Category Archives: Bicycle Collisions

UPDATE: Drunk Elmira Heights Woman Arrested After Elmira Bicyclist Killed In Hit-And-Run Crash

Charles G. Rogers, a 68-year-old bicyclist from Elmira, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver with a suspended license Tuesday afternoon on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira, police said.

Charles G. Rogers

Mr. Rogers was crossing in the crosswalk on Grand Central near the Clemens Center Parkway Extension, close to the north entrance to Eldridge Park, at about 2 p.m. Tuesday when he was struck by a northbound 2006 Ford Fusion driven by Sara Harnas, 40, of East 11th Street in Elmira Heights, according to Elmira police.

He was transported by Erway Ambulance to Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, where he died a short time later, police said.

Ms. Harnas initially fled the scene and was only apprehended by the swift and brave action of a witness who followed her while calling 911. She was taken into custody by Elmira Heights police officers on East 14th Street in Elmira Heights near Lake Road.

Ms. Harnas allegedly was highly intoxicated. Alcohol and drug tests are pending. Her driver’s license has been suspended six times, police said.

Ms/ Sara Harnas

Ms. Harnas was charged with Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident and First-Degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation, both felonies, and arraigned on Tuesday night in Elmira City Court and sent to the Chemung County Jail, police said.

The investigation continues and additional charges are expected, police said.

As a member of the Elmira bicycling community, my heart goes out to the family of Charles G. Rogers.

As a local bicycle advocate and Board member on the NY Bicycling Coalition, I will be working with our biking community to ensure that this reckless drunk driver is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.








We thank the wonderful citizen who followed the hit-and-run driver until the Elmira Heights police pulled Ms. Harnas over. Of course, more details will emerge as the Elmira Police Department completes its investigation, but it is our hope that this drunk driver will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

In the meantime, again, our condolences to Mr. Rogers’ family and friends.

Thanks for reading,


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



Confront Dangerous Drivers? NOT A Good Idea…..

Bicyclists are back on our potholed Twin Tiers roads, and in addition to navigating around bad road conditions, we have to be mindful of the drivers around us. We’ve all gotten angry at thoughtless or careless drivers, and in that moment, did we confront? That’s a dangerous place to be.

Every bicyclist has at least one story (and usually many more) about careless, aggressive, and impatient drivers who have cut them off, turned in front of them, almost doored them, often without thinking about our safety. Bicyclists are invisible and insignificant to millions of drivers.

Eben Weiss

Eben Weiss, the author of the book “Bike Snob” and the blog Bike Snob NYC, has a great column in Outside magazine where he talks about the spur-of-the-moment decision all cyclists have to make when we’re wronged: Do we confront or let it go?

Eben’s column headline says it all: “Confronting a Driver From Your Bike Is Never Worth It.”

He’s right. With thousands and thousands of miles of cycling experience, I have had more than my fair share of encounters with angry motorists who apparently feel that bicyclists have no right to share the road. I have had things thrown at me, I have suffered dangerous brush-backs (also known as “punishment passes”), and I have been screamed at at close-range by teens trying to scare the bejeezus out of me.

I would like to say I have always reacted with calmness and good cheer.

Nope. Not even close.

I have f-bombed, I have given the finger, I have encouraged the cowardly, menacing drivers to have the guts to come back and confront me without the protection of their thousand pounds of steel armor.

With one exception – thankfully, a stoned 90-pound woman – no one has taken me up on the offer to come back. But I have been lucky so far.  And luck only works for so long.

So I have now reformed my ways.  No longer do I confront motorists and I STRONGLY urge cyclists to NOT confront motorists under any circumstances.

The bottom line is that any confrontation with a motorist could go wrong in so many way — a gun, a knife, a tire iron, the cyclist run over, etc. So the much smarter way to handle a nasty driver is to let it go and immediately report it to the police.

Eben Weiss is right when he writes this in Outside about bicyclists’ bad options:

No matter how justified, ultimately it’s never satisfying to fly into a rage; if anything, you just wind up feeling guilty and ashamed, like when you wake up on the couch covered in Cheetos after a Netflix binge. As for administering a devastating dressing-down with such surgical precision that the driver immediately questions all the life choices that led them up to this moment, no matter how clever you are, attempts to deliver the mot juste invariably backfire and leave you feeling even angrier.

