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Biker is allowed to pursue claim arising out of injury from pothole on "Hike and Bike" Trail

Raymond Hernandez was badly hurt when his bicycle tire struck a sink hole in the asphalt-pavede Macomb County Hike & Bike Trail (MCHBT).  He attempted to make a claim against Clinton Township, which built and maintained the trail.  The Township claimed it was immune from responsibility for maintaining the trail because it was neither a sidewalk nor a trailway.  Under a state statute, municipalities are legally obligated to keep "highways" and adjacent sidewalks, trailways and crosswalks in reasonable repair and in a condition reasonably safe and fit for travel.

The Township pointed to several restrictive decisions by the Republican majority of Michigan's Supreme Court to support its claim that the trail was not close enough to the highway to be a sidewalk.  It also argued that the adjacent Metropolitan Parkway was a limited access highway meaning that the MCHBT could not legally be a "sidewalk."  The Court of Appeals rejected these arguments.  It noted that the Parkway did not meet the definition of a limited access highway and that the Township had presented no evidence to support its dedication as a limited access highway.

The Court noted that this case shares some similarity with the cases dismissed by the Michigan Supreme Court, but that overall, the MCHBT was more like a sidewalk adjacent to a highway than it was like a bike trail through a park.  Therefore, the trial court properly denied summary disposition.  The Court stressed that under existing rules, it must objectively look at the actual design, location, and use of the trail/sidewalk/path, and not judge based upon what the municipality has named it.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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