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Old 12-26-08, 10:18 AM   #1
unterhausen
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local government will not clear bike paths due to ice related lawsuits

dunno how long this link is good for:
http://www.centredaily.com/news/loca...y/1025852.html



One of the local townships had been considering clearing bike paths. One of the ones mentioned as not being worth clearing in the story is one I use on my commute, the road next to it is 4 lanes with a center turn lane, but there is no shoulder, lanes are fairly narrow, and people drive like they are escaping from the asylum for the criminally insane. But I only have to ride about 2 blocks on it unless I'm feeling brave. In fact, that's the one they should clear because it has the most commuter traffic.

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Councilman Forrest Remick said he was concerned about the cost of the program, which would be more than $9,000. He also expressed concern about the possibility of lawsuits against the township by injured bikers.
IANAL, but isn't there some sort of presumption that the vehicle operator is responsible for their own safety? If I fall off my bike on an icy road, this guy seems to think I can sue them. There was a nasty ice storm last week, and they didn't even try to clear any of it, made life a pain.
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Old 12-26-08, 10:59 AM   #2
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Several Suggestions:

1) Lots of places do it.

Minneapolis Midtown Greenway.
Have the "Parks and Recreation Committee" get a hold of http://www.midtowngreenway.org/ and ask the who, what, why, and who questions, then carry that knowledge into your council chambers.

Madison Wisconsin, likely has good examples and experience as well.

2) Your council person's concerns would be equally applicable to to automobiles on streets, I'm sure they have no plans to stop plowing the streets. I believe you are correct that you bear the risk when using public transit corridors. It could be logically argued that NOT clearing the path introduces the city to liability since they knowingly neglected to NOT clear this transit corridor. I think you would find many more examples of cities getting sued for not addressing road saftey issues. Are they going to stop plowing the sidewalk into city hall, because, after all people might use it then and fall if they were to open the corridor in such a way.

3) Are you a dues paying member of the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition. Sounds like they are out there working for you, send them money, lend a hand.

Good luck.
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Old 12-26-08, 11:25 AM   #3
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"Threat of lawsuit" is often the coward's excuse for not doing something the coward didn't want to do anyway. Let Councilman Forrest Remick show a real threat of liability before accepting it as an excuse. And remember, the city doesn't face a liability threat just because one idiot filed a lawsuit one time one place. Just about anyone can sue anyone else for anything. Heck, you could go down to the clerk's office and sue the city for NOT de-icing it. Of course, filing a lawsuit and winning a lawsuit are two very different things.
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Old 12-26-08, 12:44 PM   #4
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A government usually can't be sued unless it acts maliciously or with gross negligence. (sovereign immunity)
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Old 12-26-08, 12:45 PM   #5
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I agree, not clearing is more of a hazard than clearing it.
Being in michigan, and till recently never living in a city (prefer living out in the boonies) I actually prefer driving on roads that have not been plowed, you get much better traction, and you don't get the morons who think that since the road is clear they can drive like summer

One thing that's always gotten me is that if someone slips and falls on the sidewalk in front of my house, I can be sued. However, if I slip and fall on the sidewalk in front of city hall, it's natural accumulation and I can't sue.

Ken.
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Old 12-26-08, 08:04 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
A government usually can't be sued unless it acts maliciously or with gross negligence. (sovereign immunity)
Nice thought, but not true in real life USA.
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Old 12-26-08, 08:18 PM   #7
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OP, consider filing a notice of hazard that the bike path is not being plowed and that it is your primary transportation route. That not plowing the bike path forces you to use the road. Note that the council has indicated their belief that the bike path is safer than the road (most likely true at some point of the path planning). And if you are injured using the road when the path has not been plowed, you will then sue them for not plowing the path.

My story:
The consultants writing the Hawaii state bike plan intended on recommending that bike paths be closed at night and the State and Honolulu planned on using that recommendation to push through such legislation. At one of the Bike Plan meetings, I made a similar threat as above, that if the bike paths were closed at night. I specifically told the engineering consultants that they would be included in any such case for making the recommendation in the first place. The closure idea got instantly dropped.
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Old 12-26-08, 08:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
Nice thought, but not true in real life USA.
I thought you were wrong so I looked it up. You were right, mostly.
"As of 2003, most states had waived their immunity in various degrees at both the state and local government levels. Generally, state supreme courts first abolished immunity via judicial decisions; later, legislative measures were enacted at the state and local level to accept liability for torts committed by civil servants in the performance of government functions. The law varied by state and locality, however."
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedicti...reign+Immunity
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Old 12-26-08, 10:33 PM   #9
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From the article:

Quote:
"“(The paths) wouldn’t necessarily be safe all the time for travel even though they would be cleared of snow,” Baker said."
Well duh! Is there ever a time where MUPs are safer than traveling on the public streets, where rules are observed by the majority of users?
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Old 12-26-08, 11:47 PM   #10
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one of the problems is that there are 3 municipalities that I ride through on my 5 mile ride to work, and 5 municipalities in what most people consider State College Pa. Even if College township cleared their part of the bike path, my township hasn't even considered it yet.

