The Arizona Daily Star’s transportation reporter writes that a woman who crashed her bike on streetcar tracks has filed a $3 million claim.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

Lawyers for Angel Welch sent notice of her personal injury claim to the RTA and city-owned Sun Tran transit service earlier this year, saying they’ll settle for $3 million.

The crash happened in August as Welch was turning south from Congress Street onto Fifth Avenue. Her tire caught in the groove between the tracks and pavement and she was thrown into the street.

Welch is now permanently disabled, with memory loss and communication problems, according to her lawyers, Barry Bellovin and David Karnas. Her medical bills are around $450,000, they said in a letter to the RTA.

The lawyers assert in their letter that the RTA was negligent and used inadequate maintenance, substandard design, dangerous construction and inadequate warning signage in the streetcar project. The claim is an offer to settle before a lawsuit is filed.

Read the rest of Pallack’s article to see the RTA and City’s response.

I do not recall seeing any of the warning signs that they have placed along the route (you can see them above) at that intersection.

Interestingly, the tracks where Welch crashed have actually been installed for many years and were not a result of the new construction of streetcar tracks.

Here’s the Google Streetview of the intersection:

View Larger Map

26 thoughts on “Woman files $3 million claim for bike crash on streetcar tracks”
  1. As much as I know taxpayers will be supporting this person to a large degree for a long time even if this demand is rejected and she doesn’t win, this isn’t bad design but bad riding. It’s an accident, and the injuries could have happened at any intersection where there was debris in the road or any other hazard. She wasn’t paying attention, period. Anyone with regular amounts of common sense knows not to ride in grooves, she was careless about her surroundings, and suffered horribly for it.
    Could the city do better? I guess maybe. Will a $3M settlement change the danger? No. Drivers and riders ignore signs to their own detriment, just as they ignore road conditions and other things. Phoenix has drivers who go on the designated lanes for trains, so it’s not as if you can take human error out of everything.
    I’d rather have a government that pays decent amounts to disabled people to live than a government that has to bend over backwards to keep people from making mistakes.

  2. Were those new tracks? I don’t remember the trolley car going down that far; I think this is streetcar infrastructure.

  3. @Greta These tracks were ones they put in when they were redoing the Fourth Avenue underpass several years ago.

  4. I don’t think that it’s ever acceptable to draw firm conclusions from reading a newspaper article about litigation.  Without meaning to be snarky, that’s especially true with a local newspaper’s reporting.  There’s not enough information to know that the city is at fault or that the rider was at fault.  There’s gotta be a lot more to the story that what is in the AZ Star’s piece.
    Mr. Meade says the the rider wasn’t paying attention. I’m not sure how he’s formed that conclusion since the article doesn’t say much about her conduct.  
    The article does say that the city is accused by the rider’s lawyer of being  negligent and using inadequate maintenance, substandard design, dangerous construction and inadequate warning signage.  “Negligence” means that, if proved, the City owed a duty of care to the rider, and failed to meet that duty.  Is the city required to provide to the rider adequate maintenance, proper design, danger-free construction and adequate warning signage?
    We know that a rider can easily get caught in tracks. Riders are usually cautious when met with tracks.This rider crashed and was severely injured. Why did she crash? The article fails to answer this question.  Her lawyers blame the city.

  5. arsolot If you purposefully ride in grooves, you’re an idiot. I prefer to believe people who do so are either ignorant of the possible consequences or aren’t doing so purposefully. So I believe she wasn’t paying attention or was otherwise distracted (by traffic? who knows?) The choices are that she did something stupid by accident or by purpose, and I, without much evidence to make that conclusion, prefer to believe (until proven otherwise) that she was careless.

  6. There are numerous situations that could lend a cyclist to cross the tracks at a bad angle. I wouldn’t ever assume carelessness. It’s possible to stay to the right of the tracks in that turn, but if you advance the picture you see a truck parked that would force a bad crossing and if you want to turn left from 5th onto Broadway, that forces another bad crossing. Also evident from the picture is the ‘lip’ that is forming between the concrete and asphalt. All these points and more were discussed ad nauseam and most all were pooed-pooed by the city. So let them poo-poo the $3 million. It’s the way they wanted it.

  7. We can’t say that we didn’t try to warn the city. We did.
    And here goes Martha, thumping the agitation tub again. I was at Tuesday evening’s Tucson Bus Riders Union gathering at the Rialto Theatre. 
    It was about having a Downtown for everyone and keeping the Ronstadt Transit Center as it is. A place where people can get on and off buses. There also was talk of making it into much more. Like a beautiful park. A garden. A community gathering spot.
    Around 300 people attended. The message was clear: The transit users of Tucson are a force to be reckoned with.
    Which leads me to ask: Where is the Tucson Bicycle Riders Union?

