A JURY SHOULD decide whether New York City is liable for a bicyclist-pedestrian
accident on the Brooklyn Bridge walkway that bikers and walkers share,
a judge has decided.
Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Reginald Boddie on May 4 denied the city's
motion for summary dismissal of the personal injury suit brought by attorney
Donald Olenick, who contends in Olenick v. City of New York, 23466/11,
that the city's negligence caused his July 2010 accident.
Olenick said he suffered a fractured wrist and arm and deep lacerations
to his face, knee and fingers when he was thrown from his bike after a
pedestrian stepped from the walking lane into the bike lane on the bridge's
walkway. He was about two-thirds of the way from the Manhattan side of
the bridge to the Brooklyn side when the morning accident occurred.
Olenick argued that the frequency of accidents between pedestrians and
bicyclists on the bridge-his papers cited five serious accidents from
2008 and 2010, in addition to his own-effectively provided the city with
actual or constructive notice of the same dangers that led to his injuries.
The city countered that when it created the "Markings Plan" on
the Brooklyn Bridge's walkway in 2008, it was both addressing the
dangers Olenick complained about and performing the "archetypical
discretionary, governmental functions" that establishes municipals'
immunity from liability.
Among other things, the plan provided for stick-figure images of a pedestrian
to mark the lane for walkers on the bridge and images of bikers to mark
the bicyclists' lane. The walking and the bicycling lanes are separated
by a white line.
Boddie said that while the city acknowledged that pedestrianbicyclist accidents
occurred "frequently" on the bridge, the city's adoption
of the "Markings Plan" did not represent an adequate city response
that would allow it to invoke immunity.
No study of safety on the walkway preceded adoption of the enhanced markings
on the lane, the justice noted.
"Plaintiff argues that because the city did not conduct a study prior
to creating the plan, the city cannot invoke the qualified immunity defense,"
Boddie wrote in his decision. "The court agrees."
Boddie said a jury should decide whether the city's adoption of the
2008 enhanced marking plan in the absence of a wider study on pedestrian-bicyclist
safety on the bridge contributed to Olenick's injuries. If jurors
find the city negligent, they must also find that the negligence constituted
the proximate cause of the accident if the city is to be held liable for
Olenick's injuries under municipal liability precedents, Boddie wrote.
"The circumstances here present questions of fact, which must be submitted
to a jury. Accordingly, defendant's motion for summary judgment and
to dismiss the complaint is denied in entirety," he concluded.
"This will be good news to all the bicyclists who have had similar
problems with the inadequate markings between the bicycle lanes and the
pedestrian lanes on the bridge," His lawyer said in an interview
Monday. "Both sides, really. There really should be barriers to separate
A spokesman for the city's Department of Law, which represented the
city, said the ruling was under review and declined further comment.
An estimated 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn
Bridge daily, according to the New York City Department of Transportation.