Category Archives: Elmira bike accidents

Second Elmira Bicyclist Struck By Car This Week; Drivers, Share The Road and Pay Attention!

WETM photo.

I am sad to report that another Elmira bicyclist was struck by another careless motorist who simply wasn’t paying attention and struck a bicyclist while making a turn.

At about 7:30 a.m. Friday, a motorist struck a male bicyclist, identified as a man in his 50s, at Roe Avenue and Hoffman Street on Elmira’s Northside, about one city block from Arnot Ogden Medical Center. The driver was turning right from Hoffman Street into Roe Avenue when they struck the bicyclist. Fortunately, the bicyclist suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver was ticketed for Failure to Use Due Care For a Bicyclist, police said.

WETM photo.

Drivers are legally required to share the road with other vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It is NOT an excuse to say, “I didn’t see the bicyclist” or “I didn’t notice the pedestrian in the crosswalk.” As a driver, it’s your legal DUTY to be observant and see what is there to be seen.

So, please, when driving, be on the outlook for bicyclists, walkers, joggers, kids on skateboards. Paying attention saves lives ….

Charles G. Rogers

On Tuesday afternoon, bicyclist Charles G. Rogers, 68, of Elmira, was struck and killed in a crosswalk by a drunk hit-and-run driver on Grand Central Avenue in Elmira near the Clemens Center Parkway Extension and the north entrance to Eldridge Park.

The driver of the vehicle, who police said was drunk at the time of the crash, was stopped by Elmira Heights police after fleeing the scene. Sara Harnas, 40, of Elmira Heights, is facing two felony charges – first-degree Aggravated Unlicensed Operation and Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Accident. Her license has been suspended six times, police said, and she did not own the car she was driving at the time of the accident.

A Chemung County grand jury will decide whether Harnas faces additional charges, police said.

In Friday morning’s crash, news reports said the driver of the 2016 Ford sedan, who was not identified by police, was traveling south – in the same direction as the unidentified bicyclist – when the sedan hit the bicyclist.

The bicyclist was transported to Arnot Ogden Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Police are asking witnesses to contact the Elmira Police Department at 607-737-5626 or the anonymous tip line at 607-271-HALT.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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

Tragic Crash In Elmira: The Villain And The Hero

The recent fatal bike crash in Elmira revealed the worst of humanity and the best of humanity.

The worst in a woman, in the middle of the day, who was extremely drunk. Who drove her car drunk.  Who ran down an adult bicyclist in a crosswalk.  Who left that poor man to die while she sped away while holding her crushed windshield.  Who tried to evade a brave hero who was chasing her as she tried to escape responsibility.

The best in a brave citizen, simply driving home from work, who saw a car with a crushed windshield and a man lying on the road next to a crumpled bicycle, who didn’t hesitate for a second, who made a quick U-turn and chased after the car. Who called 911 while following that car until police arrived.

We have nothing more to say about the horrible drunk, but we did want to take the time to applaud and publicly thank Jimmy Melton of Waverly. who was the brave good Samaritan. The world needs more people like Jimmy who are willing to get involved and help when unspeakable tragedies occur.

Our law firm sponsors a Hero of the Game at each home game of the Elmira Pioneers and it is our hope to honor Jimmy with a special tribute at a Pioneers game this summer.  In the meantime, to Jimmy, we simply say thanks for being a local hero.

On TV: Local lawyer, avid bicyclist speaks out after alleged hit and run kills one

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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

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,

Jim

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

 

 

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!

Jim

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

 

 

USA Cycling Teams Up With Bike Law Lawyers, Including Me, To Protect Cyclists

 

There is some very big news in the U.S. cycling world today. US CX Nats

Bike Law, a national network of bicycle crash attorneys, is now the exclusive legal partner of USA Cycling, the governing body for competitive cycling in the United States. This partnership will provide USA Cycling members with respected and professional legal assistance and much more: information, education, and
increased awareness of cycling laws, legal reform and advocacy.

