Claim filed against city over death of bicyclist By Shomik Mukherjee, East Bay Times Newspaper, October 24, 2021


Joe Shami collided with SUV at roundabout critics call poorly designed

The brother of prolific bicyclist Joe Shami, who was killed this spring after colliding with an SUV at a controversial roundabout, has filed a claim against the city for at least $25,000 in damages.

The 86-year-old cyclist’s brother, Charles Shami, claims the city designed the Olympic Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road roundabout poorly, allowing vehicles to quickly zip through the intersection and endanger cyclists riding in the same lane.

On the morning of April 13, Joe Shami was hit by a Lexus SUV and died from his injuries after being taken to a hospital that day.

Shami was once dubbed the “Legend of Mount Diablo” for riding 11 miles up the mountain once a week for 500 consecutive weeks, a milestone he reached in 2018. He also was an advocate for traffic safety, helping to secure new turnout lanes for cyclists on the shoulders of Mount Diablo’s winding roads.

In addition to seeking damages, the legal claims filed by Charles Shami and the Shami Trust call for changes to the roundabout, which had been scrutinized by East Bay cycling advocates during its planning years ago. At the time, some had suggested the roundabout shouldn’t have extra lanes that allow vehicles to quickly make a right turn through the intersection.

“The roundabout brings bikes and automobiles into conflict in a fairly tight circle and a narrow lane in a way that doesn’t realistically take into account (vehicle) speeds and the traffic volume,” said Carter Zinn, the family’s attorney.

Shami’s death resurrected advocacy groups’ criticism of the roundabout, including that of Mount Diablo Cyclists, which met with city officials several times in the ensuing months to discuss safety changes.

The group suggests building speed bumps in the roadways leading into the roundabout’s eastern and western entrances on Olympic Boulevard and adding “shark’s teeth” road markings that serve as yield signals for drivers. In an email, Lafayette spokeswoman Suzanne Larla declined to comment on the legal claims.

The city will have 45 days to respond to the claims, and if it doesn’t, the claimants can file a lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Lafayette police said through a representative they were investigating the fatal collision and would present a case to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office. The DA’s office did not respond to a request for comment this week about the status of the case.

A ghost bike is surrounded by flowers and notes for cyclist

Joe Shami of Lafayette at the roundabout intersection in Lafayette on April 23. The 86-year-old died April 13 from injuries he sustained when he and an SUV collided. The family has filed a legal claim against the city.