A Mill Valley man who fell off his bicycle during a charity ride through Petaluma last August is suing the city and says that the poor condition of the road is directly responsible for his injuries.
Chris Minick, a 60-year-old resident of Sunrise Ave., was participating in the Holstein Hundred Charity Bike Ride on August 20, 2011 when he hit a pothole on Western Avenue and fell of his bike.
The crash resulted in a broken clavicle, six broken ribs, a broken wrist and required surgery and a six day hospital stay, according to his complaint filed last month in Sonoma County Superior Court. In fact, Minick is still undergoing treatment a year after the fall, said his attorney Chris Dolan.
“Mr. Minick is an experienced cyclist who was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident,” Dolan said. “Despite that he has injuries that will plague him for the rest of his life, including bleeding of the brain...The city has an obligation to provide roads that are safe for the public.”
Dolan said Minick simply wants to get his life back and has had a hard time doing so because of his injuries. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages that will likely total more than “six figures,” Dolan said.
"This has really altered his life," he said.
Since the accident, Petaluma's Department of Public Works has patched up the pothole and many others in the area.
The suit contends that the city “had the power to prevent, fix and guard against the dangerous condition” and that the potholes on the roadway “created a substantial and reasonably foreseeable risk of serious injury.”
Claims and lawsuits against the city for road conditions make up roughly 25 percent of all legal actions by residents, a number that increased by 70 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to Ron Blanquie, the city’s risk manager.
That’s due to deep budget cuts that have left virtually no money for road repairs within city limits.
“There is a general weakening of the city infrastructure, the ability to do maintenance, to make repairs and respond to conditions,” Blanquie said. “If we had the money to fix everything, we’d love to do that, especially from a risk management point of view. But there are limited resources.”
According to the Metropolitan Transportation commission Petaluma streets are among some of the worst in the Bay Area and received a failing grade in 2010. In the study, Petaluma roads received a score of 55 points, below Bay Area's average of 66 out of 100.
Do you think the city of Petaluma should pay cyclists and pedestrians like Minick who are injured while walking or cycling on city streets? Share your thoughts in the comments below.