Above: Central NY Injury Lawyer on bike leg of a triathlon.
Spring has sprung in Central New York, and despite the “shelter-in-place” orders in some cities, in Central New York we are at least allowed to go outside and get some good old-fashioned exercise. For me, that means biking.
I’ve been out three times so far. With the coronavirus keeping many motorists off the road, it’s very safe out there. So few vehicles to watch out for. I’ve even been taking advantage of the light traffic to travel some roads around Geneva, New York, where I live, that I normally avoid because of heavier-than-average traffic or because there are no good shoulders to ride on.
Still, I have not lost my healthy fear of cars. On your bike, you have to be religious about following vehicle-avoidance safety rules. One sloppy moment and you could end up as a hood ornament.
Not that it would likely be my “fault”, legally speaking, even if I let my guard down. I never violate traffic regulations on my bike. The price is too steep. I’m talking about going above-and-beyond following the rules of the road, taking safety to the next level.
A really safe rider can avoid many of the collisions that negligent drivers would otherwise cause. Some of these hyper-safe measures include wearing bright colors, using flashing lights even in daytime, assuming motorists don’t see you, and yielding to motorists even when legally they must yield to you (just in case they don’t see you — a common problem!).
Yes, cyclists must ride very defensively because even if they follow the rules of the road, most car-on-bike crashes are the motorist’s fault. I know this from my line of work: personal injury (and bike-crash) lawyer. I know it from the thousands of miles I have logged on my bike. But I also now know it from the New York Times.
The Times had an interesting article about car-on-cyclist and on-pedestrian accidents recently. The article points out that in New York the death toll from such accidents rose sharply last year. Why? The Times analyzed crash data and determined (surprise, surprise) that motor vehicle drivers were at fault almost always.
The problem, the Times found, is careless driving, inattention, distracted driving, failing to yield the right of way, and speeding. The Times’ research blows up the unsubstantiated theory that pedestrians and cyclists themselves are usually to blame (the old “blame-the-victim” game). The police reports show that cyclists are responsible less than 5% of the time. In 95% of the cases, the police blamed the motor vehicle driver. Interesting fact: Brooklyn is apparently the most dangerous place in New York State for a bike ride. That borough had the most cyclist per capita fatalities by far.
I follow pretty closely the car-on-cyclist collisions in my neck of the woods (Syracuse and the Finger Lakes, especially around Auburn, Ithaca and Geneva). Up here, just like in NYC, it’s almost always the motorist’s fault. As an example, just last week a Beloved Syracuse street musician Eli Harris was killed after being struck twice by two separate cars while riding his bike. The first car struck him, and then took off. (When a motorist flees the scene, it’s a pretty good indication he was at fault. ) As he lay injured, a second car ran over him and also left the scene. Unbelievable! Thanks to some good Syracuse Police detective work, both drivers appear to have been apprehended.
Hit-and-runs against cyclists are quite common. Last summer, in Waterloo, New York, a cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver and a Central NY teacher was hit by a hit-and-run car that cut him off while bicycling. Both drivers were later tracked down and apprehended.
Whether hit-and-run or not, the motorist is usually to blame. For example, a few years ago, in Canandaigua, a car passed a cyclist on Route 21 but cut back into his lane too early, striking the bike, causing significant injuries. And I could go on and on about the Central New York and Finger Lakes bicycle cases I have taken on myself: Motorists who fail to give a cyclist enough room on the shoulder of the road and end up causing contact between the two; vehicles that pass a cyclist on the left and then make a right hand turn, cutting into the cyclist’s path; oncoming cars turning left without yielding to the cyclist; vehicles exiting parking lots and failing to see the cyclist going by. My list is long and these are just a few examples of the types of cases we get.
Cyclists, be careful. Use hyper-safety systems. But know that if you get hit, it probably wasn’t your fault. So think about giving me a call. Even in hit-and-run cases where the driver is not apprehended, there is a way to get you compensation. (Call me and I’ll explain).
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Bicycle Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.