Dangerous Bike Path Causes Fatal Accident


Civil Engineering Expert WitnessThis case takes place in Michigan and involves a bicycle accident that occurred on a newly constructed bike path in a public park. The bike path was constructed in a large park, and covered terrain ranging from open fields to wooded areas. At some points, the bike path ran alongside a steep hill with a sharp drop-off on one side of the path. The plaintiff was new to the area and was riding his mountain bike along the trail after dark. At some point, the plaintiff reached the point in the trail in which the drop-off occurred. The trail did not have adequate lighting, nor were there any signs warning of the drop-off or guardrails to prevent riders from falling over the edge. The plaintiff rode directly off of the path, apparently due to the lack of visibility, and fell down the drop-off to his death.

 

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Have you designed and built multi-use pathways for bicycles and pedestrians?
  • 2. What changes should have been made to the design and construction of this path in order to prevent accidents like this?

Expert Witness Response E-000436

I have extensive experience with bike paths and multi-use pathways. I have consulted on and engineered a number of bike paths and am very familiar with the specifications and codes. Landscape architects are always building walkways that are riddled with building code violations. This is just another one of them. Any drop-off more than 20 inches must have a guard or railing. The drop-off from one level to the next here is well beyond that limit. This is clearly a code violation. Unless there are exciter colors to catch his attention and the whole horizon here was relaxer colors, he would come upon this hazard too sudden to react, and was likely not aware of the danger, especially. Given my experience with multi-use pathways, having reviewed the pictures of the accident scene, I think this case has merit.

Expert Witness Response E-008893

I have been a part of various civil engineering projects throughout my 30+ year career, and have extensive experience with the design of bike paths and walkways. The bike path in question that has a  significant drop-off should have appropriate signs to give advance warning to the rider of the coming danger and to show the presence of the abrupt drop-off. In addition, the lack of lighting on this section of the trail is obviously dangerous, and would make this part of the trail a hazard even if proper warnings and guard rails were in place. This is a clear violation of best practices and building codes.

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