Washington Case Law Update: Washington Appellate Court Holds Bicycling is Method of “Ordinary Travel”

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Kyle


Washington Case Law Update: Washington Appellate Court Holds Bicycling is Method of “Ordinary Travel”

From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: Whether a municipality owes bicyclists the same duty to maintain its roadways that it owes other motorists has never been quite clear.  In this case, the Washington Court of Appeals notes that bicycles are a mode of ordinary travel, and therefore cities have a duty to maintain roadways safe for bicycle travel.

Claims Pointer: In this case involving a bicycle accident allegedly caused by a defective roadway, the injured bicyclist sued the City of Port Orchard alleging its maintenance of its roadways was negligent.  The City argued in part that it did not owe a duty to cyclists, and the trial court granted summary judgment to the City.  The Washington Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that cycling is a mode of “ordinary travel,” and therefore the City had a duty to maintain its roads for bicycle travel.  The case also touched on expert testimony, constructive notice, and assumption of risk – three areas of interest for insurers.  Ultimately, the case conclusively establishes that bicyclists and motorists are owed similar duties to ensure their safe travel.

O’Neill v. City of Port Orchard, No. 47149-3-II, Washington Court of Appeals (June 28, 2016).

Pamela O’Neill (O’Neill), an experienced cyclist, was commuting home from work on July 18, 2009, when she was thrown from her bicycle at the intersection of Sidney Avenue and Kitsap Street in the City of Port Orchard, Washington (City).  Prior to that day, she had never ridden down Sidney Avenue because she rode a new route every day for the challenge.  While riding down Sidney Avenue, she noticed a sign indicating a steep incline and a change in conditions from smooth to “uneven” with “lots of variations in the condition of the road.”  She understood the sign to mean she should use caution traveling down the steep incline.  As she...

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