The Coast News Group
Roberta Walker
Roberta Walker's condition continues to improve, according to her attorney. Photo via Tumblr/BeingBerta
Cities Encinitas Encinitas Featured News

City of Encinitas agrees to $11 million settlement in Walker lawsuit

ENCINITAS — The City of Encinitas has agreed to pay $11 million to settle a claim with Roberta Walker, the former executive director of Cardiff 101 Main Street who filed a lawsuit against the city after she was struck by a pickup truck while cycling in Leucadia, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney Ed Susolik.

Just before sunrise on December 8, 2018, Walker, a longtime cycling advocate, was riding her bicycle in a “sharrow” lane on North Coast Highway 101 when she was hit from behind by a truck headed southbound near Phoebe Street intersection in front of the Leucadia Post Office.

Susolik, attorney at Santa Ana-based law firm Callahan & Blaine, claimed the sharrow, or shared bicycle lane, constituted a dangerous condition of public property, causing the accident, according to a written statement provided to The Coast News.

Despite wearing her helmet, Walker was critically injured and briefly unconscious when the impact of the collision threw her a significant distance, as first reported by The Coast News.

According to court documents and reports from close friends, Walker suffered multiple injuries — traumatic brain injury, fractured skull, spinal and facial fractures, nine broken ribs, a broken clavicle and sacrum, subdural hematoma and impaired mobility and cognition — and was placed into a medically-induced coma.

Roberta Walker hospital
Roberta Walker suffered catastrophic injuries after she was hit by a pickup truck in Leucadia. Courtesy photo/GoFundMe

“Ms. Walker suffered catastrophic injuries…,” Susolik said. “Tragically, she will be suffering from the impact of those injuries for the rest of her life. The settlement will allow Ms. Walker to obtain the long-term care she will require to live comfortably with the care she needs.”

Walker underwent several emergency surgeries in the trauma center at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and later returned to the hospital for another operation to replace a missing portion of her skull that had been previously removed.

Prior to the accident, Walker, previously a policy advisor to former County Supervisor Dave Roberts, had been an outspoken supporter of the city’s proposed Leucadia Streetscape project, citing much-needed improvements for cyclists and pedestrians along a stretch of Coast Highway 101.

Just days after the accident, bicycle-safety advocates and friends of Walker attended an Encinitas City Council meeting, urging city officials to take immediate action and to expedite the Streetscape project and roadway upgrades.

The long-awaited project began preliminary construction activities last month and features traffic calming measures, buffered bike lanes, raised medians, roundabouts and enhanced crosswalks.

Kellie Shay Hinze
In 2018, Leucadia 101 Main Street Association executive director Kellie Shay Hinze, along with many others, voiced concerns over improving traffic safety during a public comment period at a Dec. 12 Encinitas City Council meeting. Hinze wore a helmet in support of her colleague Roberta Walker. Photo by James Wang

“One profound irony of this accident is that Ms. Walker herself had advocated for a dedicated bike lane in multiple City Council meetings,” Susolik said.

Hundreds of cyclists, residents and local leaders attended a “Ride for Roberta” event hosted by Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze, then-executive director of Leucadia 101 Main Street, a sister organization of Cardiff 101.

“I was not involved in the details of Walker’s suit against the city due to my close friendship with Roberta but I am relieved to learn there is closure to the litigation,” Hinze wrote in a message to The Coast News. “As always, safe streets for all who drive, bike, roll, walk and run on them is a top goal of mine as a Councilmember.”

Since the accident, more than 1,500 people contributed donations totaling $129,108 to help with Walker’s rehabilitation and transition from the hospital, according to a GoFundMe page organized by Blair McKinney.

According to Susolik, Walker continues to work daily with her doctors and family and her medical condition has improved significantly.

“Ms. Walker hopes that this settlement will send a message to all cities and counties in California to maintain their bike lanes with the utmost regard for the safety of bicyclists so that this type of accident resulting from dangerous roadways never happens again.”

24 comments

Joe A March 18, 2021 at 12:27 am

Mr Ingram;

If this went to court, are there no transcripts depositions, etc, that can be accessed via Freedom of Information Requests? Do you think info was freely given to Woodward and Bernstein?. This is your case, keep us posted, $11 for a settlement of taxpayer money, probably the largest in Encinitas history, deserves scrutiny, if only to clear the principals of any impropriety.

Joseph Abbinanti
Cardiff, CA

Jordan Ingram March 18, 2021 at 8:30 am

Joe, It was settled out of court. I am continuing to look into the matter. I have submitted a public records request for all documents and communications related to the Roberta Walker settlement from the city. I’ll definitely keep readers posted. Thanks for your message!

