Four people are suing the City of San Francisco for damages exceeding $100,000 after they each hit an unmarked road bump while riding bikes or scooters on Clay Street in August.
The suit, filed April 10, alleges the four people, including the CEO of burger chain The Melt, Ralph Bower, were injured due to a sharp bump near 3245 Clay St. that was unmarked and had no other signage or writing to indicate the bump’s presence.
The bump spanned Clay Street and was allegedly created after a “faulty” water leak repair, the suit said. The bump appeared on Aug. 1, 2022, and it was removed 10 days later, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Bower said he was the most seriously injured of the four plaintiffs and is still recovering. On Aug. 6, he broke three of his right ribs and his collarbone after hitting the bump while riding his bike from Lyon Street, which sent him over the handlebars.
“One minute I was coasting down Clay [Street], and then the next thing I knew, I was being helped by some neighbors around me,” Bower said. “I’m still only about 50% as compared to where I was before.”
Bower required a plate and six screws to fix his collarbone, and said the padding he was wearing while biking melted into the skin on his back, hip, arm and shoulder.
“I think the bump being on the downhill section made it more dangerous because you have more weight over the front wheel,” Bower said.
The suit goes on to allege the city knew the bump was improperly marked and on a road frequently used by cyclists but failed to protect those using the road from being injured.
“Despite the knowledge that Clay Street is primarily a bicycle route, and that a dangerous road condition could cause injury to cyclists and pedestrians, [the city] made a faulty repair of the roadway that resulted in a large unavoidable bump spanning the entirety of the street,” the complaint said.
Of the four plaintiffs, three had broken bones after falling off their bikes when they hit the bump. Two broke an elbow in accidents on Aug. 5 and Aug. 6, requiring surgery. One plaintiff who hit the bump and fell off an electric scooter on Aug. 3 suffered bruising, abrasions and cuts to her knee and shoulder.
Bower and the other plaintiffs filed against the city in December seeking damages after their injuries, they were all denied. Copies of the denial letters reviewed by The Standard are mostly identical between plaintiffs and denied the claims on the grounds that not enough information was provided to demonstrate that the city was at fault.
“We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in court,” city attorney spokesperson Jen Kwart said in an email.
The Department of Public Works and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission deferred to the City Attorney’s Office for comment.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at [email protected]