Bicyclists are particularly exposed to road dangers, especially at night, and far too many crash. They are often injured, but not always badly enough to justify the cost of litigation. As a result, a majority of these hazards are unreported to local governments.
One way to attract the attention of a government entity is the threat of successful litigation. This requires proof of the entity’s actual or implied knowledge of the dangerous condition. Failure to act after such notice creates a strong case for liability.
An amicable alternative to litigation is to simply provide the government entity with notice of a specific condition, with the hope that the defect will be timely repaired in the interest of protecting its citizens. The people may be the eyes of the city, but the ultimate responsibility for repair lies with the government itself. Fair notice must be given. To this end, I created a website called HawkEye Road Hazards, or “HRH.” HRH is a mobile-optimized site with an interactive map of dangers to bicyclists, (pot holes, debris, construction and more). On the site, a bicyclist can create a free account to report the location of road hazards with GPS coordinates. A description and photo of the hazard can be uploaded and will be identified on a map for others to see. The site also lists city road repair contacts, friendly bicycle shops, and other helpful resources.
With HRH, once a defective road condition is identified and marked on the aerial map, the bicyclist can e-mail the local repair department of the responsible entity to provide notice of the dangerous condition. Having the exact GPS coordinate, coupled with a picture and description on the map, provides fair notice so the hazard can be fixed. HRH contains web links to the proper road repair departments for notification of needed repairs. These HRH markers also provide other friends with advanced warning to avoid injury.
To increase exposure, I have listed friendly bicycle shops to help spread the word because of their daily interaction with bicyclists. This list will also assist you in case you are in need of a tube, GU or even a repair while you are on a ride. By accessing the site, you can find the shop nearest to you in your time of distress.
Keep in mind that if litigation against a public entity is necessary, in California the injured bicyclist must first file a government claim form before commencing suit. This form must be filed with the responsible entity within six months of the injury, and is a mandatory precursor to filing a lawsuit. If the injured party fails to meet this deadline, it will likely bar any right to seek just compensation, more detail contained in this issues’ Legal Cycling column. In the interests of safety and justice, I hope you find my HRH site helpful. Please spread the word, participate in the site, and keep the good ideas flowing to promote safe bicycling!