Lorri March 17, 2021 at 5:23 pm

As soon as I am able, I will find the date of the City Council meeting where the Mayor basically stated was the city’s fault. She was quite agitated, as Roberta was her friend. She slammed Jody Hubbard for suggesting stop signs until the Streetscape could be put in place, and then went off on the staff. It is my belief that Roberta’s attorneys used that council meeting tape, and therefore the City really didn’t have a leg to stand on. Right now I am dealing with a Concussion, but I will do my best to find it. Or maybe someone at Coast News could do some investigative reporting and find it for us. It was either right after Roberta’s accident, or 2019. What I remember is it was around Christmas time, and she, Catherine, tasked the staff with all sorts of things they could have never gotten done before Christmas. I also called Jody the next day and told her how sorry I felt for her having to endure Blakespear’s yelling at her in front of everyone. I was at that Council meeting, sitting with friends, and we all just looked at each other in disbelief. You can print that with my name Jordan. Curious as to why the sheriff won’t release the report.

Jordan Ingram March 18, 2021 at 8:45 am

Hi Lorri, I have submitted a public records request for all documents and communications related to the Roberta Walker settlement from the City of Encinitas. I’d be curious to watch that council meeting video but I fear that Blakespear yelling at councilmembers isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than a temper tantrum. I wasn’t covering city reporting at the time so I can’t speak to the relevance of that meeting or any factual information that may have been revealed. I also want you to know that I am aware of the relationship between Walker, Blakespear and other councilmembers. I, just like many of you, am pretty surprised by the settlement amount. We will do the best we can by continuing to look into this matter. I truly appreciate your thoughts and I hope you feel better soon!

Lynn Marr aka Lynn Autumn March 23, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Jordan, I posted this Coast News article on Facebook through the group, Encinitas Votes, under Lynn Autumn. I will share with you, below, the comment made by someone first on the scene, who lives just off N101 and Phoebe. Also, I have a friend who lives on Phoebe who had told me that the Walkers, Roberta and her husband, are her neighbors. Apparently, RW was driving in darkness, pre-dawn, from Phoebe on to the Highway, and did not properly yield.

Also, I had put in a public information request to the City Clerk for any information regarding a settlement with RW and her husband, once the settlement was signed by all parties, as is allowed through the California Public Records Act. I was never supplied with that information. I’m glad that Coast News published the amount. However, your news coverage was not objective in that it only presented one side of the story, in my opinion.

Here’s one of the relevant comments made regarding my post of this Coast News Article through the FB group, Encinitas Votes:

“James Robertson
This happened in front of my house and myself and a lady getting something from her P.O. Box at the post office were the first two people to her and we were the ones that found her cell phone in the bushes. I cannot confirm whether she was on her phone but I can confirm that there were no lights or reflectors on her or her bicycle and it was dark at the time of the accident. It also appears she blew through the stop sign at Phoebe street and 101 as she came down the hill which would mean she broke at least a couple laws. This settlement should never have happened. In my opinion it shows corruption on multiple levels. All the city’s defense team would need to do was to show that she broke the law by riding in the dark without lights and/or reflectors rendering her invisible to motorists. Since she is a personal friend of the mayor my guess is the mayor really wanted her to get the money regardless whether it was her fault or not. A suit should be filed demanding the police report be made public and a new investigation launched by a non biased entity. This as mentioned sets a dangerous precedent for future lawsuits.”

Jordan Ingram March 23, 2021 at 12:45 pm

Thank you, Lynn. Another individual who wishes to remain anonymous has reached out to me regarding what they saw that morning. I’m continuing to look into this story. If anyone has anything they would like to share with me directly, my email is [email protected]. Thanks again, Lynn. I appreciate it!

Lynn Marr March 17, 2021 at 11:19 am

The photos in the Coast News are distasteful, in my opinion, of Roberta Walker in the hospital, on tubes. The bicycle coalition had petitioned the City to have Sharrows on North Highway 101. The Leucadia 101 Mainstreet association had petitioned for a lane diet for motorists, at the same time, northbound.

What is ironic, contrary to what the (biased) article indicates, is that the City of Encinitas granted the Sharrows and lane diet requests, after both the Traffic Commission and Council had been petitioned by the bicycle coalition, in July of 2012. The lane diet was appealed to the Coastal Commission, which had stated there should NOT be a lane diet without an EIR. City went right ahead and did it, defying the CCC.

