Paralyzed biker: Fiesta Island unsafe for riders

Posted at 10:05 AM, May 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-21 17:06:26-04
A just-filed lawsuit contends a horrific crash involving a wrong-way driver plowing into dozens of cyclists could have been avoided.
August 2014. Theresa Owens’ car slammed into a group of 25 cyclists on Fiesta Island. Ten were injured. Juan Carlos Vinolo, 43, was paralyzed from the chest down.
“I remember not feeling my legs immediately, to the point I asked someone holding me up whether my legs were still attached to me,” said Vinolo.
Owen was eventually found guilty of driving under the influence with meth, but Vinolo's lawyers say she had only trace amounts of meth.
Instead, Vinolo is frustrated with the city.
“That’s a death trap right there,” said Vinolo, who met us feet from the site of the crash.
“Every time I come here, I am frustrated, because I feel like I should be on a bike,” said Vinolo.
Brandon Ewers, another cyclist tossed from his bike that day, points out the overgrown brush in that blind corner - pruned back after the accident -- is once again a problem.

“On the one-year anniversary, I was part of a ride, and an RV going the wrong way hit a woman at nearly the same spot. A few weeks ago, we had another close call,” said Ewers.                       
Another problem alleged in a just-filed suit against the city: Signage.
Vinolo’s attorney Mike Bomberger says there were too few wrong-way signs, and since the wrong-driver drove past a “No Parking” sign facing her direction, she thought she was going the right way.
Bomberger also calls wrong-way driving, especially city vehicles -- rampant.   
“We have hundreds of videos of cars … and pedestrians going the wrong way.  The city knows that and does nothing to address the problem. The city advertises Fiesta Island as a biker’s paradise, but they don’t treat it as one,” said Bomberger.
He contends there is little enforcement of wrong-way traffic.
“It's just a matter of time for something bad to happen again. How many more people have to suffer? What are they waiting for? Someone to be killed"? asked Vinolo.
After the accident, the city added more wrong-way signs.
10News reached out to a city spokesperson, who has not responded yet.     
Owens was also named in the lawsuit.