Attorneys for a Seattle bike commuter argued the main cause of the accident was blocked views where city bridge columns support the Spokane Street Viaduct.
The city of Seattle is on the hook for most of a $2.7 million jury award to a bicyclist run over by a semitruck making a turn in Sodo.
The trucker’s vision was obscured by bridge columns, which were added as part of a recent Spokane Street Viaduct widening, the cyclist’s attorneys argued.
Gabriel Quintanilla, now 28, was riding northbound along the west side of Fourth Avenue South, after work at a hamburger restaurant near Costco at 3 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2014, when he rolled across lower Spokane Street from the sidewalk into the crosswalk. The truck was turning right, to go west on Spokane Street, a common freight corridor. Quintanilla testified he was cycling only 7 mph, said attorney Tony Russo.
Jurors on Friday found the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) was 58 percent at fault, the trucker 21 percent at fault, and the bicyclist 21 percent at fault, he said. The city was has been ordered to pay about $1.6 million.
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A statement from City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office said, “We are considering our options with respect to a potential appeal.” He said the crash was caused by the people involved, not the city.
Bicycling is legal on Seattle sidewalks, and in crosswalks, so long as riders yield to pedestrians. Bicyclists also may not enter a crosswalk so suddenly that drivers are unable to react.
The verdict follows an unrelated jury award of $38 million Thursday against Standard Parking to a bike commuter hit by a parking valet driver on Eighth Avenue.
In the Spokane Street case, city traffic engineer Dongho Chang, an avid bicyclist and safety advocate, acknowledged in a deposition that the city didn’t perform detailed studies of sight lines in the crosswalk before the $164 million Spokane viaduct project opened in 2012. (The project was designed years before Chang joined the city.)
A different crosswalk layout could have solved the problem, Russo said.
Chang said Monday, “We are going to be reviewing our options for what we need to do at that intersection, or others.”
Quintanilla, who suffered hip and leg injuries, can walk but was traumatized by being dragged by the truck, and his injuries will probably thwart a goal he had to become a bike messenger, his attorney said.