Tag Archives: Law

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…….

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

 

City Of Elmira Is Latest Community To Welcome LimeBikes, Says NY and PA Bicycle Law Lawyer

The City of Elmira is going Lime, too.

The city will soon have ride-sharing bikes and electric scooters from LimeBike, a ride-sharing company that people will be able to access from their smartphones and other ways. Watch for more details soon in the local news media now that Elmira City Council this week cleared the way for the popular ride-sharing company to hit the streets.

We’ll see the lime green bikes popping up soon, perhaps even this month. LimeBike is already in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls, and Ithaca. I wrote about the arrival of LimeBike in Watkins Glen here.

As THE bicycle law expert in Upstate NY, the Star-Gazette called me this week to comment for a story that was on the front page (photo at left).

I told the reporter that, as a longtime Bike Law lawyer, cycling enthusiast and racer, I love any program that gets more people on two wheels on our roadways.

More riders means less congestion of vehicles, a healthier population in general, and I hope, when people get back in their vehicles after LimeBiking, they will be more tolerant and patient with cyclists and approach us with respect and a willingness to share the road safely.

Here are my comments to the Star-Gazette:

  • “The statistics are that the more bikes in an area, the safer it is for all bicyclists. People get used to seeing bikes, and become more vigilant and on the lookout for bikes.”

  • “In Europe, where bikes are everywhere, the (accident) statistics are lower. Most advocacy groups look at rental bikes and say, ‘This is a good thing.’ It’s great for the environment, great for downtowns, but as a bike accident lawyer, I don’t want to see more people hurt on bikes. If it contributes to bicycle safety in our community, that’s a good thing.”

Watkins Glen Village Trustee Laurie DeNardo told the Star-Gazette that the village has been happy with LimeBikes this summer. The village had 4,000 LimeBikers travel 8,200 miles from May through Oct. 1, she said.

I think the folks in Elmira will be excited to become LimeBikers, but before those LimeBikers unlock a bike for their first ride, keep these vehicle and bike laws in mind:

  • Bicycles have the legal right to ride in the road and even have the right to use the full lane when turning left or when it would otherwise be unsafe to ride to the right of the road.
  • Riders 14 and younger must wear a helmet. I recommend a helmet for all cyclists.
  • At this time, unlike some other local cities, Watkins does not have a law prohibiting bicycles from riding on the sidewalk, so legally, bikes may be operated on sidewalks. However, both bicyclists and pedestrians sharing the sidewalks must be respectful of one another and should walk/ride safely so they don’t endanger others.
  • Motorists are legally required to treat a bicyclist like any other vehicle (i.e.. yield the right of way to a bicyclist already within an intersection, yield to a bicyclist coming toward you if you are making a left turn across their path).
  • Motorists need to observe a “safe passing distance” when passing a bicyclist.

Motorists and cyclists need to look out for one another and observe the local and state laws in place to ensure that LImeBikers, and all cyclists, have an enjoyable and safe ride.

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

 

Explore Scenic Ithaca Area Using Teen’s Great Cycling Routes Website

Willem van Osselaer

Willem van Osselaer was a senior at Ithaca High School when he developed a great online tool for bicyclists in the Ithaca area.

Willem, who will soon be a freshman at Cornell University, created Ithaca Cycling Routes as part of an experiential English class during his senior year. The site guides riders through some of the Ithaca area’s most beautiful road cycling routes.

Armin Heurich

“Willem developed the site over the course of five months and went way above and beyond course requirements to create a resource that will be valuable to visitors to Ithaca, new cyclists, and experienced local cyclists,” said Armin Heurich, a library media specialist at the high school and president of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club (FLCC). “The website is a labor of love and  a treasure.”

The site as constructed by Willem, a coordinator of youth cycling at FLCC, is simple to navigate. There is a link to the 12 routes – Find your route! – on the home page, as well as a map to East Hill Plaza, a starting point for most of the rides because it serves as a meeting spot for local bicyclists, and there is plenty of parking there. Many FLCC rides start there, Willem said.

Once visitors click through to the routes, they’ll see a wide variety of distances from the 3.2-mile Cayuga Waterfront Trail to the 75.1-mile Owasco Lake ride, with other distances ranging from 8.4 miles to 51.3 miles.

Willem gives two options on the all-flat Cayuga Waterfront Trail, a 3.2-mile, one-way version, and a downtown loop that is 5.1 miles. He also notes: “This is also the only route you will find on this website that is completely flat!”

With each route, there are:

  • Maps and distances in miles and kilometers, as well as notes on elevation gains and major climbs.
  • Notes on food stops and points of interest.
  • Conversational descriptions, overviews, and observations on traffic, scenery, and hills.
  • Turn-by-turn directions.

