Santa Cruz bike path rail crossing

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.

Bike crossing over railroad tracks

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.”

Share the Lane in Santa Cruz

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.

Bike crossing over railroad tracks

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.


  1. None of those people should come to San Francisco. After learning balance and door zone avoidance, the next lesson is streetcar track crossing. We don’t get arrows telling us the tracks are there, either, but we learn real fast!

  2. Last weekend I just got into an accident while biking on this bike lane with rail road crossing in front of SC board walk. I fell from my bike and got injured severely. Multiple wrist bones of mine were broken. I have to go through surgery soon.
    This article was in 2011. Same kind of accidents still happen in 2022. This is definitely a dangerous bike trail for cyclists
    Nothing has changed or get improved! Would the city of SC do something about it??? Or people will continue getting injured on this bike trail ?

  3. Xuan, you have my sympathies. Your broken wrist sounds awful. Planning is underway right now for Segment 8 of the Santa Cruz County rail/trail project, which includes this portion in front of the Boardwalk. Public comment period just ended but I see a number of comments were received asking to improve that crossing across the roundabout.

  4. Thanks for your response, Richard
    I just went through the surgery yesterday. My wrist bones on my dominant hand are severely damaged ( broken in half, chipped, misaligned)
    This is not acceptable!! Accidents had happened in the same area since 2011 or even before.

  5. My college-aged daughter is in SC for a summer internship and just broke her elbow at the very same location on the RR tracks. The tracks are located in the middle of an S curve in the bike path. She was taking the curve slow and being cautious however, the bike just slipped on the tracks out from underneath her. She has since heard of others falling at the same spot, There is an odd yellow “warning sign” that shows a bike tire caught up in what appears to be either the nearby speed bumps or the tracks. The yellow sign is not at all a familiar traffic sign (stop, yield, etc) and appears to be for this location specifically. Not sure how a biker in motion is supposed to process the warning this sign is trying to convey when it’s not clear the precise danger (speed bumps, RR tracks?) and is posted only split seconds from the danger zone. What a shame, you wonder how many others will be injured here this summer? My sympathies to you Xuan Duong, a quick google search shows lawsuits (from a decade ago) for this very issue, maddening.

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