As a proud member of USA Cycling, I can’t wait to see the synergy created by the Bike Law/USAC partnership.  I am one of two New York State attorneys in the Bike Law network. I am available to represent New York and Pennsylvania bicyclists and their families.

Bike Law, has lawyers representing cyclists and advocating for cycling safety across the United States and Canada.

USAC-logo

Bike Law will provide USA Cycling members with exclusive benefits, including:

  • Priority initial consultation with a bike attorney within 24 hours and at no charge.
  • Reduced fees in bicycle crash cases for members.
  • Ongoing consultation for clubs on organizational legal issues at no charge.
  • Speaking engagements on bicycle law to clubs at no charge.
  • Priority consideration for pro bono legal representation by the Bike Law Defense League to advance cycling justice.

Join USA Cycling today to support a great organization and join the fight to help make our roads safer!  USA Cycling has recently added a Ride Membership for those cyclists who love to ride but have no desire to race.

Thanks for reading.

Jim

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

 

Can Drunken NY Bicyclists Be Charged With DWI? NY Bicycle Crash Lawyer Has The Answer

 

wrecked-bicycle

I recently received a question from an Elmira College student, who raised a very interesting – and often misunderstood – issue: bicycling while intoxicated.

Can riders be arrested like motorists?

Here is the question, edited for length:

I recently rode my bicycle to a local bar and had a glass of beer. The bartender cautioned me by saying, “You can still get a DWI on a bicycle.”

I have heard this before, and have witnessed family and colleagues get arrested for driving their cars while intoxicated. The consequences have been devastating emotionally, financially, and socially.

 

I expect bicycling will get more popular and become a necessity for some riders, so I envision our nation’s bicycling infrastructure will continue to grow in the future. What is the current law in New York State?

Here is my answer to the student:

As an avid cyclist, former President of the NY Bicycling Coalition, and Elmira bike crash lawyer, I can tell you that while bicycling while intoxicated is NOT a good idea, it is incorrect that you can be charged with BWI (Bicycling While Intoxicated in NY).

While in some states riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol can lead to the same DWI charges as those a motorist could face, in New York you cannot be charged with a DWI for riding a bicycle while drunk. The legislature specifically defines the DWI law as applying to the operation of a “motor vehicle.”

Accordingly, if you are riding a bicycle, skateboard or any other non-motorized vehicle and have had one too many drinks, you cannot be charged with BWI.

However, as with all laws, some exceptions do apply. If you have altered your bike by installing a motor, you will not be exempt from New York DWI laws.

In addition, just because you are exempt from DWI laws when drinking and biking, does not mean that you will not face misdemeanor charges, such as public intoxication or some other form of public endangerment. Although these involve lesser charges with relatively minor punishments, they will nevertheless result in court costs and additional fines.

But as I said, if you choose to drink, the best policy is to err on the side of caution and not ride your bicycle in order to avoid any potential legal trouble and danger to both your own health and those of others on the road.

Thanks for reading, and please ride sober!

Jim

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

 

New Elmira-To-Big-Flats Trail Planned For Bicyclists! Here Is How To Get Involved, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Lawyer

Chemung County and the City of Elmira want to build on the success of their Lackawanna Rail Trail (above and below) by building a path that links Elmira and Big Flats.

Chemung County and the City of Elmira want to build on the success of their Lackawanna Rail Trail (above and below) by building a path that links Elmira and Big Flats.

Twin Tiers bicyclists who have been seeking a safe bicycle route from downtown Elmira to the shopping areas in Big Flats can learn more and speak out starting Tuesday at one of two community meetings on a proposed bicycle path’s three routes.

Lackawanna Rail Trail 01Many people say they would love to ride their bikes but they are concerned about the dangers of riding on the road. (And no one wants to ride a bike on the Miracle Mile!) Dedicated bike trails give these people a safe, secure place to ride their bikes. Also, these trails are a wonderful place to teach children how to safely ride their bikes.

Of the three proposed routes, it is Route 3 that Elmira-Chemung Transportation Council transportation analyst Mike Perry told the Elmira Star-Gazette is the best and safest choice.