I agree, Eben. Pick your fights!

Thanks for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and


It’s Already Been a Deadly Year for NYC Bicyclists…..And It’s Only March

David Schlichting (Facebook)

Sad to say but it appears to be  open season on bicyclists in New York City.  So far this year, in less than three months, 7 cyclist fatalities.  In the last week alone, two very experienced bicyclists were struck and killed.

NYC police said a total of 10 bicyclists were killed in the city’s boroughs in all of 2018, so 2019 is looking like a much more deadly year for cyclists. Some bicycle advocates are estimating that there could be 30 or more deaths this year on NYC streets. And there are real steps the city — and all cities — can take to protect bicyclists from some of the hazards.

On March 14, 53-year-old Robert Spencer was killed just blocks from his home in Long Island City. Police did not identify the 51-year-old female driver who struck him but said the investigation continues.

On March 17, 66-year-old David Schlichting was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Long Island.

Both were described as experienced and careful cyclists.

Bicycle advocates in New York City called for the city to move quickly to install bike-centric infrastructure across the five boroughs.

> Police and neighbors said Spencer was struck in an uncompleted bike lane. Residents living near the crash scene recently requested a two-way protected bike lane near the intersection where he was killed.

“Another awful tragedy. Another life lost. Another family shattered,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on Twitter. “We cannot normalize traffic violence and deaths. They cannot be a foregone conclusion. Cyclists deserve safety on our city’s roads like everyone else.”

“DOT will look into potential safety enhancements, as we do following any fatality,” a city Department of Transportation spokeswoman told the news media. The DOT also said it would implement areawide traffic-calming measures around the crash scene and will re-examine existing construction projects to ensure the paths are safe.

Spencer’s family and friends held a weekend vigil and placed a ghost bike at the crash scene.

> Schlichting was struck by a minivan driver who fled the scene and remains at large, police said.

Friends told the news media that Schlichting had been involved in the cyclist community for decades, beginning with his volunteer work with the American Youth Hostels nonprofit, which for much of the 1960s and 1970s organized bike trips in the city. In the 1970s, the group became the Five Borough Bicycle Club and Schlichting helped launch the Five Boro Bicycle Tour, an annual 40-mile ride that remains the country’s largest gathering of cyclists.

He also helped lead multiple safety and educational campaigns for fellow cyclists.

“David was happy to make substantial volunteer commitments, but not concerned about getting credit for work that he did,” said Steve Vaccaro, a friend and safe streets advocate. “He was really ubiquitous in New York City cycling for decades.”

Bike New York, a nonprofit organization that teaches safe cycling, said in a statement: “Dave was a longtime and much-loved part of our extended Bike New York Family. We’re outraged a driver could recklessly run him down and be so cowardly as to flee afterwards. We urge Nassau County authorities to stay on the case and ensure the driver is caught.”

Bike New York President & CEO Ken Podziba called Schlichting “one of the most disciplined bike riders we know” in a statement, adding that his death illustrates that “no matter how experienced and careful a bike rider is, cyclists in the New York area will continue to die and be hurt until governments at all levels, take street and road safety seriously enough to build networks of protected bike lanes, design streets to operate at safe speeds, and get problem drivers out from behind the wheel.”

Please ride safely out there…….


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and


In Rochester Car-Bike Crash, Young Bicyclist Steps Up … But Driver Doesn’t

Julian Moore and his mother, Jenny Moore, near the scene of Julian’s bike collision in September. (Photo by Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper)

Sometimes, a 10-year-old boy can be more responsible than a 66-year-old man.

That was the case last fall in the aftermath of a car-bike crash in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, according to a report this week in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper.

The boy, 10-year-old Julian Moore, was riding his bike in his neighborhood on Sept. 7 when he was struck by a Range Rover being driven by 66-year-old Doug Lamb of Canandaigua,  Lamb had left nearby Oak Hill Country Club after a round of golf and was driving a borrowed Range Rover.

