The hearsay, the rumor: That the city does not invest in bicycle infrastructure due to liability concerns. That creating bicycle infrastructure improvements might encourage more people to ride, increasing the likelihood of collisions and various other mishaps, thus making it more likely that litigation be brought against the city. The problem with this, as I believe LaVerne will eventually find out, or come to realize, is that it will find itself odd-man-out, and have to grapple with an entire set of related problems. Among those problems are: 1. The city will miss out on associated economic benefits that recent studies have shown accompany bicycle infrastructure enhancements. 2. Much like Claremont, LaVerne seems to promote the image of a small town with modern opportunities; a key component of the small town image is livability, and again, as recent studies indicate, complete streets with active transportation options are a key component of a livable community. 3. Third is the issue that I intended to examine in this post - liability.
But wait, isn't litigation the very thing they seek to avoid? So the rumors suggest. In attempting to limit conditions under which the city might be sued, might they find that strategy turned around and used against them? I am no lawyer, and so these thoughts are simply that, my own somewhat educated conjectures and observations on the subject.
Look at it hypothetically, without any names attached. Lets say that all the other municipalities around "city A" have invested in bicycle transportation infrastructure - they have constructed bike paths, marked bike lanes, designated certain streets as bike routes, marked them as sharrows, in general made some effort to put bicycle transportation on an equal footing with motor vehicle transportation, in essence making it safer to ride. People pass along the bike routes every day. They leave "city B" (where there is a marked route) and enter "city A", bound for "city C" (where there is also a marked route). Lets say something happens in "city A" in between those two marked routes and a rider is injured. Might not "city A" be viewed as negligent in providing a "safe" environment (keep in mind that "safe" is a relative term). Might not "cities B, C, etc" be seen as more safe, and "city A" as less safe due entirely to the lack of infrastructure, and thus negligent for failing to provide minimal, it not equal, measures of safety for people crossing municipal boundaries? Does "city A" have a legal obligation in this case? A moral one?
LaVerne is a nice town. I pass through multiple times a week. I have eaten at its restaurants, shopped at its businesses, and will likely do so again. It's downtown is attractive and "quaint" as you would expect a small town to be. I recently attended a fantastic concert at the University of LaVerne, which hosts many outstanding cultural events on a regular basis. By all accounts LaVerne is a fine place to visit. I also feel it is doing itself, its residents, its business owners, and others who travel to, from, and through on its streets a disservice by failing to address the requirements of all. How are we to regard municipalities such as LaVerne, or Beverly Hills (to cite a similar situation) who fail to keep pace with their neighbors, who by their inaction or lack of policy, leave gaps in regional transportation networks? Is it simply a matter of waiting for time and circumstance to trip them up? Or will it take a more direct approach to initiate the necessary change?