Friday, April 13, 2012

Seattle streetcar lawsuit dismissed

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A King County, Wash., judge has dismissed a suit filed by six bicyclists who said the city of Seattle was negligent in the way it installed tracks for the South Lake Union Streetcar (SLUS), the city's first modern streetcar line.

Judge Harry McCarthy last week agreed with Seattle officials that the cyclists hadn't proved the city neglected to implement design or engineering standards when the streetcar tracks were positioned on the right side (curb side) of the roadway, where bikes were likely to travel, as opposed to placement in the road's center, a common option in cities such as Toronto.

Already dismissed last year was a separate charge, in which a judge ruled Seattle was immune from liability in its decision to build a streetcar and align it in the right-hand lane.

An attorney for the six cyclists said they will file a motion to reconsider the decision.

The bike riders, all of whom were seriously injured along the streetcar line, argued that planning documents alerted the city to the dangers but that possible precautions, such as a bike ban along the route or different track placement, weren't taken. The cyclists sued because Seattle declined to provide compensation for their injuries.

Accident data since the lawsuit was filed in 2010 indicate that there have been no new bike-only accidents along the streetcar route, according to Rick Sheridan, a spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation. An attorney for the bike plaintiffs suggested the city has initiated design improvements in response to the lawsuit.

The decision comes as Seattle prepares to commence construction this month on its $134 million First Hill Streetcar line is to begin this month.