Tag Archives: Law

Check Out Great Video Series On NY Bicycle Laws

If you or someone you love rides a bike in New York State, take 12 minutes or so and watch the two-part video series above that explains bicycle law in New York State. It’s an investment in your family’s safety on the roads!

I am sure even experienced NY bicyclists and drivers will learn something new about state law when they watch these videos, so I HIGHLY recommend these videos to all NY bicyclists and drivers.

Remember, ignorance of the law is no excuse!

The NY Bicycling Coalition made the videos with the Albany Police Department, thanks to funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.

The videos will be used by law enforcement agencies around the state to improve knowledge and enforcement of vehicle and traffic laws relating to bicycling, according to NYBC.

Check out my NY Bicycle Law Primer 2017 for a PDF summary of state laws that you can download and keep in your home!

The NY Bicycling Coalition made the videos with the Albany Police Department, thanks to funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee.

Be safe on our roads, and 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

 

For Steuben County Magistrates, Bicycle Law 101 Was An Eye-Opener, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Lawyer

I recently spoke with members of the New York Magistrates Association at a meeting in Corning. The members are town and village judges and justices who often don’t have the legal training of lawyers, so they welcome presentations by top lawyers.

Jim Reed.

Jim Reed.

I talked to about 35 judges and justices about New York state bicycle laws, and many told me afterward how much I opened their eyes to the unsafe conditions faced by bicyclists on the roads.

The video at the top of this page was taken by one of my clients who was seriously injured in a collision with a vehicle that turned left in front of him in Pennsylvania. Even the seasoned judges were surprised by the violence of the crash captured on the bicyclist’s helmet cam.

To engage my audience, I did most of the presentation in quiz format, and it was quite effective.

Here are my questions, with the answers I provided to members.

  1. May bicyclists in New York state legally ride side by side?
    Answer ….  Yes but not when passing parked cars, other bicycles or pedestrians.
  2. Is it legal for a bicyclist to ride in the driving lane?
    Answer ….  Yes, bicycles are permitted to use the entire driving lane when it would be unsafe for them to stay to the right or when they are preparing to make a left turn.
  3. Are all bicyclists in New York required to wear helmets?
    Answer ….  No for anyone older than 14.  Yes for 14 and below.
  4. Must all bikes in New York be equipped with lights?
    Answer ….  Yes if riding after dark.  No during the day.
  5. Is it legal to ride with headphones?
    Answer ….  Two headphones, no.  One headphone, yes.

It was surprising to me that many of the judges didn’t know that legally a bicycle rider has all of the same rights and obligations as if they were a motor vehicle.

Bicycle law is an area where many magistrates are not well informed because they don’t deal with it on a regular basis, like they do with the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws, said Annette Viselli Thorne, Painted Post Village Justice and vice president of the county’s magistrate association.

“With the increase in the number of bicyclists on the roads, and Jim’s advanced experience as a cyclist and bicycle law expert, he was a perfect fit for an educational presentation to the association,” she said. “His presentation was extremely informative and the resource documents he provided will be an asset to every judge and justice who sits on the bench.”

NY Bicycle Law Primer 2017

Click above for a copy of the NY Bicycle Law Primer 2017 that I shared with the judges and justices.

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

Downstate Reporter Urges Better Safe Passing Law For Bicyclists

bicycle_commuters

The Journal News, a downstate newspaper that serves Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam counties, recently featured a story about bicycling accidents and deaths downstate, written by David McKay Wilson, a reporter, bicycling advocate and former board member for the Westchester Cycle Club. My hope is this story will help win over hearts and minds downstate about the importance of making our roads safer statewide for bicyclists! Albany, are you listening? It’s time to improve the state’s vague safe passing law!

David recently toured accident sites in the Lower Hudson Valley where bicyclists were killed and checked on cases involving motorists facing changes in bicyclists deaths downstate. What he found was the disposition of cases involving cyclists’ deaths varied dramatically.