Julian Moore’s bicycle following the crash. (Photo by Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper)

Although Lamb stopped after Julian crashed to the pavement, he left before police arrived. He didn’t identify himself to anyone at the scene, not Julian or his mother, Jenny Moore, who was called to the scene, or paramedics or witnesses. Police said he also never reported the crash to the authorities.

Julian suffered only scrapes and bruises and was later diagnosed with a concussion, his mother said.

It took investigators two weeks to track down Lamb at his lakefront home and charge him with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Personal Injury, a misdemeanor.

Lamb told police he checked on Julian, waited for 30 minutes at the scene, and left after Julian’s mother declined treatment for Julian. He told investigators he didn’t think he was needed anymore.

Police reports, however, provided a different timeline. The ambulance was called at 4:54 p.m., arrived at 5:02, and police arrived at 5:12 – and Lamb was already gone when police arrived. That’s way less than the 30 minutes he claims he waited at the scene.  Regardless, under NY law, a driver involved in a personal injury crash is prohibited from leaving the scene until the police arrival no matter how long it takes for the police to arrive.

A plea deal was struck in Pittsford Town Court on Dec. 6. Prosecutors wanted Lamb to perform community service and write a letter of apology to Julian, and Lamb wanted the charge dismissed.

Town Justice John Bernacki rejected community service, citing Lamb’s age and physical condition – despite the fact that Lamb was playing golf prior to the crash.

Judge Bernacki agreed to dismiss the charge if Lamb wrote an apology to Julian, but it was Lamb’s “apology” letter that hurt Julian more than the collision with the Range Rover.

The letter:

Dear Julian,

I’m very sorry that you rode into the side of the car I was driving on Friday, September 7th. More importantly, I am glad you didn’t need to be treated by the attending ambulance on the day of the incident. Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season. Sincerely, Doug Lamb.

Julian’s response? “I was angry, really angry, actually. I was really upset with it.”

Julian provided the reporter with his recollection of the “incident”: “He accused me of riding into the side of his car, which didn’t really happen. He came up from behind me.”

The Lamb case was “adjourned in contemplation of dismissal” (ACD) on the condition that Lamb write an apology letter. So the question now for the town justice is: Was the non-apology letter enough to dismiss the charge?

The newspaper columnist who wrote the story said what Lamb wrote “was an insult to the court. The court deserves better, and so does Julian.”  I wholeheartedly agree.

As the columnist pointed out, the 10-year-old accepted responsibility for his part in the collision but the adult driver refused to accept responsibility for running over a bicyclist.

The court has six months to reconsider the dismissal.  A hearing is scheduled this week in town court to discuss the case.

Will justice finally be served?  Let’s hope so……

Thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and






Carbon Fiber Bikes and Components: Great or a ticking time bomb?

It’s worth reading a great new article by Eric Barton in Outside magazine, “Why Carbon Fiber Bikes Are Failing,” because he writes a balanced account about what’s happening with these bikes. There are more and more lawsuits nationwide every day because of components failing on aging bikes, poor quality production, and more.

I talk in the story about my experience with the bikes as a lawyer and avid cyclist. But don’t read it just to see what I have to say – the story captures the joys and dangers  of owning carbon fiber bikes. It’s important reading for all cyclists, whether you own a carbon fiber bike or are thinking of buying one. (It’s also a good reminder for any bike owner to inspect their bikes often for the early signs of trouble before a crash sends them tumbling into the street, often with catastrophic consequences.)

I own two carbon-fiber bikes: a Trek Madone road bike and a Giant mountain bike because I love riding lightweight bikes. And I have also represented two carbon fiber bike owners who suffered catastrophic injuries in crashes where carbon fiber components failed, and have heard of many other similar cases because I am a Bike Law lawyer in New York.

Carbon fiber is not always a dangerous material for bikes. If manufactured properly and professionally inspected for wear and tear, carbon bikes and components can be safe. But this is the problem: not all carbon fiber bike makers and component makers have the necessary high production standards, and many owners can’t tell when key parts are in danger of failing because they are not able to do the kind of inspection professionals can do.  It is the hidden dangers of carbon that can bite you…..