I too, wish Roberta Walker and her husband well. But this high settlement amount is outrageous considering RW was friends with the mayor and now Council Member Kellie Hinze, and considering that there was no negligence on the City’s part. RW was the executive director, a paid position highly subsidized by the City, for Cardiff 101 Mainstreet Association. She was not wearing reflective clothing when pulling onto Highway 101 in the semi-darkness, pre-dawn, without lights on her bicycle. She may have been on her cellphone, which was found on scene.

Neither the truck driver nor the City was negligent. If RW was not friends and working associates with Council and their pet business associations, and were this terrible accident not used to force Streetscam on us, there would NEVER have been such a high settlement amount, in my opinion.

Jordan Ingram March 17, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Thanks for your comment, Lynn. The only problem with your claims is that they amount to hearsay. No one has come forward to speak with us on the record about witnessing RW riding without lights, reflectors or being on her cell phone. The Sheriff’s department will not release the police report so it remains unclear what evidence was discovered at the scene of the accident. I am more than willing to speak with ANYONE who is willing to report what they saw on the record — I’d be happy to do so. However, individuals I have attempted to contact did not return my emails. Out of genuine curiosity, how do you know if her phone was found on the scene? Are you a witness? Are you willing to speak with us on the record about what you saw? Do you know someone who is willing to speak about what they saw firsthand? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thanks again for your thoughts.

David March 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm

4000 pound cars and a 10 pound bikes with riders. A dangerous and this sad case shows a sometimes deadly mix. Eliminate bike riding through Leucadia and Encinitas.

Cary March 10, 2021 at 9:05 am

Looks like the psycho cyclists have formed an online brigade to exploit this unfortunate incident in an effort to ensure that the coast highway is can only be traversed by them and them alone. It’s been scientifically proven that bike lanes make it safer yet you dunces choose to ignore science: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0361198118798482

To anyone who is reading this, please look into to the mob like legacy of John Forester. He was a bully who spent millions duping all the dumb cyclists out there to believe that bike lanes don’t work.

You can’t bully your way to the truth. You can literally ride your bike anywhere you please for sport while commuters HAVE to use the routes you claim to ‘own’.

RIDE IN THE ROAD YOU IDIOTS! THEY’RE CALLED ROAD BIKES FOR A REASON!!!!

LoLo March 9, 2021 at 8:32 pm

Ugh! More biased “reporting” from Coast News. Really, where did you learn objective writing?

As the other commenters pointed out, the road where Ms. Walker was hit was, and is, not inherently dangerous. What is dangerous is riding in the dark without lights. What is dangerous is road furniture that causes injuries on a stretch of road that previously was injury free for at least 10 years (101 in Cardiff). What is dangerous is a cycletrap with bollards on Leucadia Boulevard that caused the DEATH of a cyclist by right hook.

There is no rhyme or reason to the Encinitas City Council’s actions in admitting liability here, unless perhaps it was to benefit their friend. Will Encinitas pursue the truck driver to recover their payout or will they just pass this expense on to its taxpayers? Gonna be hard to recover when the city admitted liability. Duh.

The City Council’s crazy road furniture and now this unfounded settlement are not only bad for the city taxpayers, they create more animosity from drivers toward cyclists. For a mayor and council that say they want to create a safer environment for cyclists, they have a really odd way of doing it. I guess it works if you’re their friend.

Serge March 9, 2021 at 4:48 pm

Above it says 9 comments but I count 6 comments

Serge March 9, 2021 at 3:39 pm

The crash occurred a few feet from the intersection with the street where the cyclist lives, suggesting she entered the roadway without yielding, into the path of the pickup (which would explains why the driver is not liable). In the dark. By all accounts the bike did not have proper lights/reflectors.

The sharrows meet all standards and there have been no other car-bike crashes on 101 in Leucadia in the ten years since the sharrows were first painted.

So why did the City admit liability?
Why does the article claim this section is notoriously dangerous for bicyclists? It’s as safe as 101 in Cardiff once was.

Speaking of notoriously unsafe roads… since the City started creating “protected bike lanes” there have been 24 crashes on 101 in Cardiff in eight months, all related to the “protective” barrier, and a cyclist riding “safely” in the “protected bike lane” on Leucadia Blvd at Moonstone Court was killed by a same-direction truck turning right onto Moonstone.

Yes, riding in the dark without proper lights and reflectors is notoriously dangerous.
Yes, entering a roadway into the path of a motor vehicle is notoriously dangerous.
No, sharrow lanes are not dangerous.
Yes, “protected bike lanes” trap cyclists in the bikeway and prevent them from properly communicating and negotiating with right turning drivers who should be moving slowly into the bike lane towards the curb prior to turning right. “Protected bike lanes” are notoriously dangerous.