David called me for comment and I had this to say in the story:

Attorney Jim Reed of the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira, who represents cyclists injured on the road, said the disposition of cases depends on several factors: the aggressiveness of the police investigation and local prosecutors, as well as the existence of aggravating factors, such as drug or alcohol use by the driver.

“If there’s an aggravating factor, the prosecutor has more power to bring the hammer down,” said Reed, who also serves as president of the New York Bicycling Coalition, a statewide advocacy group. “If not, there are large deficiencies in New York’s law.”

Public outcry also has impact as well.

“If you are not a squeaky wheel, the police are moving on to their next collision or drug bust,” Reed said. “Having local advocates raise hell can help.”

David’s story makes some key points worth noting here:

  • There are more bike commuters downstate. NYC bicyclists are crossing the George Washington Bridge and riding north to Rockland County while more bike commuters are also going to work locally or riding to Metro-North train stations, destined for the city.
  • Bicycle commuting is on the rise nationally, growing by more than 62 percent from 2000 to 2013, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
  • In 2014, according to the state, 47 cyclists were killed statewide and 5,694 were injured. Nationally, 720 bicyclists were killed, up 4 percent from the year before, according to the Insurance Institute for National Highway Safety.
  • Among New York’s 47 fatalities, 11 resulted from drivers failing to grant the right-of-way to cyclists while nine were caused by driver inattention or distraction. Cyclist error was the contributing factor in 19 of the fatalities, according to the state report. In addition, 19 of the fatalities occurred at night – between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

David also wrote the following about the statewide drive for a better safe passing law, something I have lobbied for in Albany as the president of the NYBC:

Efforts in Albany in 2016 to strengthen New York’s Safe Passing Law, which cycling advocates say will give prosecutors stronger tools to enforce road sharing, failed to come for a vote in the state Assembly. The current law, which was passed in 2010, requires that motorists pass at a safe distance. The bill would require that motorists pass cyclists by at least three feet.

It passed in the Senate but failed to emerge from the Assembly Transportation Committee, chaired by Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester. A phone message to Gantt’s office was not returned.

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

 

 

 

What To Do If Your Bike Is Stolen! Try Rejjee … And Other Advice From A Veteran Bicycle Law Lawyer

bike lock 4-4

There is nothing worse than having your beloved bicycle stolen.

If it is stolen, you want to do everything in your power to get it back. Have you registered your bike?

NYBC logoIf you haven’t already done it, go to Rejjee’s website or its mobile app and discover the smart and FREE way to manage all of your valuables. Rejjee has been selected by the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), a state advocacy group for bicyclists (I am the president of the NYBC board), to be the group’s official bicycle registry to help reduce bike theft and increase the recovery of stolen bikes.

RejjeePlease take a moment to register your bike there now using the code NYBC and $3 will be donated to help NYBC’s mission – making New York State a safer, more accessible, and enjoyable state to ride your bike in.

Rejjee allows people to register an unlimited number of valuables, and it includes a real-time loss/theft reporting tool. The platform also includes a neighborhood lost and found!

Founded in 2014, Rejjee’s mission is to take $1 billion in stolen goods off the Internet.

Here is another option for bicyclists:

Bob Mionske

Bob Mionske

My friend Bob Mionske, a great bicycle law lawyer and member of the BikeLaw.com network, has a terrific website with great advice about keeping your bike safe and secure.