So word to the wise….. have your carbon fiber bike and components regularly maintained and serviced by experienced bike mechanics who are trained to properly install components following manufacturer recommended torque settings and who can carefully inspect for early signs of carbon damage or failure.

This is what I had to say in the story:

Attorney James B. Reed is a New York state representative of Bike Law and has handled two lawsuits where clients suffered catastrophic injuries when carbon-fiber components failed below them. He has heard about numerous others from people on the Bike Law listserv.

Reed and other experts in carbon fiber agree that any material can fail. Wrecks happen from faulty aluminum, steel, and even rock-hard titanium. The difference with carbon fiber is that it can be difficult to detect signs of damage that might signal imminent failure. Cracks and dents in other materials are typically easy to see, but fissures in carbon fiber often hide beneath the paint. What’s worse is that when carbon fiber fails, it fails spectacularly. While other materials might simply buckle or bend, carbon fiber can shatter into pieces, sending riders flying into the road or trail. And this kind of catastrophic destruction can happen to any part of a bike made with the material.

“I’ve seen accidents from a whole range of carbon-fiber components—handlebars, forks, seatposts, entire frames,” Reed says. “As a lawyer, the question is, ‘What’s the cause of the failure?’”

Carbon fiber used to be used only in expensive bikes, but now it’s used in many bikes, and crashes that follow part failures are on the rise, and based on the court ruling in Illinois, more lawsuits are likely on the way related to carbon-fiber bike parts.

Lucas Elrath, a bicycle-accident expert for a forensic company in Philadelphia and the owner of a home-built carbon-fiber bike, had a few great quotes in the story worth noting:

“There’s an old saying in bike manufacturing: It can be lightweight, durable or cheap – pick two. A lot of these carbon-fiber components are lightweight and cheap, but they are not durable.”

“It’s completely reasonable for someone who wants a lightweight bike to look at carbon fiber, but they need to understand the risks. Absolutely this is getting ignored.”

Roman F. Beck, another bicycle-accident forensic expert, warns of the long-range implications of bike makers using carbon fiber material, including mountain bike companies, especially now that there are so many secondhand bikes on the market.

“As good as (many) frames are, what happens when someone rides five or 10 or 20 years from now? Mountain bikes take a lot of punishment, but nobody knows how long these frames will last in that environment.”

Thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



Friendly and Informative Dialogue Explores NY Traffic Laws For Motorists And Bicyclists

Bicycle Sidewalk 2

I recently received an email from a Twin Tiers resident concerned about bicyclists riding on sidewalks and on the wrong side of roadways. I was copied on the email that was sent to his mayor and police chief after the man almost struck a bicyclist riding on a sidewalk.

The man was turning right into a parking lot and a speeding bicyclist, the resident said, was riding on the wrong side of the street in his path to the parking lot. The bicyclist was on the sidewalk and behind a fence, so he was hard to see, the man said. The resident was able to stop before hitting the bicyclist.

The resident stopped by the police department and talked with officers, remarking that he was taught as a child to ride in the road – and ride on the right side of the road, with traffic.

He said two police officers told him that pedestrians (the bicyclist, in this case) always have the right of way, and police have no power to tell bicyclists where to ride on roadways.

ebike signThe man then correctly cited part of NY Vehicle and Traffic Law 1234 (regarding riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skate lanes and bicycle or in-line skate paths): (a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge ….

I sent this response to him:

Thanks for including me on your email. I am sorry I have to disagree with your statement “motorists would be blamed in every case of a collision with a bicyclist despite a bicyclist riding unsafely.”

As a lawyer who handles a significant number of bicycle crash lawsuits, I can tell you that the vast majority of time it is the cyclist, not the motorist, who is blamed for causing a collision. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to prove that an accident report was erroneous in claiming the bicyclist was at fault when in fact the motorist violated the NY Vehicle and Traffic Law.