He’s right!

It takes bicyclists along David Street to Oakwood Avenue in Elmira Heights to Grand Central Avenue in Horseheads.

The first meeting is the Tuesday meeting of the Southern Tier Bicycle League at 3 p.m. at 400 E. Church St., in the Chemung County Chamber of Commerce at the Lake Street intersection.

Learn more about the proposals here.

If you miss Tuesday’s meeting, the transportation council’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meet at 10 a.m. April 15, also in the chamber offices.

The Elmira-Chemung Bicycle Pedestrian Trail 2035 Plan, a study finished a year ago, used community ideas to establish a network of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly routes.

Labella Associates mapped out the following routes to the Arnot Mall:

  • Route 1, the Miracle Mile, would cost $4,116,000 to build.

  • Route 2, which follows Madison Avenue, Lake Street and Main Street, would cost $849,000.

  • Route 3 would cost $793,000.

If Route 3 is selected, there will be a lot of work to be done. A railroad crossing in Elmira Heights would need work. A culvert on Upper Oakwood Avenue would have to be wider. Grand Central Avenue near Interstate 86 would need to be wider, too, as well as the shoulders on Sing Sing Road, Colonial Drive and Arnot Road.

Construction could begin as soon as sometime in 2017, transportation officials said.

I would encourage area bicyclists to get behind the project and learn more about it. A SAFE bike and pedestrian path connecting Big Flats and Elmira would benefit all parts of the county!

Thanks for reading — and please get involved by learning more about the options and speaking out!

Jim

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

 

At Long Last, A Simple Law To Save Bicyclists’ Lives — Proposed 3-Foot Passing Law For NY!

If you could change just a few words in an existing law to make it safer for every person in NY to ride their bikes, wouldn’t you do it?

If the change in the law wouldn’t cost a penny but would save millions of dollars a year, wouldn’t you do it?

Of course you would!

NYBC logoAs President of the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), I am pleased to announce that NYBC has secured support in both the New York State Assembly and Senate for a new 3-foot passing law in NY. Here is the Senate and Assembly bills.

State Sen. Tom O'Mara.

State Sen. Tom O’Mara.

My personal thanks to New York Senator Tom O’Mara, who agreed to be the lead sponsor for this important law in the Senate, and to Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, who agreed to co-sponsor the Assembly bill. It is so nice to know our local legislators truly care about cycling safety in NY.

But now comes the hard part, and this is where we can use your help. We need concerned, caring bicyclists to reach out to their local legislators to ask that they please support this important law.  We need people to visit, write and email their legislators. We need legislators across NY to know about this important law and to know it matters to all NY cyclists.

NYBC will be teaching its members across the state how to support this new law. If you are interested in helping this effort, please join NYBC today.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano.

Memberships start at just $35 but if you can’t swing that amount, email me at [email protected] and I will get you on the NYBC mailing list so your voice can be heard.

Let’s bring New York State law into the 21st century. Let’s save lives and save money. Let’s send a message that New York is serious about creating a safe and shared road system throughout our great state!

Thanks for getting involved,

Jim

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

 

NY Bike Accident Lawyer Jim Reed Elected President Of NY Bicycling Coalition

Jim Reed of the Ziff Law Firm

Attorney Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, was recently elected president of the board of the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), a group that advocates for a safer New York state for bicyclists.

Jim is passionate about bicycling and will help NYBC grow and reach more riders across the state. He will be a game-changer for NYBC!

“The New York Bicycling Coalition is dedicated to making bicycling safer for all New Yorkers,” said Jim, who has handled hundreds of bicycle accident cases in his 27 years as a lawyer. “As a personal injury lawyer representing cyclists from all over the state, I know all too well the dangers faced by cyclists. It is my personal goal to see fewer fatalities and injuries, and I hope to achieve that goal while working hard on behalf of NYBC.”

Jim Reed use this photoJim, who has been on the NYBC board for four years, has been an avid cyclist since he was a teenager. He participates in all kind of cycling, including road racing, mountain biking, bike trips and recreational riding.

