Steel Trench Plates in the Road are Still a Bad Match for Cyclists

October 27, 2016

Beyond crashes with cars, single bike crashes — and the resulting accidents and injuries — are very common. Often a cyclist will hit a bump created by raised asphalt, hit a speed bump head-on (as did Richard Branson in his recent bike accident), or hit an improperly-ramped steel plate at an awkward or unexpected angle. Any one of these incidents can cause a cyclist to lose control of the bike and suffer a serious brain injury.
Estey & Bomberger has represented many cyclists involved in accidents over the last twenty years, and some of our lawyers have witnessed trench-plate-related crashes personally, narrowly missing a few encounters with steel plates themselves.

Working with a Supportive, Devoted Team

No one wants to go through the legal process after a bicycle crash or any other accident. As a victim of a serious bicycle accident, you require two types of support to go through this process. The first is family and friends. The second is legal, and systemic as well. A strong, proactive law firm is a must to get what you deserve if rules were broken. Estey & Bomberger has a laser-like focus on each of the few cases it accepts each year. Because we hire best-in-class experts, investigators and other professionals, at our own expense, we are able to be persistent and aggressive, and will guide you down the legal path. We use all of our assets and research ability to secure justice for you.

What are Steel Road Plates?

Steel road plates, or steel trench plates, are those large metal plates in the road, usually placed by a city contractor. They can be used to cover trenches, large potholes, or other areas that have been excavated, to allow traffic even during construction. However, these plates can pose serious hazards for cyclists as well as pedestrians and motorcycle riders. With an eye toward safety, many departments of transportation around the country have adopted guidelines and specifications regarding steel plates and their use – for example, laws that require steel road plates to be ramped around the edges with asphalt to ensure a safe and smooth ride. However, the city contractor often does not take this extra step, and the lack of adequate ramping can cause big problems.

A City’s Dilemma

The city system is large. Budgets are never high enough, project time is never long enough, and the city’s needs will always surpass its ability to fulfill those needs in so many ways. Though there may be rules, regulations and procedures, remember that all of these are implemented and are decided-upon by humans, and humans can make bad decisions. Who is checking and ensuring that the city is following its own rules? Who is checking on the city’s contractor? What purpose do rules serve if they’re not adhered to?

San Diego’s Most-Recent Cyclist Thrown and Injured after an Encounter with a Steel Trench Plate

In a recent local case as reported by Mike Freeman of the San Diego Union-Triune, a female cyclist in her fifties was riding on Sunday morning, October 16th on westbound Garnet Street near the Bay Park area of San Diego. She struck a steel plate in place due to road repairs, lost control of her bike and was thrown to the ground. Paramedics on the scene took her to a local hospital. She has suffered a brain bleed, also called a brain hemorrhage, which is a type of stroke caused by a brain artery bursting and casing bleeding in the surrounding tissues. This bleeding kills brain cells. Head trauma, such as from losing control of a bicycle due to, for example, a steel plate in the road, and being thrown, is a very common case of brain bleeds.
San Diego Police’s Traffic Division is investigating the accident.

Cities and their Trench Plate Rules and Protocols

Proper ramping would have prevented this October 16th accident in San Diego with virtually 100% certainty. In fact, the City of San Diego has specific rules for contractors related to trench plates, including the requirement for an asphalt ramp around each plate. But San Diego is not alone in having published rules for safety.
Chicago says that plates must be safe for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. For example, they must be installed with gaps no greater than a half inch between adjacent plates, and be firmly bedded and secured to the adjacent pavement to prevent rocking or movement. In bicycle lanes or in the path of bicycle traffic, they must be oriented perpendicular to the travel way and have ramps installed, or have a plate locking system.
In New York City, a cyclist was crushed to death by a vehicle having slipped on a steel plate. It was reported that the metal plate was in violation of the City Department of Transportation’s rules governing construction plating in the street, specifically, that the plate was not “sufficiently ramped to provide smooth riding and safe condition,” it did not have “a skid resistance surface equal to or greater than the adjacent existing street or roadway surface,” and the 2-inch high street plate was partly covered with loose gravel and construction debris.
One good additional resource is the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse’s site,, sponsored in part by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

Do You Need to Discuss your Bicycle Crash with an Attorney?

Bicycle accidents can result in something simple, like torn clothing, bruised skin or a scraped knee. All very easy and short-term to fix or heal, and not very expensive in medical bills or lost time at work or with family. But some accidents can result in something much more serious, as well, from serious internal injuries to brain injuries from which it may take months or years to recover, or in the case of a brain injury, something from which the victim may never fully recover.
If you or a family member has been in a serious bicycle accident, you owe it to yourself to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts and schedule a no-charge meeting with Estey & Bomberger lawyers. We understand how to help you open the discussion as to whether to file a lawsuit against the city, contractor or other responsible party. We will discuss the extent and the nature of your injuries, your medical bills, your time off from work, your ability to recover, and to what extend over what period of time. We will discuss the effects on your family. We will discuss whether the city had rules, and whether the city and/or contractor followed those rules. Many find this to be an overwhelming process, and they benefit from the consistent, compassionate support from attorneys who have done this again and again.

Contact Us, Any Time of the Day or Night

Start the process by calling 800.925.0723. You can begin the confidential and free discussion with our bicycle accident lawyers. From there, you’ll decide if it’s smart to move forward with a lawsuit, and, if so, how. At Estey & Bomberger, there is no fee to you – this is referred to as a win-win model, or contingency model. The law firm doesn’t get paid until we win the case, and money never comes out of your pocket.
We’ve been told that one of the most important things we provide is guidance, which helps in the process of healing that hopefully, is your very first, and your very last such experience. As attorneys and cyclists, Estey & Bomberger wants you healthy, whole, and back on your bike.