My feeling is that our laws should be applied equally to ALL users of our roads — motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians. Likewise, proper education is important for ALL users of our roads. Yes, I see bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists sometimes obeying the laws, sometimes violating the law, and accordingly, I think it’s important that we don’t jump to the conclusion that all bicyclists are bad or that all motorists are bad.

James-Reed-Ziff-Law-FirmI appreciate the fact that you are creating a dialogue about proper bicyclist/motorist behavior.  I regularly lecture on NY bike laws to law enforcement, and in fact, I recently lectured to the Steuben County Magistrates Association, where many of the 52 village and town justices in Steuben County were in attendance. If you or anyone in law enforcement ever have questions regarding NY bicycle laws, please let me know and I would be happy to offer my analysis.

Under NY law, you are correct that bicycles are supposed to ride in the same direction as vehicle traffic, not against traffic. And most NY municipalities have laws prohibiting bicyclists from riding on sidewalks if the rider is older than 12 years old.

And finally, although VTL 1234 does say a cyclist should ride to the right of the road when it is safe to do so, a bicyclist IS permitted to use the full travel lane when necessary to ride safely (i.e., when making a left turn or when parked cars, road debris or potholes make the right side of the roadway dangerous).

* * * * *

Fortunately, the police chief responded to the man’s email, too:

“I do not know what officers you talked with or when, but if they told you that bicyclists are somehow immune to the law, they were incorrect.

“You accurately cited one of the sections of the NYVTL that identifies the manner of which bicycles should be ridden.

“In addition to this, there are City Codes that further identify proper bicycle operation and restrictions to riding in certain areas, including the downtown area. Through our School Resource Officer, we try to educate children of their responsibilities when operating bicycles, and offer a program for free helmets for those children in need.

“By your letter, it is not clear to me the age of the bicyclist (child or adult), as this certainly factors into the options that are available to the officers. Regardless, with warmer weather upon us, there will be more cyclists out and about, making it  imperative that persons operating motor vehicles do such with due care and caution.

“I will be talking with my entire staff re an uptick of patrolling safe bicycle operations. If you need anything further, please feel free to call me.”

It’s great to see a police chief admit his officers made a mistake and that he plans to educate his employees and increase enforcement. For our roadways to be safer, everyone has to do their part – motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians – and follow the laws. And always be mindful that there will be those who ignore the law.

Thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and






Test Your NY Bike Law IQ By Reading My Column At The Odessa File

Odessa File

A few months ago, I began writing a column for The Odessa File (photo above), a must-read community news website in Schuyler County. Since my wife and I live there now, I wanted to find a way to connect with my fellow residents, and I know that everyone in the county reads it. Charlie Haeffner has created a great resource for county residents, and I will say it again: Everyone. Reads. It.

The feedback has been great and people are coming up to introduce themselves on the street when I am out in the community. It’s been a great icebreaker.

0411reedPicI just published my fifth column this year. I write about legal news that people can use in their everyday lives. I have written about a great insurance change in state law for New York State drivers; about how a woman’s tragic death has led to a positive change in another state law; and about how writing wills can be a messy process for families.

My latest column is a wake-up call for New York motorists and bicyclists. The hibernation is over.

The snow is gone for good (I hope) and bicyclists are getting their bikes out of the garage and checking their brakes and tires. As we all prepare to hit the road again, and dodge the horrible potholes that winter left behind, it’s time to remind everyone on the road what the law says about the rights of motorists … and bicyclists!

So please. go read the terrific Odessa File website and read my column.

As a bonus, I have a brief quiz in the column that will test your knowledge about basic bike laws in NY. If you email me your answers, I will enter you in a drawing for a $50 gift card to a great Watkins Glen restaurant.

You can also email me at [email protected] f you’d like a very readable and easy-to-understand primer on NY laws for bicyclists. It’s a great refresher so we all have another safe year of sharing our roads with drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

Thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and

Debate Over E-bikes Grows After NYC Partially Lifts Ban

ebike 1

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would lift its ban on riding e-bikes, making bike-sharing and delivery companies happier. For motorists and bicyclists in the city, it will be one more faster-moving object to watch for as they zig-zag through the frenetic streets. And reviving the debate nationally over the safety of e-bicycles.

