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  • Writer's pictureAlexander J. Kemeny

NJ Municipalities Owe a Duty to Maintain Roadways in a Safe Condition for Cyclists

            On June 28, 2024, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued a decision in Estate of Massi v. Barr, in which that New Jersey municipalities have a duty to maintain roads in a condition that is safe for bicycle rides and motorcyclists - not just car and truck drivers. In reaching it decision, the court noted that there are conditions which may be safe for cars and trucks, but pose an unreasonable risk to people riding two wheeled vehicles, like bicycles and motorcycles.

bicycle rider on public road

            The case arose out of an accident that took place On April 27, 2017, when William Massi was riding his bicycle on Wyckoff Mills Road, which borders Monroe Township and Cranbury Township. A truck passed by on his left, startling him and causing him to swerve onto a rough patch of the roadway filled with potholes. He lost control of his bicycle and fell, sustaining serious injuries that required emergency spinal surgery, extensive medical treatment, and physical therapy. At the time of the accident, he was sixty-five years old and suffered significant permanent injuries.

            An engineering expert hired by Massi’s counsel concluded that improper methods had been used to patch the road, resulting in dangerous uneven surfaces for both bicycles and motorcycles. A public works director from one of the townships estimated that potholes on the road had been patched "a couple hundred times" in the five years preceding the accident, and both townships had received numerous complaints about the potholes prior to the incident.

            The municipalities filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they were not obligated to maintain the road surface for bicyclists and that their efforts in repairing the roadway were not palpably unreasonable—the standard required to establish a municipality’s tort liability under New Jersey’s Tort Claims Act ("TCA"), N.J.S.A. § 59:1-1 et seq. The trial court agreed with the municipalities and granted their motion for summary judgment, prompting the plaintiff to appeal.

            During the appeal, Massi passed away, and his estate was substituted as the plaintiff-appellant. The Appellate Division eventually vacated the trial court’s summary judgment decision.

            In reversing the trial court, the Appellate Division noted that there was an unrebutted expert opinion indicating the road surface was unsafe for both bicycles and motorcycles. It concluded that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that the municipalities’ failure to address the known hazardous condition of the road was palpably unreasonable and caused Massi's injuries.

            The appellate court remarked on the growing prevalence of bicycle riding on public roads and the resulting heightened safety concerns about road conditions for both bicyclists and motor vehicles. Since the 1990s, the New Jersey Department of Transportation ("DOT") has published guidelines for the safe condition of road surfaces used by both bicycles and motor vehicles. The court also explained that the trial judge erred in assuming that townships had no duty to maintain the road surface in a condition safe for both motorcycles and bicycles. In fact, New Jersey Municipalities have a duty to maintain roadways in a safe condition for bike riders who use the roads. It noted that certain conditions might not be hazardous for trucks or automobiles but could still be unsafe for two-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles and motorcycles.

            The personal injury lawyers at Kemeny, Ramp & Renaud, LLC are equipped to help you pursue your rightful compensation for t injuries you may have sustained as a result of a bicycle or motorcycle accident in New Jersey. Our attorneys provide free consultations for wrongful death cases. Call us at (732) 853-1725 to schedule a consultation.



        Kemeny, Ramp & Renaud, LLC is committed to pursuing vigorous, cost-effective strategies designed to secure the best possible results. The trial attorneys at our firm are available to assist you. Call us at (732) 853-1725 to schedule a consultation.


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