He offers this advice, in part, if your bike is stolen:

  • First, notify law enforcement by filing a stolen bike report. This is where your file documenting ownership of your bike will first be utilized — you will want to provide law enforcement with the bike’s serial number and a photo of the bike. (Do you have the serial number and a photo?)
  • Next, you should conduct your own search for the bike. Look on online sites, such as Craigslist and eBay. Be aware that thieves will sometimes steal a bike in one city and advertise it for sale in another city.
  • Bring a photo of the bike and make the rounds of the pawn shops and secondhand stores in your area. If a thief tries to sell your stolen bike to them, they may recognize the bike. If they have already bought the bike, the documentation you have filed, along with the stolen bike report, will be proof that the bike is yours, and you will be entitled to recover the bike through procedures established by state law—check with your local law enforcement agency for those procedures.
  • You should also make the rounds of the bike shops in your area. Thieves will sometimes attempt to sell stolen bikes to bike shops, especially if the shop sells used bikes.
  • Finally, check the police impound yard from time to time — your bike will end up there if it is recovered. Law enforcement should notify you, but just in case they’re not as diligent as you, it won’t hurt to look. Also, check the impound yard of your local transit agency — you’d be surprised how many bikes are left behind on buses.
  • If you do find your bike, notify law enforcement for assistance in recovering your bike. If law enforcement recovers your bike, they should notify you, based upon the stolen bike report you filed.

Bicycling.com also has some great advice worth reading, too. Check it out here.

The bottom line is: Protect your bicycle today. Register it with Rejjee or take a photo of the serial number and the bike!

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

Horrific NC Crash That Hurt 4 Bicyclists Is Exhibit A for Why We Need a 3-Foot Passing Law in NY

 

As President of the New York Bicycling Coalition, I am urging New York State residents to get involved to help save the lives of bicyclists by urging their state legislators to pass a three-foot safe passing law. The unenforceable law on the books now in New York State defines the passing distance only as a “safe distance,” which police say is difficult to enforce.carchex-3-feet

A horrific car/bike crash last weekend in Angier, N.C., is sadly the latest evidence that all states need the three-foot passing law.

What makes it even more sad for me personally is because one of the injured riders, Mike Dayton, is a friend of mine who I know through my work with BikeLaw.com.  Mike is one of the nicest guys I have ever met.  More importantly, he is one of the safest and most experienced riders I have ever met.  Despite that fact, as discussed in detail below, Mike is laying in a NC ICU right now with a bad head injury because he was mowed down from behind while riding in a line of four single-file riders.  Trust me, if this could happen to Mike, this could happen to any of us who enjoy riding our bikes.

Like New York, North Carolina is another state behind the times without a defined passing distance law.  If the driver in Mike’s case would have just given these riders 3′ of passing distance, Mike would be happy at work rather than in the ICU…….

You can read the full news reports here and here:

 

Long story short, 4 experienced bike riders who were riding single-file were mowed down from behind by a passing car. The driver, Donnie Marie Williams, told a TV station that when she saw the bicyclists, there was no room to move over because a vehicle was coming in the other direction. “It happened so quick,” she said.

Apparently, it never occurred to this driver that she could have avoided this tragedy had she simply slowed down and waited for the on-coming car to pass.  If NC had a 3′ passing law, and had this driver learned that she MUST ALWAYS permit at least 3′ of passing distance, this crash would have never occurred.

I know that simply changing the law won’t prevent all future bike crashes but I also know from what I have seen over the years with seatbelt use, DWI penalties, etc., a change in the law CAN dramatically change motorist behavior.

Passing a 3′ law is an important first step in changing motorist behavior when passing people who ride bikes.  If you agree, please take 2 minutes to email your legislator by using this easy-to-use form.

Thanks for reading — and please remember to contact your state legislators in New York!

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

 

Tell Albany We Need A Safe 3-Foot Passing Law NOW, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Lawyer

It’s time for action.

When I was elected president of the board recently of the New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC), a group that advocates for a safer New York State for bicyclists, I decided improving New York’s safe passing law would be at the top of my legislative agenda in Albany.

I need YOUR help (and it is real easy to help). Let me explain.

NYBC logoThe NYBC is urging a 3-foot safe passing law in New York to replace our ineffective current law, which only says that a car must pass at a “safe” distance but doesn’t give any guidance on what is a “safe” distance. Unfortunately, with such an ambiguous standard, many police and prosecutors take the position that any distance, even 6 inches, must have been “safe” if the car didn’t actually hit the cyclist, which is clearly ridiculous and very unsafe.

