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Attorney for cyclist injured on Highway 101 files claim against Encinitas

Roberta Walker
Roberta Walker McKenzie Images

An attorney for a cyclist who sustained head and spinal injuries when she was struck by a truck on Leucadia’s portion Coast Highway 101 in early December has taken a step toward suing the city, contending that the roadway was unsafe.

In two damage claims filed with the city on March 12, attorney Ryan Williams of Santa Ana wrote that there were multiple issues with city’s signage and roadway design that contributed to the accident. He filed the damage claims on behalf of both the cyclist — Roberta Walker, the executive director of the Cardiff 101 Main Street Association — and her husband, John-Paul Walker.

The damage claims, which are a required first step before Williams can file a lawsuit, don’t seek a specified dollar amount from the city. Instead, they state that Walker is still being treated for her injuries and “her current economic and non-economic damages are unknown.” Among other things, the claims seek reimbursement for Walker’s physical impairments, emotional distress and future loss of earning capacity.

Her current medical expenses, which have included multiple surgeries, long-term hospital stays and rehabilitation therapy, are being covered by private health insurance for now, the attorney wrote.

Walker, an avid cyclist and advocate of city bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects, was hit about 6 a.m. Dec. 8 while cycling southbound on Coast Highway near the Leucadia Post Office. She was wearing a helmet, but was “thrown a significant distance and was unconscious for a time after the crash,” her attorney wrote.

A family Gofundme.com page — which has raised $123,391 for any medical expenses not covered by insurance as well as renovations to her home to make it handicapped accessible — contains a lengthy list of injuries Walker sustained in the crash, including a fractured skull, two burst fracture vertebrae and nine broken ribs.

In an update to the page late last week, Walker’s husband wrote that she had just returned to the hospital “for an operation to replace the missing part of her skull that was removed almost four months ago” when she was experiencing brain swelling issues.

“We are so grateful for all the love and support,” he wrote. “It has been so helpful during this unimaginable situation.”

The section of the road where Walker was riding doesn’t have a separate bike lane, instead there are special markings on the pavement known as “sharrows” to warn motorists that bicycle riders are allowed to use a full vehicle lane.

In his claims paperwork, Williams wrote that the area was dangerous for many reasons, including that “the pavement markings that were present were confusing and distracting to both drivers and bicyclists; the signage that was present was confusing and distracting to both drivers and bicyclists; there was an absence of proper pavement markings and signage; and there was no separate bicycle lane, creating a dangerous condition on public property.”

City officials make a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. However, the City Council has ordered a series of temporary changes to Leucadia’s portion of Coast Highway in the months since Walker’s accident, aiming to improve safety conditions for cyclists and slow vehicle speeds.

These improvements are considered temporary because the city expects to embark late this year on a long-planned, complete overhaul of a 2-1/2-mile stretch of Coast Highway from La Costa Avenue to A Street.

The recent temporary changes to the roadway include adding more than 60 green sharrows markings on the pavement, putting up digital signs to warn motorists about roadway issues in the area, and installing raised crosswalks with rumble strips at four intersections along the route.

-- Barbara Henry is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune