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Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

I’ve recently been blogging about New York bicycle law and how to investigate and prove bike accident cases in New York. Today I am going to answer a common question I get from other cyclists.

Because I am both a New York personal injury lawyer and an avid bicyclist, my biking buddies often ask me about bicycle laws in New York. One thing they often want to know is whether it legal for them to “take the lane” rather than stay to the far right.

The answer is “sometimes”. Section 1234(a) of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law (not applicable in New York City) provides that, “upon all roadways, any bicycle . . . shall be driven either on a usable bicycle . . . lane or, if a usable bicycle . . . 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. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.”

bicycle helmets.jpgIn my recent blog post about how bicycle accidents happen, I promised to blog next about how to properly investigate a bike accident to prepare a New York bicycle accident case against the at-fault motor vehicle driver. I keep my promises!

The first rule is to preserve the evidence. This is important not only to prove your case, but also to prevent the defendant from later arguing that your case should be tossed out because you destroyed evidence. So save the bike! Don’t use it or fix it. Preserve it!. The damage to it may help show where the car struck the bike and the force of the impact among other things.

Of course you should get any police accident reports. Equally important, but more time consuming, go to the scene and explore it carefully. Bring a camera and photograph and film everything in sight. Look for skid marks. Have an accident reconstructionist or investigator with you to take measurements. Have someone take a video as he or she rides or walks along from the cyclist’s point of view. Do the same, from a similar car, for the driver’s point of view. Look to see if it should have been obvious to the driver that there would be bikes and pedestrians in the area. For example, are there marked bike lanes? Are there sidewalks or crosswalks?

bicycle mike.jpgYeah, that’s yours truly in the photo (at the Geneva NY MusselmanTriathlon a few years ago). No, I didn’t win anything, not even for my age group, but yes, I had fun trying!

With all this great weather we’ve been having here in the Finger Lakes, I’ve been getting out on my road bike quite a bit. I try to cram in two or three 30-milers during the work week and one long one on the weekend.

Since I’ve got cycling on my mind, my next few blogs will thus be about cycling accidents, how to prevent them, and, god forbid, if you are hurt in one, how your lawyer should build your case.

bicyclists racing.jpgAs a cycling enthusiast, and a New York bicycle accident lawyer, I am proud to have been recently selected by the New York Bicycling Coalition to provide New York bicycle accident advice and information for residents of the New York State counties of Oswego, Madison, Onondaga, Cortland, Cayuga, Oneida, Herkimer, Otsego, Schoharie, Montgomery, & Fulton Counties.

Wait. What is the New York Bicycling Coalition? Glad you asked. Its mission is to ensure that bicyclists in New York State are safe, respected, and fully integrated into the transportation system, and that laws and funding are in place to make it so. They also provide education and advice to bike advocates and groups. In sum, the coalition provides a voice for the interests of people who, like me, ride bikes!

Three other New York bicycle accident lawyers have been selected to cover the other New York Counties. They are:

bicyclists racing.jpgYesterday the sun peeked out from its cloudy winter hide-away, prompting me to go for a noon-time run in shorts and a t-shirt. Alas, today winter blasted back, closed our local schools, and kept me at home working from my computer. For my workout today I donned my cross-country skis and traipsed through some nearby woods.

But yesterday got my mind on spring. My daily workout will soon include bicycling. In the good weather, I try to put in at least 150 miles a week on my road bike.

I have a steady companion when I am out on the roads on my bike; fear. Why fear? Because I am a New York bike accident lawyer. Because many of my clients lives have been destroyed by a car or truck. Because one of my cousins was killed on bike last year. And because I personally have had some close calls.

dog.jpgI just love it when I’m right!

Last year I blogged about the Court of Appeals (highest court in NY State) case of Hastings v Suave where the Court made an exception to the general rule that, if an animal harms someone, the owner can be held liable only if he knew or should have known that the animal had “vicious propensities”. The issue in that case was whether a farmer could be held liable for negligently allowing his cow to stray out into the road and cause an accident. Obviously cows are not “vicious”, so under the general rule the farmer could not be held liable for the harm.