I did at least join the email list for the bike coalition.
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Old 12-27-08, 10:04 AM   #11
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Fact is the laws from state to state vary. Most states do have some limits as to what they can be held liable for. A notice of claim against a municipality in New York state must be filed within 90 days for instance. Then it goes for a hearing to see if there is a valid claim. Then it either gets nixed or goes forth. The MUP in our neck of the woods has to be cleaned of snow as per the original agreement that gave the money to build it. Common sense should enter in to the equation that if it's icy the the rider beware. I have little patience with people who wish the government would run their lives and always seems to find the government at fault for everything that befalls them. It's usually those same folks that cry the loudest when taxes are raised.
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Old 12-29-08, 07:51 AM   #12
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So, if I get this correctly, the city thinks that they will be sued more IF they clear the roads than if they DON'T clear the roads of ice? And I mean actual lawsuit that a judge has said can proceed, not some fantasy lawsuit dreamed up as an excuse for not doing work.
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Old 12-29-08, 08:35 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daily Commute View Post
"Threat of lawsuit" is often the coward's excuse for not doing something the coward didn't want to do anyway.
Bingo!
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Old 12-29-08, 10:50 PM   #14
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Our city clears the trails. It's annoying because the trails they do clear are sometimes worse to ride than the trails they don't clear.

I don't see how they can be considered negligent for removing snow from a roadway. Even if it does make the roadway more dangerous it's still a reasonable thing to do.
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Old 12-29-08, 10:55 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by crhilton View Post
Our city clears the trails. It's annoying because the tratails they do clear are sometimes worse to ride than the trails they don't clear.

I don't see how they can be considered negligent for removing snow from a roadway. Even if it does make the roadway more dangerous it's still a reasonable thing to do.
Everyone knows that salting a dirt or limestone bike path will ruin it. I hope you guys are talking about just plowing an asphalt path
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Old 12-30-08, 06:13 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I thought you were wrong so I looked it up. You were right, mostly.
"As of 2003, most states had waived their immunity in various degrees at both the state and local government levels. Generally, state supreme courts first abolished immunity via judicial decisions; later, legislative measures were enacted at the state and local level to accept liability for torts committed by civil servants in the performance of government functions. The law varied by state and locality, however."
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedicti...reign+Immunity
In Pennsylvania, the applicable statute waving sovereign immunity for municipalities in certain enumerated circumstances is known as the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa.C.S. section 8542. There is a basic description of it here: http://www.lgc.state.pa.us/deskbook0...l_Immunity.pdf. There is a similar statute known as the Sovereign Immunity Act that applies to claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

OP, you might suggest to your councilman that he have your township solicitor explain to him the ramifications of the PSTCA.
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Old 01-04-09, 11:50 AM   #17
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The MUPs here are never plowed. As a tax payer I'm good with that. I don't think the amount of use in winter can justify the expense of winter maintenace especially in these times of tight municipal budgets and our second annual "2nd snowiest Dec on record". I'd much rather see the resources spent in doing a better job on the roads, altough these are often 2 different jurisdictions (city-county). The path I normally use behind my house I actually prefer them not to plow, as when they have done it for various reasons it really screws up my ski trails. I'm a 3-4K/yr commuter, but usually shut down for the winter due to the road conditions and shortness of daylight.
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Old 01-04-09, 01:38 PM   #18
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Everyone knows that salting a dirt or limestone bike path will ruin it. I hope you guys are talking about just plowing an asphalt path
Portland cement. These are "commuter trails" not those limestone abominations.
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Old 01-05-09, 12:08 AM   #19
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ours are mostly asphalt. They have cut back on salt, and I don't really want them to use it. Scraping would be nice, the only asphalt in the greater State College area with ice on it now are the bike paths. I would go for them just asking the plow operators to avoid making big heaps of ice at every intersection.
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