Before scooter rider crashed in Salt Lake City, complaint warned sidewalk was ‘a neck breaker’

May 23, 2024, 8:50 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – Adam Guymon was worried someone would get hurt on a cracked, jagged sidewalk in Salt Lake City and he wanted something done about it.

Guymon, who navigates the city in his power wheelchair, filed a complaint with the city more than a year and a half ago, along with a picture of the tilted concrete. He called it a “neck breaker” and a “wheelchair breaker,” according to city records KSL obtained through a public information request.

But Guymon says he got nowhere. Then in March, a woman crashed on a rental scooter over the same buckle in the sidewalk — on West Temple between 400 and 500 South — and died. It’s just the sort of disaster Guymon feared would happen.

“I do feel anger at the same time I feel frustration,” said Guymon, 47. “They’re elected to, you know, make sure that the city is running correctly, and that people are safe in their city.”

Adam Guymon, of Salt Lake City, talks about a sidewalk hazard he reported in October 2022. A woman on a scooter crashed there and later died in March 2024. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

When Guymon filed his complaint, he pointed out the hazard had been there since former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski held office. Her term ended in January 2020.

“It’s really saddening that it took someone to actually have to pass away, you know, someone had to lose a family or friend because of that,” Guymon said.

Hundreds of complaints

He’s not the only one who has reported this sort of problem, according to data KSL obtained through another open records request.

With addresses for complaints filed since April 2022, the KSL Investigators made a map showing more than 300 locations around town.

One of these deteriorating sections is right on the city’s doorstep, on the northwest corner outside City Hall.

Despite multiple requests from the KSL Investigators, the city would not make the mayor or anyone else available for an interview. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson wrote it’s the city’s job to make sure sidewalks are safe and offered condolences to loved ones of Ashley Rose Peck, who died after crashing on a scooter.

“Public safety is something Salt Lake City prioritizes and takes very seriously. Utah law requires the City, as the owner of the sidewalks, to keep them free of hazards,” Andrew Wittenberg, director of communications for Mayor Erin Mendenhall, said in the statement.

Questions about liability

It’s a different response than the one the city gave Guymon in 2022. A city representative told him the responsibility for repair was the property owner’s, according to a copy of Adam’s complaint and correspondence with the city.

In this instance, the property owner is the Sheraton Hotel, which didn’t return KSL’s repeated requests for comment left by email and phone.

The city had told Guymon the location would be evaluated but “with the limited funding to these programs it may take a few construction seasons to address the sidewalk at this location.”

Instead of taking a few seasons to fix the buckle outside the Sheraton, it took a tragedy.

Peck, a 33-year-old mother of five, was riding a scooter at night with friends when she crashed on a Salt Lake sidewalk and hit her head.

Her family told KSL her death could have been prevented. Instead, they got a devastating phone call.

“She had a very extensive brain damage done, that she had hit her temporal side and that she didn’t have a lot of time,” her cousin Emilio Gonzales previously told KSL.

While Salt Lake City requires those on scooters to use the road, it can be difficult to do so safely, Gonzales said. Many scooter riders use the sidewalks instead, especially at night.

The city didn’t answer KSL’s question about how much it shells out for sidewalk fixes but said in 2023 it made 65 repairs through its cost-sharing program with homeowners, who can get reimbursed for half the bill. Businesses can take advantage of another offer: If they cover the cost of materials, the city will pay for the labor.

A buckle in the sidewalk on West Temple is pictured in this KSL file image. Salt Lake City later repaved the walkway. (KSL TV)

But exactly whose job is it to make sure city sidewalks are safe?

The answer is both the government and whoever owns the neighboring property, according to Utah attorney Bob Sykes. He’s sued cities and property owners in cases where the sidewalk’s a mess and someone gets hurt.

But he says one bears more responsibility than the other.

“The major fault here, in my opinion, lies with the city,” Sykes said. “They own the sidewalks, they put them down.”

Sykes questions why no one fixed the buckle earlier.

“What were they thinking?” Sykes wondered aloud. “That is incredibly negligent, both the city and property owner. How do you allow a hazard like that to exist and not be liable?”

A slow process

Liability aside, hazards remain. The KSL Investigators walked the sidewalks with known complaints and found crumbling or uneven pavement across the city, including downtown on busy streets like 200 South and 400 West, over on the East Bench and outside two schools on the city’s west side, marked for repair in green spray paint.

The concrete ledge on Navajo Street near Mountain View Elementary School and Glendale Middle School is just one of many spots awaiting repairs for months — sometimes more than a year — after someone told the city about the problem.

Myrna Jeffries told KSL she tripped over the uneven sidewalk last year and said it’s upsetting that the sidewalk still isn’t fixed.

A student steps over a ledge in the sidewalk on Navajo Street on Salt Lake City’s west side. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

While she didn’t break any bones, she said the pain was intense when she fell and scraped her knee badly.

“On a scale of 1-10 it was like a 7,” Jeffries recalled.

Guymon is losing patience as he waits for sidewalk repairs across town.

While these divots and cracks are safety issues for everyone, he points out they are an issue of fairness for him and everyone else using wheelchairs, walkers, and mobility scooters, along with anyone who simply has a harder time getting around.

“Someone should be able to use the same sidewalk equally as anyone else whether you’re disabled or not,” Guymon said.

Have you experienced something you think just isn’t right? The KSL Investigators want to help. Submit your tip at investigates@ksl.com or 385-707-6153 so we can get working for you.

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Before scooter rider crashed in Salt Lake City, complaint warned sidewalk was ‘a neck breaker’