially provides blanket immunity for any entity that builds a bike path. “Prokop vs City of Los Angeles” was the 2007 court decision that affirmed that Farnham decision which extended absolute immunity to public entities that build paved bike paths, based on California Government Code 831.4. Prokop argued that California’s Class I bikeways are paved facilities under California’s streets and highways code for which there are minimum design standards, but the court disagreed. The decision for any bike facility design failure lawsuit is going to be either immediate dismissal or summary judgement in favor of the city, so I’m curious what kind of argument the Santa Cruz attorney plans to use. Some have suggested that the sidepath design is so egregiously faulty that a judge must listen to the case.
If you’re interested in the bike view of the Beach Street sidepath, here’s a short example. The video is 2X to 4X actual speed — I’m moving at perhaps 5 MPH where pedestrian traffic is the heaviest. The railroad crossing is at about 45 seconds into the video.
See also Dan Gutierrez’s take on this crossing design.