DAVID BERGELAND/THE RECORD
The other story is also tragic and dates back to a crash from 2001 where a woman died after hitting a pothole in the shoulder while riding downhill with at group of other experienced cyclists in Essex County. The case here hinged upon two issues. The primary is whether the county is liable for the crash since it was informed of the pothole multiple times prior to the crash. However it should be noted that the cyclist was riding in a group and that her ability to see the pothole could have been obscured by others she was riding with. I was concerend that if the plaintiff won the case based on this premise, then Essex County and other county and municipal governments would have a good reason not to build bicycle faculties like bike lanes for fear of being liable in a case just like this one.
However in the final decision from the State Supreme Court question whether or not a roadway shoulder is even intended for bicycle riding. The precedent of this secondary issue could prove problematic for cyclist in the future trying to make legal claims when injured or ticket while riding in the shoulder. This particular conclusion of the NJ Supreme Court is clearly in need of further research and may require legislative action to protect the rights of cyclists.
The unpublished Supreme Court decision can be found here.