The wise Court saw the need for an exception to the rule, and held that “a landowner or the owner of . . . a farm animal . . . may be held liable where the animal is negligently allowed to stray from the property on which the animal is kept even when the animal did not display ‘vicious propensities'”.

bicycle helmets.jpgAs a Central Syracuse NY bike accident lawyer, I have seen first hand some nasty head injuries from fallen bicyclists. So I was not very understanding last April when my 13 year-old son informed me that it was so totally uncool to wear a helmet on a bike that he would rather not ride at all than put one on. Didn’t I know that only nerds wear helmets? And didn’t I know that if his buddies in our city (Geneva, NY) ever caught him riding with a helmet on he would be a laughing stock? Was I trying to ruin his life or something?!

I said, “nice rant, now put your helmet on..” And he said, “no helmet, no way”.

I figured he would eventually cave. But he didn’t. For a full month he did not ride his bike at all. When I finally realized that he meant what he said, that he would not “get caught dead with a helmet on”, I capitulated. I let him ride his bike without a helmet.

IMG_1117.JPGThere are of course many Central New York bicycle accident lawyers. Some good, some not so good. But do any of them, besides us, have a bicycle team named after them? I think not!

Meet the Michaels & Smolak Racing team. Yes, the eponymous (look it up!) team in this photo proudly displays its “MSR” (Michaels & Smolak Racing) team jerseys. Michaels & Smolak is the lead sponsor for this team. The other sponsors are Syracuse Bicycle, Asmaster, Aspen Athletic Club, Dr. Jude Burke and Gold & Treasures. The race shirts also honor the daughter of one of our members who is a breast cancer survivor.

The MSR team is now 35 to 40 members strong. And its members hail from all over Central New York, including Baldwinsville, Skaneateles, Syracuse, Sylvan Beach, Cato, Geneva and Syracuse

bike accident.jpgI read with sadness today in the Finger Lakes Times that a 14-year old Clyde, New York teenager was struck and killed by a motor vehicle while biking to school this morning on Clyde-Marengo Road in Galen. This is sad, sad, sad. As the father of two teenagers, who both like to ride their bikes, and as an avid bicyclist myself, and just as a human being for crying out loud, my heart goes out to the family of the victim.

I have to say that this has been one of the worst years I can remember for bicycle injuries in this part of the Finger Lakes (Ontario County). Several deaths, several brutal injuries, including a guy with an amputated leg, and almost every one of them the cyclist was not at fault. I think about them every time I get on my bike, or one of my kids does.

Keep safe!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicyclists racing.jpgI was both surprised and delighted to spot an article in the Syracuse Post Standard titled, “Five Things Drivers and Cyclists Need to Know about Each Other”. As an avid cyclist and a Central and Syracuse New York accident lawyer representing injured cyclists, I applaud the Post Standard for bringing to a wider audience some safety tips I have been blogging about for years:

For cyclists, (1) be predictable, not weirdly spontaneous, so motorists will know what you are about to do. You can be predictable simply by following the same rules of the road a motorist must follow: obey all traffic rules/laws, for example, drive on the right side of the road, stop at red lights and stop signs. (2) Imagine you are invisible (you are!) so that you drive totally defensively; (3) try to make eye contact with drivers at intersections; (4) watch out for those parked car doors opening!; (5) don’t have music plugged into your ears (the law in New York requires you to have one ear un-plugged, but that’s not good enough, keep them both free to help save your life!); (6) always wear a helmet (required by law for those under 14, but required by love-of-life for all); (7) be visible; where bright colors in the day, and use bike lights at night (I recommend flashing lights even in the daytime — you are that much more visible – but remember to PRETEND you are INVISIBLE); (8) no sidewalk riding; (9) you are allowed to ride two-abreast, except when traffic wants to pass you, and then you must go single file.

For motorists: (1) Look out for us cyclists! Hey, we are here!; (2) Reduce speed when encountering cyclists; (3) give us room when you pass us! (4 feet at least); (4) if you can’t pass us safely, wait!

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