The New York Bicycling Coalition advocates in Albany and across the state for better transportation policies, more funding, and educating about bicycle safety, the benefits of riding, and treating riders with respect.

NYBC welcomes Reed’s energy and passion for safety.

“Jim is the right person to lead NYBC as we begin our second quarter-century as the only statewide organization working on the full spectrum of bike and pedestrian issues,” said NYBC Executive Director Paul Winkeller. “His successful work as a bike lawyer has encompassed advocacy, education and enforcement – all the elements that need to be aligned in order to ensure a safe and shared road and trail system serving every New Yorker.”

NYBC logo“Jim’s immense passion for cycling and his deep understanding of the transformative value of healthy transportation and recreation will serve NYBC well as we continue to grow our impact throughout the state,” said Justin Smith, NYBC communications director. “Jim’s proven leadership in his community and at his practice combined with his extensive legal experience representing people who bike, as well as his desire to enable everyone to pedal to better, fuller lives, will ensure that NYBC’s governance remains strong as we advance our efforts helping communities in New York state become safer and more enjoyable places to ride a bicycle.”

If you are interested in supporting the important mission of NYBC you can join here:  www.nybc.net/join.

Thanks for reading!

Attorney Adam Gee
[email protected]

 

 

 

Why I Believe We Need a Better Safe Passing Law to Protect NY Bicyclists

safe driving pic

A safe bicycle passing law in New York State designed to make it safer for bicyclists and motorists to share the road is too vague and hard to enforce.

Merrill Cassell.

Merrill Cassell.

Merrill’s Law, passed by the state Legislature in June 2010, requires motorists to pass bicyclists at a safe distance to prevent accidents. The law was named in honor of Merrill Cassell of Hartsdale, a safe bicycling advocate who was struck by a passing public bus and killed in 2009. The bus driver was never charged.

A recent story in a downstate newspaper, published on the fifth anniversary of Merrill’s death, shared the sad news: bicyclists don’t feel safer and police across the state are writing few tickets for safe passing violations.

Law enforcement professionals say the law is almost impossible to enforce.

In this 2010 blog post, I said I was happy to see the law pass but I was critical of the wording, calling it too vague to enforce. I was right.

Because what constitutes a “safe distance” is not clearly defined under the current NY safe passing law, the legal distance is subject to interpretation. Frankly, I much prefer the safe passing law of at least 24 other states who list a specific, objective “safe passing” distance like 3 feet, 4 feet or more.

I prefer this objective standard because I think it is easier for prosecutors to prove an objective, concrete distance like 3 feet rather than argue about what might have been safe under the circumstances.

I have long believed the NY safe passing law is virtually worthless because of the difficulty of determining legally what constitutes a “safe distance” for a motorist to pass a bicyclist.

Unfortunately, in any case involving anything short of the cyclist actually being struck by the motorist, the motorist has a compelling argument that the passing distance “must have been safe because I didn’t hit the cyclist.”

Because of this ambiguity, many police officers have told me off the record that they won’t write tickets for violating this law unless there is an actual collision.  And at least one local DA has told me the same thing. So what good is a law that law enforcement won’t enforce?  No good.

Because of the lack of enforcement of our current law, I have spent many hours advocating for NY to adopt a 3-foot passing law. I think 3 feet is easy to enforce because that’s the length of a yardstick that hangs in virtually every elementary school classroom I have ever been in.

For sports fans, one yard is one of those hashmarks on the field every time you tune into a football game.  For a person of average height, 3 feet is their approximate arm length.

No measurement is easy or precise, but in my view, any particular measurement (i.e., 3 feet or 4 feet)  is much better than the ambiguous “safe distance.”

Here is the law under discussion:

  • 1122-a of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of the State of NY: Overtaking a bicycle.

“The  operator  of  a  vehicle overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on  the  same  side  of  a roadway  shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof.”

Would 3 feet be a safe passing distance? Or do you prefer 4 feet, or more?

Please add your comments below!

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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