Me finishing up a triathlon race a few years ago
Hello fellow cyclists. Hope you have been as lucky as I have been and have found time dust off that winter-stored bike for your first ride of the season. Actually, I have already been out three times and logged over 150 miles. The wind has been a bit stiff – sometimes more than 20 miles per hour – which sure makes it tough going out (I usually start out into the wind) but a “breeze” heading back in.
In case you’re not familiar with any of my bicycle blog posts, let me explain that I am not one of those self-proclaimed “bicycle accident attorneys” who has never been on a bike since they turned 12 and who barely knows the front from the back of a bicycle. Nope, not me. I am an avid cyclist who understands cycling and the dangers we cyclists face, and to boot knows the New York bicycle law inside and out. My firm and I have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for injured cyclist in the Syracuse and Finger Lakes area. I live in Geneva NY – where I do most of my cycling – and work mostly out of our Auburn NY office.
Why should it matter that your bicycle accident lawyer is a bicyclist? Because bike cases are a whole lot different from other kinds of personal injury accident cases. The New York law books are replete with specific laws that pertain only to bicyclists, and these laws are specific to New York. Other states have other bicycle laws.
Surprisingly, even police officers don’t really get New York bicycle law. Example: There was a case a few years ago around here where a cyclist was riding on the far right side of a country road. The white stripe (“fog line”) was only about 9 inches to the left of a rough shoulder drop off. A car coming from behind swiped and killed him. The investigating officer determined the cyclist was at fault because his wheels were to the left of the fog line when he was struck. He thought the cyclist was required to keep to the right of that line.
That officer was wrong. New York’s Vehicle & Traffic law section 1234 requires bicyclists to ride “near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway . . . except . . . when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe”. In this case, the cyclist was confronting a side-wind of about 10 miles per hour. To maintain control and avoid the risk of having his wheels fall off the pavement and onto the rough stones on his right, he had to keep a bit to the left of the white line. He was perfectly within his rights to do so. The car driver, on the other hand, was required under NY State law to “pass to the left of [the] bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear thereof” (Vehicle & Traffic Law 1122). The driver was required to even briefly cross over the double yellow lines if needed to give the cyclist enough space. He didn’t.
Honestly, I don’t know any non-cyclists who could have figured out that the car driver and not the cyclist was at fault. You have to have been on a bike with a significant side wind and understand what keeping to nine inches of pavement would be like for that poor guy.
I’ll be getting on my bike a lot during the upcoming good weather. And since biking is on my mind, I’ll be getting back up on this blog platform to write about some of the cases I have handled and the law about biking. So tune up that bike and stay tuned to this blog!