Shani March 10, 2021 at 1:48 pm

The proximity of the accident to the cyclist can in NO way be used as evidence of the cyclist failure to yield, safety precautions taken by the cyclist or anything else contributing to the accident. I don’t know the victim personally but she was reportedly an avid cycler and advocate for cyclist safety so she likely had the proper safety features on her bike.

As for the safety of sharrows, there have been several stuides that suggest they are not, example: ” Painted bicycle lanes reduced injury risk by nearly 90% (IDR 0.09, 95% CI 0.02-0.33). Holding all else equal, compared to no bicycle route, a bicycle injury nearby sharrows was nearly twice as likely to be moderate, severe, or critical (adjusted odds ratio 1.94; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.91-4.15). Painted bicycle lanes and physically protected paths were 1.52 (95% CI 0.85-2.71) and 1.66 (95% CI 0.85-3.22) times as likely to be associated with more than mild injury respectively.” Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29564357/

Serge March 10, 2021 at 2:41 pm

It’s not proximity alone that indicates the cyclist failed to yield. It’s knowledge of where she lived, and thus how close the point of impact was to where she must have entered the roadway (from Phoebe). It also assumes she was moving at a reasonable bike speed. It’s possible that she had entered after ensuring the road was clear and then stopped until the pickup arrived and hit her, but that’s highly unlikely and not any better anyway. A witness at the scene saw no lights or reflectors on her bike and says she was wearing black. He also heard no braking, just the impact, indicating the driver failed to see her before impact. Furthermore, the driver was neither cited nor sued. Her only defense was that the City’s sharrows gave her a false sense of security to ride out onto a road at night without lights and without looking or yielding. Regarding that study there are many other potential factors explaining the differences. The bottom line here is that after 10 years of sharrows in Leucadia this has been the only bike car crash. And yet it took the “protected bike lane” on Leucadia Boulevard only a few months to kill a cyclist and the one in Cardiff eight months to cause two dozen crashes. Citing the sharrows as the cause of the Walker crash is ridiculous.

Shaun W March 9, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Whilst I wish Ms Walker well, so much here makes no sense. It wasn’t as if the city had REMOVED a bike lane and replaced it with Sharrows as they have done on the 101 in Cardiff, so where was the negligence? Compare this with the multiple crashes, surgeries and now a death their ill-advised (by experts) installation of bollards and wheels stops DID cause and where they absolutely have negligence.
It looks as though the city WANTED to make this payment, possibly as it was to a friend and it wasn’t their personal money, or maybe in an attempt to justify their obsession with the genuinely dangerous (evidently) bollards?
With every crash their Cycletraps create I’m baffled how they sleep at night.

George March 9, 2021 at 3:04 pm

100% you nailed it.

This smells like corruption. They made this payment to a friend.

marie carbonaro March 9, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Where’s the driver who hit her responsibility and accountability?

Christine Purkiss March 9, 2021 at 6:10 pm

The driver was not charged nor was he liable.

concerned March 9, 2021 at 1:40 pm

The city’s settlement has acknowledged that sharrows are a dangerous condition of public property. The council has approved the vehicle lanes in the entire city to be painted with sharrows. All of the sharrows must be removed to remedy the dangerous condition of public property. That includes the cycle trap at the south end of Cardiff and the Leucadia 101 streetscape. Why did voters put these three, Blakespear, Kranz, and Hinze back in office. Whether democrat or republican the council is nonpartisan. Vote for people who want your safety first not to advance their political ambitions.

craig a nelson March 9, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Sadly, the poorly run City of Encinitas can expect many more of these to come given the hazard they created with Blakespears corridor of death along the 101 at restaurant row. Streetscape will make cycling significantly more dangerous in Leucadia.

June March 9, 2021 at 10:53 am

Sadly, this accident resulted in the knee jerk reaction of the city to place bollards along Leucadia Blvd, east of the I5, in east and west bound lanes. Some say the bollards are road hazards and slow down traffic and emergency service vehicles. Others intimate these bollards were the cause of a fatal accident resulting in a cyclists death in November of 2020. Expect another huge lawsuit from that unfortunate incident.

Christine Purkiss March 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm

There is so much more to this story regarding details of the the actual incident. It is very biased and one sided. Even worse, without knowing details the City Council used this tragedy to promote their Streetscape project and encourage cyclists (of all levels) to use a busy lane also used by vehicles. I feel terrible for Roberta, but also believe her this incident and her suffering, was used to manipulate the public.

George March 9, 2021 at 3:02 pm

Sadly, unless the victim/family is friends of someone on the corrupt Encinitas Council you can bet it won’t be settled with an agreement.

Leave a Comment