Son says city bears blame in crash that killed cyclist outside El Dorado Park

A teenager whose father was killed in a bicycle crash has accused Long Beach of neglecting a dangerous stretch of roadway near El Dorado Park despite the city touting itself as a bike-friendly destination.

In a legal claim, Bradley Lembke says he suffered “beyond what I thought could have been imaginable” after making the decision to pull his father off life support last year.

Lembke’s father was riding a bicycle in East Long Beach on Nov. 7 when a driver rear-ended him at high speed, leaving him brain dead.

“The poor kid is 19 years old [and] he was the next of kin,” said James Luyben, a longtime friend of Bradley Lembke’s father, Bryan Lembke. “He had some really heavy decisions to make.”

In May, Lembke filed the $1.6 million claim against Long Beach, alleging the city was at least partially to blame for the crash.

The crash happened when Bryan Lembke was riding west on Spring Street where it bisects El Dorado Park, according to a police report attached to the legal claim. A blue Honda Accord hit him after its driver sped from a 605 Freeway off-ramp onto Spring Street, according to the report.

Spring Street along El Dorado Park. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Spring Street along El Dorado Park. Courtesy of Google Maps.

The driver told officers he never saw the bicyclist before the crash. A flash of red from the cyclist’s shirt and a burst of sparks from the roadway alerted him and other motorists to the crash, officers wrote.

Witnesses told police the driver had been speeding before the crash, but the officer investigating wrote he believed Bryan Lembke was primarily at fault because he was riding in the middle of the far-right lane instead of further to the side of the road.

Bradley Lembke argues Long Beach mismanaged Spring Street, helping to create the tragedy.

“Every Long Beach resident I have spoken with who is familiar with this specific stretch of road that traverses El Dorado Regional Park has agreed that the area is one that is dark, with no light at night or early in the morning, and that motorists constantly speed through the area,” he wrote.

If Bryan Lembke had moved any further to the right, he would’ve risked riding in an uneven gutter littered with debris, according to his son. The sidewalk, too, was an unsafe option with obstacles like utilities poles he would have had to dodge, according to the claim.

Long Beach encourages bicyclists to use its roadways and touts itself as a safe, friendly place for people to ditch their cars. Despite this, Bradley Lembke says, this particular stretch of roadway has no bike lanes, no street lights and no safe place for bicyclists.

He argues his father took the proper precautions: wearing bright clothes and a headlamp as he rode to work. He also outfitted his bike with lights and reflectors, according to the claim.

Despite this, Long Beach still had “inadequate infrastructure for supporting cycling at a time when the City of Long Beach is urging and encouraging bikers like Mr. Lembke as a means of safe commuting,” Bradley Lembke wrote in the document.

A legal claim is usually a precursor to a lawsuit unless the city agrees to a settlement.

The Long Beach City Attorney’s office declined to comment.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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