|Lawsuit Promised Over Bicyclist's Death
January 27, 2007
Caltrans recently completed posting signage and installing rumble strips to better define the bike lanes that share the I-580 freeway on the east end of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. In my opinion, using that bike lane is tantamount to Russian Roulette, and Caltrans has probably made it worse by making it look more inviting. When will Caltrans get their head out of the sand and create a physical separation to make this bike lane safe? And when will Chevron help save lives by cooperating in providing sufficient roight-of-way to create the safe bike and hiking trail to Point Molate that they committed to in 2001?
For some history, see http://www.pointrichmond.com/baytrail/whatnow.htm.
The one thing I donít understand is why the City of Richmond is threatened with a lawsuit. This bike lane problem has been a Chevron and Caltrans problem the whole time. In this case, the City has been the good guy for a change.
Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007
Lawsuit over I-580
bike crash promised
An attorney for the victims of a fatal bicycle accident on Interstate 580 has notified several agencies that the victims intend to sue for more than $25 million.
In the September accident, a driver swerved into a designated freeway bicycle lane at 65 mph and collided head on with bicyclists Dan Weinstein, 42, and Dan Doellstedt, 40. Weinstein died of a massive head injury, and Doellstedt lost the use of his legs because of a severe spine injury.
Caltrans and the city of Richmond created hazardous conditions on and near the freeway bicycle path -- just east of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll booth -- by not posting signs warning drivers of the possible presence of bicyclists, attorney Christopher Dolan said, nor were signs posted to warn bicyclists there is no barrier between the narrow bicycle path and speeding cars and trucks.
"Caltrans has 45 days to respond to the complaint," Dolan said. "But we anticipate they will go into denial mode and not face up to the fact that they created an idiotic death trap."
The complaints on behalf of Doellstedt and Weinstein's wife and two daughters name Caltrans and the city, which maintains bike paths that feed directly into the freeway path, as well as three other agencies. Dolan said he expects to file the suit in state Superior Court sometime in the next two months.
Neither Richmond City Attorney John Eastman nor Caltrans would comment on the complaints.
Weinstein, who moved to Australia 15 years ago, was visiting his hometown when he went for a 40-minute bicycle ride out to scenic Point Molate with boyhood friend Doellstedt and Richmond resident Michael Meyer before a family barbecue Sept. 24. The only route to Point Molate requires riding on the freeway shoulder for 200 yards, and Caltrans acknowledges the danger.
On the return trip, Weinstein and Doellstedt were riding eastbound on the shoulder when Albany resident Fayez Elgiheny, 55, headed westbound in his red Toyota Camry, swerved across the 10-foot-wide bicycle lane, struck the freeway's outer concrete wall, then bounced back into the bicycle lane and into Weinstein and Doellstedt, according to the California Highway Patrol's accident report. Elgiheny told investigators he swerved to avoid what may have been a brown BMW that cut him off. Three witnesses told investigators they saw no other vehicle near Elgiheny's Toyota.
Since the accident, the bicycle path has remained open, though Caltrans recently posted signs for both drivers and bicyclists. The agency also has installed Botts' dots -- raised markers that alert drivers they are crossing lanes -- between the bicycle path and adjacent freeway lane, said Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss.
"Additionally, we have installed rumble strips on the innermost section of the shoulder in case motorists drift over the white line. They will hit the strips, and there will be an audible warning that they should return to their lane," he said.
The new safety features are good news but overdue, Dolan said.
"It's too bad a man had to die and another had to be made a paraplegic before Caltrans did what it should have done years ago," he said. "It's a good thing for others, but it's a too little, too late for my clients."
Reach John Geluardi at 510-262-2787 or firstname.lastname@example.org