We need our state law to spell it out specifically for motorists and cyclists: that a minimum safe passing distance is 3 feet.

Many states say 3 feet is a safe passing distance, but Pennsylvania says it's 4 feet.

State Senator Tom O’Mara has agreed to sponsor the 3-foot passing distance amendment because he is dedicated to improving cycling safety for all New Yorkers.\

Now I need my fellow New Yorkers to join the fight.

First, please click on this link to send an email to your state legislators, asking them to co-sponsor or support the 3-foot passing law.

IN ADDITION, if you can spare a little more time, please schedule a visit with your legislator to ask them face-to-face to support this amendment – because it is the most effective way to really get a Senator or Assemblyman to support the proposed law.

Here are links to the state Senate and state Assembly so you can find your local legislators.

I have handled hundreds of bicycle accident cases in my almost 30 years as a lawyer. I have represented cyclists from all over the state, and I know all too well the dangers we all face every time we ride. 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.

Thank you for helping to make our roads safer!

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

 

 

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 Applauds City Of Rochester For Inner Loop Project

overhead-existing-conditions

As an avid cyclist from Upstate New York, I have ridden my bike in Rochester, N.Y., many times for recreational riding, races and commuting.

Rochester is blessed with one of the most progressive and active cycling advocacy groups in NY, the Rochester Cycling Alliance as well as many recreational and racing clubs.

Bicycling in Rochester is thriving and Rochester continues to make great strides to make the City of Rochester a safer and more attractive place to ride your bike.

To that end, the City of Rochester has recently begun construction of a huge project to make the Inner Loop more cycling-friendly. You can read more about it here and even watch a video simulation of what it will be like to walk, ride your bike and drive through the redesigned Inner Loop.

maxresdefaultYou can find more tails about the project here, too.

It’s good news for the business community, too, according to the Rochester Business Journal.

I just wanted to congratulate the many folks who worked so hard to make this project a reality and applaud the City of Rochester for its commitment to making Rochester a safer place to walk and ride your bike.

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: PA Bicycle Attorney Explains Tort Insurance Options for Pennsylvania Bicyclists

Bicycle riders in Pennsylvania should learn their tort options on their car insurance.

Bicycle riders in Pennsylvania should learn what their tort options mean on their car insurance.

Bike accident lawyer Matt Dolfi of Pittsburgh unravels the confusion faced by bicyclists in the Northern Tier and across Pennsylvania over the “full tort vs. limited tort” options on car insurance in the Keystone State, and what it means for insured bicyclists who are injured by motorists.

Matt does a great job of explaining in very simple terms that just because a person has selected the “limited tort” option on their auto insurance policy does NOT mean that they are “limited” by that option should they be injured by a car while riding their bicycle (or walking as a pedestrian). The bottom line is that bicyclists and pedestrians get the benefits of the full tort option when injured by a motor vehicle regardless of whether they carry the full or limited tort option on their own vehicle.

You can read Matt’s blog here and learn more about Matt’s practice here.

Here are some of the high points from Matt’s excellent blog post:

Full tort or limited tort: Does a limited tort selection on an automobile insurance policy apply in a bicycle accident?

The short answer is – no. If you are injured by a motorist while riding a bicycle, your ability to recover for pain and suffering is not affected by a limited tort selection on your motor vehicle insurance policy.

Matt Dolfi.

Matt Dolfi.

Many people believe that if they are involved in a bicycle accident with a motor vehicle (car, truck, bus, etc.), their limited tort insurance selection applies and precludes recovery for pain and suffering in the absence of a serious injury. But, that is not the case. Instead, because you are not occupying or operating a motor vehicle at the time of a bicycle accident, your limited tort selection does not apply.

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