Bonn In October Eckart Weiher slipped on one of the new steps leading down to the station and injured himself. It is clear to him that the flooring here is dangerous. The City is commissioning an expert assessment and may have to rebuild the stairs at its own expense where possible.
The light-coloured tiles on the stairs to the Poststraße disappear under thick black adhesive strips. These are a temporary measure to ensure that pedestrians safely reach the passage to Bonn central station. For the danger of slipping here can no longer be denied.
On 21 October, as Eckart Weiher (77) from Mehlem went down the steps with his shopping as usual, the strips were not there. Not noticing that the stairs were wet, he slipped and broke his sacrum. Following the accident, Weiher filed a complaint with the police and instructed a lawyer. “It wasn't just about me,” he explains. “A structure like that is a hazard. The stairs are made of materials that caused me to fall.” Passers-by should at least be warned, he says. He is not alone in his concern. The city had already received complaints that the new stairs are steeper and more slippery than the old ones. The city authorities have now commissioned a second expert assessment of the tiles. The question of who is responsible for the safety of the stairs is also still being examined. As things stand, the municipality (Kommune) is probably responsible, according to the press office, but claims against the companies involved are nevertheless possible.
Eckart Weiher is a fit man. He usually goes to the gym, and during the pandemic he has been working out at home. On the day of the accident, the stairs to the Poststraße were not busy. Weiher went down the steps as usual, without holding on to the railing. "I didn't think for a minute that it could be dangerous," says the 77-year-old. He slipped on the bottom step and landed on his sacrum.
After the fall, two law enforcement officers and a young woman came to Weiher's aid and collected up his scattered shopping. He was briefly dazed and then returned to his car in Poppelsdorf and drove home. An hour later, however, the pain was so severe that he had to go to hospital. Weiher had to take painkillers for four weeks, and after six weeks the fracture had healed. Today he no longer has any pain.
Weiher only received a response to his complaint of wilful slight bodily harm on 23 October at the beginning of January. A police spokesperson says that the investigation is still ongoing, and the case is currently with the public prosecutor's office.
City pays damages for pain and suffering
With the help of his lawyer, Weiher demanded compensation from the city. The man from Mehlem reports that the municipality offered him 2,500 euros at first. However, his lawyer advised him to ask for more money. In a letter dated 14 December, the 77-year-old was then granted 3,500 euros plus reimbursement of his legal fees in the amount of 866 euros - however, “without recognition of a legal obligation”. Weiher accepted and has been waiting for the payment ever since.
In a letter from the city of Bonn to the victim of the fall, deficiencies in the staircase are partially admitted. An initial expert assessment on the slip resistance at the accident site showed that the tiles were in a "serviceable condition". However, since the staircase was opened at the beginning of 2018, the slip resistance had "deteriorated" due to "heavy use". Shortly after the accident, the civil engineering department upgraded the steps with the anti-slip strips. However, there are now gaps in the strips.
Weiher would like to see a permanent retrofit, for example with a handrail: "The old stairs were much narrower, but there was a handrail in the middle." This is not required by law, he says, but it is important - especially for "older people". Andrea Schulte from the press office explains that the civil engineering office is currently investigating whether the stairs can be upgraded with a railing in the middle. The railing must not block the escape routes from the underground station.
The city had stressed that the tiles meet the relevant specifications for slip resistance (R-value). Nevertheless, the second expert assessment was commissioned. So are there doubts about the safety after all? The first expert assessment examined the staircase on site, the second one will now test the tiles in a laboratory, says Andrea Schulte. "A so-called R-value is determined, which is decisive for the question of liability in the event of accidents.” If the tiles are found to have an R-value below 11, the investor Ten Brinke (Maximilian-Center) would have to replace the floor.
Ilja Keller, Managing Director of Ten Brinke Rheinland, disagrees. He emphasises that his property development company had expressed reservations to the city about the chosen floor covering. But the municipality insisted on the tiles. Andrea Schulte from the press office can only partially confirm this: "The concerns were not about the grip, but about the durability of the tiles." For the time being, the result of the expert opinion remains to be seen. But even if the R-value is high enough, the city will decide whether to rebuild the stairs, says Schulte. This would be at its own expense.
(Original text: Christine Ludewig, Translation: Caroline Kusch)