  8. MikeMcKisson  Was the design of the previous tracks the same design as the tracks currently in place?

  9. @Randy Garmon MikeMcKisson I’m not aware of any changes, but I haven’t compared them.

  10. I am curious if this woman was wearing a helmet, and if so or not, how that factor may influence the outcome of this case?

  11. theahlilea I’m also curious if a helmet was worn. It seems unlikely (though maybe not impossible) that she was going fast enough that she would sustain that kind of damage if she was wearing a helmet.

  12. theahlilea Helmets don’t prevent traumatic brain injuries. One of my friends was in a car-bike collision and he’s now TBI. Will be for the rest of his life.

  13. MarthaRetallick theahlilea  I didn’t mean to imply that if someone isn’t wearing a helmet they deserve in any way, shape, or form to be injured, I was just curious, especially in the idea that the city was negligent t to protect her, I wonder if bikers could be seen as at all negligent if they don’t use the basic safety precautions?
    A helmet is not guarantee against injury as well, of course. I’m very sorry to hear about your friend. I have actually been in two car vs. pedestrian accidents (oh, Tucson drivers…), and I have seen how even a minor one can have major impacts on a persons life. 
    I had a small bike vs trolly track accident myself just a couple weeks ago. I have taken the Pima county UA centered bike saftely class even, and yet there was a situation in which I felt myself obliged by traffic to cross the tracks in a way I normally wouldn’t and I got stuck. I didn’t even have enough time to think realize what was happening before I was on the ground in the street. I do have some minor repercussions (wrist and knee pain), but I know the major one of my head hitting the road was avoided in my case by my helmet. I wish I saw more cyclists around the UA wearing helmets, because none of us know when that kind of moment will arise.

  14. MarthaRetallick Helmets don’t prevent traumatic brain injuries? Then what do they do? They cannot prevent all brain injuries and a car vs bike collisions can generate a tremendous amount of force which a helmet may not be able to prevent. It is horrible what happened to your friend and I hope the person who caused the accident has been held accountable.

  15. In Arizona cyclists over the age of 16 are not required by law to wear helmets. Commenters here and elsewhere (such as the click-hungry Arizona Daily Star) can emote and tsk, tsk all they want. Fine, have fun and catharsis, throw it all around. Thing is, almost invariably these claims end up in court as cases where a judge who is sworn to follow the law (unlike a City Clerk or a Richard Miranda), will, presumably and properly, ignore whether the individual was wearing a helmet as irrelevant.
    The whole helmet thing, the self-indulgent tortured gas bagging– the throwing around of “stupid” as mr meade seems to enjoy, ignores planning and engineering flaws in the modern streetcar.

  16. Red Star Good points. Thanks for addressing how the factor of a helmet would be dealt with legally, as that was my original question. I
    did notice on this article that the tracks in question were NOT for the modern
    street car but were old tracks. Am I incorrect in this understanding?
    Assuming it IS about old track design, I wonder if people will argue
    this isn’t relevant to the new track design, regardless of the outcome of this case.

  17. theahlilea MarthaRetallick Helmets REDUCE injuries. Just like wearing a seat belt doesn’t guarantee survival, wearing a helmet just makes it less likely that certain types of bad results are either lessened or avoided in some collisions. Sheesh, the enemy of the Good really is The Perfect some days. Some people just can’t understand risk, go into anecdata, and continue on their merry way. Thanks for sticking up for reality, theahilia.

  18. theahlilea Red Star It is new track put in at the time of the new underpass construction and/or maybe it was pulled up and put back during the recent construction, but it was and has been new style track. The intent was to have the old trolley run that loop and back to 4th Ave. until the new streetcar was ready. Another foible in a long string.

  19. Red Star All true but this is a civil suit and regardless of whether helmet use is legally required, the injured party can be held responsible for some or all of her injuries.  And a jury might ding her for not wearing a helmet even if they didn’t put it that way.  So, it does matter, and will not, alas, be “ignored.”

  20. First of all the city has been worn 5 years ago that the tracks could harm people who ride bikes…the city paid no mind and went with these tracks any way….which therefore makes the city responsible….that was also mentioned in the article.

  21. If we want to talk about equipment use, like helmets, and it’s impact on injuries, every accident that has happened, and every accident that WILL happen on the tracks, could all be prevented if it were mandatory to ride a tricycle!  It’s true, even if I do have my tongue firmly in my cheek.  3wheeler, signing out.

  22. Ok people you all have a problem. If you want to talk bad about a person and try to blame them for something you should do your research on the stuff first. Rta and sun tran are the ones being file against since it is not the city being sued don’t cry and whine about the tax payer having to pay cause the city is not the rta or sun Tran they are private companies.

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