The NY law on e-bikes is murky and confusing as noted in a nice blog post from CityLab:  “Under federal law, an electric bike with a maximum assisted speed under 20 miles per hour can be sold as a bicycle, not a motor vehicle. Under New York state law, riders would need to register these as they would a motorcycle, moped, or car. But there’s no clear way to register them. Because of this regulatory patchwork, e-bikes are legal to sell as bikes anywhere in the U.S. but effectively illegal to ride in New York, since they can’t be registered as motor vehicles.”

NYC Mayor Bill di Blasio.

NYC Mayor Bill di Blasio.

According to news reports from NYC, the city just months ago was taking a hard line on e-bicyclist delivery folks, targeting riders and the businesses they work for with fines from $200 to $500. But vocal critics said the fines were hitting delivery riders, often poor immigrants, the hardest.

The New York City Department of Transportation is drafting new rules that will regulate the use of pedal-assist bikes. For now, any throttle e-bikes that can travel faster than 20 mph are still banned.

“By creating the framework for pedal-assist bicycles, our goal is to join other world cities that are opening the door for delivery workers, older or less able-bodied cyclists, and other casual aspiring cyclists to experience a safe and low-emission mode of travel,” said NYCDOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a news release.

“The mayor’s announcement is a positive first step, but until the City has established a solution for converting the e-bikes currently being used to pedal-assist bicycles, we worry that delivery workers will continue to be criminalized,” wrote Joe Cutrufo, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, in an email to Bicycling magazine.

ebike signE-bikes – and bicycling – are growing more popular in the U.S., news reports say. The National Institute for Transportation and Communities said its research found that people buying e-bikes are less reliant on motor vehicles.

E-bike advocates say they help reduce barriers for people who may not ride a traditional bicycle because of age, disability or poor physical condition. Some work commuters like them because they are a less strenuous ride to the office.

E-bike critics have many valid concerns: pedestrians don’t want to tangle with e-bikes on sidewalks. Some bicyclists call e-bikes cheating and don’t want to share busy bike paths with e-bikes that will travel faster. Police officers are worried about speeding and dangerous crashes..

There is pending legislation in NY to better define e-bikes and their legality in NY.  It is my hope that this legislation will soon become law because confusion over e-bikes is bad for everyone.

Be safe on our roads, and thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and

Inspect Your Quick Release To Avoid Devastating Failure While Riding

It’s winter in NY and PA — cold and icy and snowy, definitely not bicycle season — so it’s a good time to head to your garage, get your bike out, and complete a safety check. We will get our first taste of spring soon, I hope, so be ready.

quickrelease2If you have a quick-release seat or front wheel, that’s a good place to start your winter inspection. I will focus on that today because failure, of either the front wheel or the seat, can lead to very serious injuries and destroy your bike.

Please watch the instructional video above by Global Cycling Network. It’s a great primer for new and future quick-release users.

So you and your buddy installed quick-release seats and wheels last fall, and had a few safe rides? You think you have nothing to worry about, right?

I hope so, but … I have handled a few bike crash cases caused by quick-release failures. As you might imagine, if the quick-release fails and your wheel suddenly separates from the bike, injuries can be catastrophic.

Quick-release failures can be caused many ways:

  • Improper installation.
  • Improper adjustment.
  • Poor manufacturing.

The point is that if someone is injured because of a quick-release failure, they should:

  • Immediately preserve the bike and wheel and …
  • Contact an experienced bike crash lawyer who can then investigate the details of the crash and determine the cause of the failure.

I would recommend you take your bike to a local bike shop this winter and have them inspect your quick-release levers. Also be sure they observe how you remove and return your wheel and/or your seat. They might have safety suggestions after observing your methods that will save you thousands in medical costs.

Losing a front wheel while riding could send you head-first toward the pavement, so be as prepared as you possibly can before spring arrives.

Be safe on our roads, and thank you for reading!


James B. Reed
NY & PA Bike Crash Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and







After Son’s Bike Crash, Father Gears Up Fight For Safer Streets For Cyclists, Pedestrians In Ithaca

Armin Heurich with some of his yield signs.

