A man injured in bicycle crash has filed a $13.5 million claim against Pima County.
Attorneys representing Frank Dionies, a German citizen temporarily working for the University of Arizona, filed the claim on June 29 saying a poorly designed road and inadequate maintenance led to an ongoing dangerous situation.
“It’s funneled cyclists into a death trap from day one,” said attorney Michael F. McNamara, who represents Dionies.
The county’s design of a right-hand turn lane and bicycle lane at North Sabino Canyon Drive and North Kolb Road where the crash occurred created an unsafe but avoidable hazard for cyclists, McNamara says.
Because the claim likely will end up court, county officials would not comment on the issue.
Dionies was badly injured in a collision with a car on Sabino Canyon Road in January.
He was headed north in the bicycle lane about 500 feet south of the T-shaped intersection where southbound Kolb Road ends and turns into Sabino Canyon when a car also traveling north merged across the bike lane going about 40 mph and collided with Dionies.
The car smashed into Dionies bicycle, throwing him against the windshield and to the asphalt.
Dionies suffered skull fractures, facial injuries, broken ribs and traumatic brain injuries.
In the claim letter, Dionies’ attorney argues that lane striping at the intersection at the time of the crash presented an “unbelievably confusing” situation for cyclists and motorists.
The intersection was designed with what’s been called a “right-turn slip lane.”
Motorists traveling north with the intention of making a right turn to continue on Sabino Canyon merge into a right turn lane. At the intersection, the right turn for those motorists is not signalized, so drivers can merge onto the roadway without stopping.
For cyclists intending to continue northbound onto Kolb Road, the bike lane splits and riders must proceed across the right-turn lane for hundreds of feet to the intersection.
“In other words, Frank (Dionies) not only complied with the rules of the road, but he did exactly and specifically what was expected of him by the engineers who designed and maintained the subject roadway,” the claim letter notes.
In addition to what Dionies’ attorney calls a flaw in the design of the roadway, he argues the county had ample time to remedy the problem.
McNamara wrote: “Pima County has had the opportunity and obligation to remediate this death trap by properly reducing and clarifying the merge area, simply by changing the paint on the road.”
Since the crash, the Pima County Department of Transportation has resurfaced and restriped the area. The overall design of the intersection remains the same.
The county has 60 days from the date of the claim to agree to settle. If it declines the offer, Dionies can file a formal civil lawsuit in Superior Court.
In another matter, the county recently settled a lawsuit with a cyclist who was injured in a crash while riding.
Former Deputy Pima County Administrator Martin Willett settled his claim in April for $1.8 million.
He was injured on the Dodge Boulevard bridge over the Rillito River when his bicycle wheel was caught in a gap between the roadway and the curb.
Willett broke numerous bones in his back and neck. He initially sought $6 million.
Contact reporter Patrick McNamara firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pm929.