Willem likes to ride about 70 miles a week during the summer, so you might meet him on one of his bike routes.

“The main reason why I bike is to talk to people,” Willem said. “Cycling is the main way I spend time with friends, and I have met many people through this sport.

“What sets cycling apart from other sports is that it allows people to explore and get a sense of their surroundings. I love observing the Ithaca countryside and experiencing its geography.”

His favorite short route? Mount Pleasant (15 miles), because it’s the closest challenging hill to his house. “The lack of trees and the observatory at the summit make it feel like you climbed a true mountain.

His favorite long route? Weltonville (51.3 miles), which has “gorgeous views,” he said. “Many roads provide an almost constant view of the hillsides around you. During the fall, the foliage makes this route even more stunning.”

Willem, who will be a student this fall at Cornell’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning, is proud of what he’s accomplished, and rightly so. “My goal was not just to complete the class requirements, but also to create a quality end product. “

He wanted the website to be his best work, he said. “I knew that the more hours I spent on the website, the more useful it would be to cyclists.”

I hope cyclists who meet Willem along his routes will thank him for this great website!

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

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

 

 

Donate Your Old Bike Gear! My Donations Helped Ithaca High School Cycling Club Members

Photo for blog

All avid bicyclists collect gear over the years such as jerseys, bike seats, pedals, and more. Our gear clogs our houses and garages. Some of our old gear is still in good condition and would be welcomed by many other cyclists. But instead of donating it, we set it aside and forget it, or we throw it out.

This summer, round it up and donate it to someone or a group in need.

If your group or organization needs donated bicycles or bike gear, please email me at [email protected] and I will put your requests in a future blog post here.

I recently donated some of my used cycling gear – jerseys, pedals, seats, and bike racks – to the Ithaca High School Cycling Club, which has about 20 students participating in rides and hikes this school year, according to its faculty adviser, Armin Heurich, a library media specialist at the school.

Armin Heurich

Armin Heurich

Armin, also president of the Finger Lakes Cycling Club (FLCC), is making a difference in students’ lives, so keep the Ithaca High club in mind if you have items to donate.

He told me about one student, Marty, who has become an amazing success story through the high school club. The young man was riding a heavy, clunky hybrid bike two years ago, according to Armin, who convinced Marty to join the club’s AIDS Ride for Life team. Marty had so much fun that his father bought him a road bike, and Marty has improved as a bicyclist, “just crushing it on the hills,” Armin said.

Armin said this was just as significant: Marty went from being a shy person with a small circle of friends to being outgoing and having many friends, thanks to cycling and the club.

Willem, a senior soon to graduate and a club co-president, is finishing a class project with Armin that will create a collection of Ithaca-area bike routes with detailed analysis, photos, and narrative text. Willem and club co-president Madeline are also active in the FLCC, and several high school students have participated in FLCC-organized road races.

Option 2Armin makes an excellent point when he says that students should consider cycling clubs like his in order to develop a healthy routine of integrating outdoor recreation into their stressful weekly school routine.

“I reflect on the fact that when I was a kid, we used to play after school in the neighborhood,” he said. “These days, so many students are taking tough AP classes and are involved in so many more structured activities. It seems that unstructured play and recreation is a rare commodity these days, and I believe that it’s very important. There are inherent risks to cycling, and we’ve had some close calls, including a few falls, a scary endo, a crash into a tree, some minor scrapes and bruises, some touching of wheels, and our fair share of flat tires and a few snapped cables. I see every one of these opportunities as a teachable moment. Students always prove to be resilient, and parents prove to be understanding. Learning to participate in activities with an element of risk is an important part of the maturation process.”

I was touched to receive thank-you emails from the students who received my donated items. Here is a sampling of some of their emailed comments:

“I was able to get an amazing kit from your donation, and I know that all of the members of our club were incredibly grateful for your generous donation.” – Madeline

“I got a nice bike jersey, which I am very excited about wearing. It’s my first one. Thank you!” – Rowan

“I took home your old cleats and they seem to fit perfectly. Thank you so much for your donations.” – Johannes

“I just got into cycling in the last year and I really love it. I didn’t have any cycling jerseys and one of the jerseys you donated fit me perfectly. I will definitely be using it a lot. Thank you!” – Robin

“Your donations helped give our newer members a safer and more enjoyable cycling experience. I received the bike saddle and have noticed how much more comfortable it is than my old one. Thank you!” – Marty

Clear out your closets and garages and donate your used gear that is in good shape to a club or riding group near you.

For example, Armin said the school club needs jerseys, shorts, MTB shoes with SPD cleats, wedge bags, tubes, and 700c road tires, and any items would be greatly appreciated.

If you want to contact Armin, send email to [email protected].

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

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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

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