Armin Heurich with some of his yield signs.

Armin Heurich of Ithaca, the president of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club, has written an excellent guest blog post about his long battle for bicycle and pedestrian safety in Ithaca, a big issue in a progressive – but unsafe – city. The turning point in his struggle for safer streets is very personal ….

Why is a state traffic law almost completely ignored and unenforced in some cities, and almost universally respected in others?

I’ve been pondering this question for many years now in Ithaca, N.Y., where I have lived since 1997. Section 1151a of the New York State Traffic Law states that: “[w]hen traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles.”

Most states in the U.S. have similar laws in the books. Most of us have visited a city or town where we can step foot in a crosswalk where there is no traffic light and marvel as all oncoming vehicles travelling in both directions respectfully come to a complete stop.

I have visited many cities in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, Oregon and California where one can safely assume that motorists will indeed yield. Yet in Ithaca and so many other cities and towns across the country, casually stepping into a crosswalk at an intersection with no traffic light involves putting your life at risk. When a vehicle does finally slow down, you can’t count on vehicles travelling in the other direction to follow suit, since all bets are off.

I am decidedly an urban dweller. When I was hired for a job as a librarian at Ithaca High School, my wife and I initially considered living in the lovely countryside, since we love all forms of outdoor adventure from cycling and hiking to cross-country skiing. Ultimately, we decided to live in the heart of the downtown Northside neighborhood, since it allowed us to bike or walk to work.

Cycling and walking are my primary means of transit both for business and pleasure, and we are only a mile away from some beautiful county roads that are very welcoming to cyclists, so living in the city was a great choice for us. It’s hard to imagine a better place for cycling, if you love the challenge of hills and appreciate breathtaking terrain. My direct bike commute is actually too short, so I typically add some hills and extra distance for a good morning workout.

While the county roads are mostly quiet and safe, with lots of low-traffic options, the same cannot be said for the city streets of Ithaca. Our small city is criss-crossed by state highways running east/west and north/south, including routes 79, 96 and 13.

These highways turn into mostly one-way city streets with a steady high volume of traffic, especially during business hours. Many motorists seem to be impatient and annoyed while driving through the city to their final destination. Ithaca is a waypoint to many, and pedestrians and cyclists are just another impediment along their way. Only one example of the challenges facing pedestrians is Seneca Street, which is Route 79 as it continues east through the city.

Try crossing Seneca Street at the Geneva Street intersection, and you are in for a rude awakening. There is a stop sign on Geneva Street, and there is no sign reminding motorists of the state law requiring them to yield to pedestrians. In fact, there is a dearth of such signs anywhere in the city. I have waited upwards of five minutes at that intersection waiting to cross, even with two feet in the crosswalk as I attempt to make eye contact with motorists. Of course, cyclists face the same exact challenges as they attempt to brave the crossing.

For many years, I have been asking mayors, members of Ithaca’s Common Council and the city engineers for more signs to no avail. I also ask why we have such an unfriendly pedestrian and cycling culture compared to many other municipalities, when we take such pride in being a caring and progressive-minded community. The best answer I get is that it is a cultural thing and a mystery that might not ever get resolved. I have attended Common Council meetings, Board of Public Works meetings, and open houses in which specific infrastructure projects are shared for public feedback. I keep asking the same questions, and get unsatisfying answers. I usually end up feeling ignored or sidelined, even though I have carefully chosen my words and present my perspective in a polite and thoughtful manner.

This summer, our family enjoyed a trip of a lifetime, which involved cycling and walking through many great European cities, including Copenhagen and Amsterdam, two of the most cycling- and pedestrian-friendly cities. We marveled at the infrastructure and the feeling of safety for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. We biked every day and logged nearly 100 miles of urban cycling in our week of sightseeing in those two cities. I took endless mental notes about how the cities were completely transformed through seamless infrastructure, and looked forward to sharing insights with friends and community members.

