In December 2009, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) painted the city’s bike lanes green in an effort to make them more visible to motorists. However, by July 2011, SFMTA needed to repaint the lanes after a series of bicycle accidents demonstrated that the lanes were far too dangerous for bicyclists. Many bicyclists complained that the paint was too slippery, making it difficult to stop – especially in the rain. A police officer on a motorcycle even had an accident because of the slick paint on the roadway.
The SFMTA repainted the lanes in the same color, but used paint containing a sand mixture to increase traction. Critics of the city’s treatment of the bicycle lane plan point out that merely putting new paint on the lanes is not an effective long-term solution to the issue. Tom Radulovich, executive director of the transportation planning group Livable City, argued that the city should have added green paint to the asphalt itself, rather than applying paint on top of the asphalt. However, a spokesman for the SFMTA noted that, while the SFMA plans to mix paint into the pavement eventually, such an undertaking is expensive and the city cannot afford it currently. Nevertheless, the lanes were dangerous enough to require an immediate solution.
San Francisco can be a dangerous enough city for cyclists without the added problem of not being able to stop on surfaces due to slippery paint. The city’s hills present a significant challenge to bike riders, along with the traffic congestion. Bicycle accidents have risen by 8 percent in San Francisco in the past two years while bicycle ridership has only increased by three percent.
Those injured in bicycle accidents may have to pursue legal action to recover damages for their injuries. If a motorist’s negligence was the cause of an accident, a cyclist may have claims for medical costs, loss of future earnings, lost past earnings, changes in lifestyle, loss of ability to support dependents and damage to the bicycle or other property. The cyclist might also seek punitive damages against a motorist if extreme recklessness played a factor in the accident or even a claim against the bicycle manufacturer if the cyclist’s own equipment failed and caused the accident.
SFMTA authorities hope that repainting the bicycle lanes with the new granular paint will reduce the amount of bicycle accidents in the city so fewer people will have to deal with such matters as lawsuits after accidents.