Muni and Train Tracks in San Francisco Cause Numerous Bicycle Injuries

It is almost a rite of passage for San Francisco bicyclists to wipe out and be injured in Muni or railroad train tracks.  Bike tires quite easily get stuck in the grooves of Muni tracks, and both Muni and train tracks tend to be extremely slippery, much more so when wet by fog, mist or rain, common local weather conditions.  Stories abound in the media of such injuries, and on 3/7/2012 a cyclist was killed in downtown SF after his wheel got stuck in a Muni track and he fell underneath a passing bus.

As an attorney who represents injured bicyclists, I have received numerous calls from bicyclists severely injured due to encounters with Muni or train tracks. While such persons are sometimes tourists or new to town, and therefore more likely to be unfamiliar with the hazard, the vast majority of injuries are to cyclists who have lived locally for years. Bicycling techniques for avoiding such mishaps include crossing the tracks at a large angle, optimally perpendicular to the tracks, and riding at lower speeds when near tracks. However, mishaps are quite often unavoidable, especially since bicyclists are often forced into tracks by the opening of car doors or double-parked vehicles. Some of the most notorious streets where such incidents occur include 17th Street between Church and Sanchez, the intersection of 17th and Church (where a morass of tracks criss-cross), and Columbus Ave. Abandoned railroad tracks where injuries have occurred include Townsend Street and Illinois Street. The vast majority of track-induced injury incidents go unreported since usually no other vehicles are involved.

Governmental entities, which enjoy a variety of design and other immunities from liability, may be liable in limited circumstances such as where there is defective pavement surrounding the track, where a bike lane is crossed by tracks at certain angles, where the tracks are abandoned in areas in which the public is invited to ride, and in some other factual scenarios.