Then, a week after our return, my 16-year-old son was hit by a car while cycling in Ithaca. He stopped at a four-way, then continued on his way north on Albany Street until he was struck by a motorist heading west on North Titus Street.

The driver ran the stop sign and claims not to have seen Toby, who has struck hard in the ribcage. Toby rolled onto the hood of the car, causing some noticeable damage to the bodywork, then rolled onto the pavement after the motorist came to an abrupt stop. He spent seven days at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse with a fractured rib and a collapsed lung, but was very lucky, since he did not concuss.

While I was sitting at his bedside during his painful convalescence, I became increasingly frustrated about Ithaca’s unfriendly streets. I felt like I failed him as well as the membership of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club by not being a more decisive advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety. It was time for action. I thought up a renegade action that would likely start a community conversation about this issue; I got to work on social media and touched base with my local copy shop about the logistics of printing signs on rigid plastic.

My plan was to print the official state sign that states, “State Law: Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalks” on rigid plastic, the kind used on political yard signs. I would make as many as I could, then assemble a team of like-minded friends in the community to zip tie the signs at dangerous intersections. The signs would have to be installed in a convincing manner, so as to fit right in with existing signs and not obstruct the view of motorists.

First, I contacted an Ithaca printer and emailed the graphic file for my prototype signs. Then I started a GoFundMe account and set a goal of $500 to cover the expense of sign production. Finally, I took to Facebook and shared a few posts about this idea on my wall, along with a link to my fundraising site. I have a good number of Facebook friends, many of whom live in and around Ithaca, but I was unprepared for the staggering response. In just three days I had raised over $400, and after a week I had surpassed my goal by nearly $100.

Meanwhile an Ithaca-based journalist named Mark Anbinder read about my project and interviewed me for an article that was to appear on Also I heard from many others in the Ithaca area who had accidents or near misses, including Ithaca Alderman Ducson Nguyen, who was hit by a car while cycling a month before Toby’s accident. The collective sense of frustration with the status quo and the encouraging words about the project kept me motivated.

I ended up getting about 50 signs printed, and with the help of friends, managed to get the signs placed on the most dangerous intersections by mid-August.

The community reaction was immediate. I was having conversations with neighbors and friends daily, and the overwhelming consensus was that the signs were making a difference. Drivers were more likely to yield to pedestrians in some of the most troublesome intersections. Local citizens and members of Common Council were urging the Board of Public Works and the city traffic engineer to install permanent signs and do more to get motorists to comply with state law. Residents were discussing the issue regularly on online forums, and the support for increased signage and enforcement was overwhelming.

About the time that I gave up on seeing Mark’s article on, he published his piece, which was timed to appear during the first week of school

Mark’s excellent article raised much greater awareness about my campaign, and increased pressure on city leaders to take action.

I received a warning email from the supervisor of public works that my signs were out of compliance with state DOT regulations, and that they would be removed. While I fully anticipated this eventual action by the city, I was hoping that the signs would last much longer. My dream was that they would be systematically replaced by permanent ones, but that was not the case.

IMG_20170815_111408848_HDRHowever I am more hopeful and optimistic now than ever before. I have heard that the BPW has agreed that more signage is necessary, and that it will be installed in a reasonably short order. The question about increased enforcement keeps coming up as well, and the city is looking at possible solutions to address this problem.

After my temporary signs came down, I circulated an online survey, asking respondents to reflect on the impact of signs, the process of requesting safety signage, and to suggest intersections that need increased signage and enforcement. My next step is to summarize the survey results from nearly 50 residents and present it to the mayor, Common Council, city engineers and the BPW.

If you are feeling helpless about the pedestrian and cycling safety concerns in your community, I hope that my story gives you hope and possible strategies for being a catalyst for change. While Ithaca has a long way to go, I believe that the emotional energy invested in this project has already paid off. Ultimately, my goal is to change the culture of our city with regard to respect for non-motorized transportation, even while our downtown experiences unprecedented growth.

Please feel free to contact Armin at [email protected] if you have suggestions on or questions about his initiative.  

Armin Heurich is the president of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club and the faculty adviser of the Ithaca High School Cycling Club, where he works as a school librarian.