Tag Archives: Lawsuit

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

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!

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

NY Highest Court Ruling Could Make Streets Safer In NY For Bicyclists

Injured Bicyclist

Jonathan Maus, the publisher and editor-in-chief of BikePortland.org, had a great recent post about a New York Court of Appeals ruling about city street design and accident liability that could be great news for bicyclists all over the country.

Jonathan writes:

  • “After years of assuming cities had blanket immunity from liability when it came to street design decisions, a recent decision by New York’s highest court has thrown that into question. The court found that the City of New York can be held partly liable for a man’s death because they knew the road encouraged speeding and unsafe driving but they failed to study and implement measures to mitigate the risk.
  • “The ruling is being hailed as a “landmark” and “game-changing” decision by New York City nonprofit organization Transportation Alternatives.”
  • Bigger“Here’s what Transportation Alternatives said in its statement: The New York high court just ruled that the City can be held liable for failing to study and implement traffic calming measures, which the jury determined were a major factor contributing to the crash. In a 2004 incident, the driver was traveling at 54 mph on Gerritsen Avenue, which had a speed limit of 30 mph. Prior to the incident, the City had been advised by local residents, elected officials, and the Department of Transportation that speeding was common on the street, but that no sufficient speed study or traffic calming review was performed. The Court found the City liable for failing to adequately study and mitigate the road conditions that contributed to the speeding, stating that “an unjustifiable delay in implementing a remedial plan constitutes a breach of the municipality’s duty to the public.”
Jonathan Maus.

Jonathan Maus.

Jonathan continued: Experts testified during the trial that “it was known among traffic engineers that straight, wide roads” that lack pedestrian-friendly features “encourage speeding because drivers feel more comfortable on roadways with those characteristics.” The Court distinguished these types of thoroughfares from streets that have traffic calming measures in place, which “cause drivers to be more cautious” and “are known to reduce the overall speed on roadways. … The ruling is a major development because it means the City can potentially be held liable for unsafe street designs.”

Jonathan also got reaction from my fellow BikeLaw.com lawyer and Bicycling Magazine columnist Bob Mionske, who said the decision is a “watershed moment for cycling advocates.”

Here are Bob’s comments to Jonathan:

Bob Mionske

Bob Mionske

“Traffic violence is the issue for advocacy efforts and this decision opens the door to holding liable the only party who can make the changes necessary for a safer transportation environment. I applaud their decision as all cycling advocates should.” Bob said he thinks the ruling will lead to more lawsuits against public entities for unsafe road design which will in turn compel municipalities to make the roads safer.

“My guess is that the Turturro decision out of New York Court Of Appeals,” Bob said, “will be used as support in other jurisdictions, and we will see some jurisdictions agree with New York and others continue to apply their state’s sovereign immunity statutes, especially in states with ‘absolute’ state immunity.”

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

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

 

BikeLaw Lawyer Jim Reed makes the Huffington Post!

My wife Meg and me with author and wine lover Stefani Jackenthal (right).

My wife Meg and me with author and wine lover Stefani Jackenthal, right. (Photo courtesy of Huffington Post/Stefani Jackenthal.)

It’s not every day that you see your name (and worse yet, your photo in lycra!) on the Huffington Post but I recently had that pleasure/horror in a very nice article about the CycleAdirondacks bicycle riding event held this past August. As many of my readers know, my wife Meg and I love getting away for cycling weekends and vacations. We look for new places to visit and ride year-round all over the country and world, but our favorite places are closer to our home on Seneca Lake in New York State. Yes, we do love New York!

logoIn August, while we were riding in Cycle Adirondacks on our tandem, we met Stefani Jackenthal,  a former professional athlete who now works as a travel and wine journalist, educator, and consultant.

Meg and I love to ride, and love wine, too, so the three of us became fast friends, and now Stefani has published an account of her visit to the Adirondacks in a great post on Huffington Post.

The Reeds are flattered to be a part of Stefani’s account of the terrific weekend ride.

We highly recommend watching for the third annual Cycle Adirondacks!

We met Stefani on a steep, winding uphill part of the course and we rode much of the next three days together.

Comfy Campers provided our weekend accommodations. (Photo courtesy of Huffington Post/Stefani Jackenthal.

Comfy Campers provided our weekend accommodations. (Photo courtesy of Huffington Post/Stefani Jackenthal.

I told Stefani we were encouraged by friends who participated in the first event in 2015 to give it a try, and I also told her how much we were enjoying “glamping” (see photo at left). Comfy Campers provides a tent, air mattress and chair for weary riders like us.

Check out all of Stefani’s terrific story (there are many photos), and to learn more about her, click here and here.

To learn more about the 2017 Cycle Adirondacks, click here.

The ride benefits, in part, Wildlife Conservation Society promoting many community-based programs in the Adirondacks.

Message me using the link below if you have any questions about the event!

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

 

 

Police were Wrong but the Judge Gets It Right In Fatal NYC Bike Crash Case

Actress Caitlin Venedam.

Actress Caitlin Venedam.

An actress who struck and killed a bicyclist in 2014 while distracted by her cell phone has been barred from driving in New York state – not by police or a criminal court judge, but by an administrative law judge.

Many times I have had the unfortunate experience of the police simply not getting it right, so this case, where the police were wrong and the administrative law judge was right, is especially impressive.

Police said Caitlin Venedam, 28, a standup comic and actress who portrayed “Chastity” in the TV series “Gossip Girl,” ran down Matthew Brenner, 29, at about 9:30 p.m. on July 6, 2014. Police let her drive away without any charges.

But according to a report on dnainfo.com:

State Administrative Law Judge Regina A. Rinaldi decided that “a contributing factor in Matthew Brenner’s death was (Venedam’s) failure to exercise due care to avoid striking (the cyclist).”

Rinaldi barred Venedam from driving in New York state, starting in March 2016. She can still drive in her home state of New Jersey.

My friend and fellow BikeLaw lawyer, Dan Flanzig, represented the bicyclist’s Estate.  Dan did a great job of exposing evidence that would not have come out but for his efforts.

Daniel Flanzig.

Daniel Flanzig.

“But for our civil suit, certain things would never have been brought to light, including that she was using Google Maps to guide her,” said Flanzig, who said the actress would still be driving in New York were it not for information uncovered in the civil suit.

“That should have been used by (NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad). The Administrative Law judge would never have had the evidence necessary to revoke her license. The CIS work alone was completely insufficient.”

According to dnainfo.com, the actress told lawyers in a deposition that she was coming from her home in Point Pleasant, N.J., and was rushing to pick up a friend at LaGuardia, but ended up driving away from the airport on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

The report says:

Venedam got off the highway at Sands Street to call her friend and consult Google Maps on her cellphone because she was lost.

With her phone still open to Google Maps sitting on the passenger seat, Venedam drove down the street and veered across a safety triangle in order to make it back on to the BQE, according to the report.

The actress testified that she was traveling between 25 and 30 mph and was using audio prompts from the location app.

A video of the crash shows the actress trailing close behind a car that veered out of the way to avoid Brenner, then she smashed into the cyclist in the safety triangle as he tried to make his way to a bike path on the other side of the entrance ramp.

Police originally blamed Brenner for riding his bike across the ramp to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, but the video shows he was not in the roadway.

Venedam was cited four times from 2006 to 2012 for unsafe driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt and blocking traffic, according to New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission records.

Flanzig said criminal charges would be difficult to bring against her because distracted driver statutes require the driver to be holding the cellphone.

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

 

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

 

 

 

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