The Bike Law Interview: Peter Wilborn, Bike Law South Carolina

By Bob Mionske

2014 will go down in bicycle history as the year that the Bike Law network began expanding in a big way. The brainchild of South Carolina bicycle accident attorney Peter Wilborn, the Bike Law network had its beginnings in 1998, when Wilborn opened the first Bike Law offices in South Carolina and Maryland. A few years later, North Carolina attorney Ann Groninger met Peter, and Ann brought North Carolina into the Bike Law network. And then, this year, Peter decided it was time to expand nationwide. To date, the Bike Law network has been established in sixteen states, and continues to grow.

I recently caught up with Peter to talk about the Bike Law network, his vision, and the road ahead.

Peter Wilborn 

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What To Do If You Are A Cyclist Involved In An Oregon Bicycle Accident

Bicycle Accident Attorney Bob Mionske explains:

A collision with an automobile is the greatest fear most people have about cycling; in fact, the fear of a collision with an automobile is the single greatest impediment to getting more people on bikes—many people want to ride, but don’t feel safe when bicycle infrastructure is inadequate or nonexistent. Although a collision with an automobile is the greatest hazard cyclists face, the good news is, it’s a relatively uncommon occurrence.

Most bicycle accidents are actually solo accidents involving a defect or some other hazard in the road or trail. Additionally, in most accidents, the rider is a child. In short, collisions between adult cyclists and automobiles are relatively rare occurrences. In fact, bicycling is not only one of the most popular physical activities you can enjoy, it is also one of the safest physical activities there is.

Occasionally a cyclist and an automobile will collide. Regardless of whether a bicycle accident is a solo accident, or involves a collision with an automobile, the accident is usually the result of somebody’s negligence (“negligence” is another way of saying “carelessness”). In a collision between a bicycle and an automobile that was the result of somebody’s carelessness, the accident could be the fault of the driver, the cyclist, or both the driver and the cyclist. However, most collisions between cyclists and motorists are due to the driver’s negligence.

Other causes of bicycle crashes involve negligence on the part of the local government responsible for the condition of the roads and trails, or failure of a bicycle or bicycle part due to negligence. And sometimes, a cyclist crashes with another cyclist, a pedestrian, or a domestic animal. In all of these types of crashes, somebody is typically at fault for causing the crash, and the cyclist is entitled to be compensated for his or her injuries if the crash occurred due to another person’s negligence. Because somebody is usually at fault in an accident, many cyclists prefer to call accidents “crashes” or “collisions,” instead of “accidents,” because they believe that the word “accident” means that nobody is to blame. In fact, “accident” simply means that the crash wasn’t the result of an intentional act—it wasn’t done “on purpose.”

Even so, although it is “an accident,” the crash is almost always the result of somebody’s negligence. If a cyclist is injured due to somebody else’s negligence, the cyclist has a legal right to be compensated for his or her injuries. Even if the cyclist may be partially negligent, the cyclist may still be entitled to compensation if the other person is also partially negligent. Negotiations with the driver’s insurance company will always focus on which party was negligent, and to what degree. If the cyclist and the insurance company can agree on the question of negligence and the amount of damages, the case will be settled. If they cannot reach agreement, it will be necessary for the cyclist to prove that the driver was negligent in a court of law in order to recover compensation for the injuries received.

Because the cyclist has the right to legal recourse in the courts, the vast majority of injury cases are settled out of court. However, because the legal and accident forensics issues can be complex, cyclists who have suffered anything more than very minor injuries should always discuss their case with an experienced Oregon bicycle accident attorney before talking with the driver or the driver’s insurance company.

What to do if you are involved in car-on-bike accidents and other crashes where somebody else may be at fault

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Running Interference

By Rick Bernardi

Last week, I had an errand to run, so I reserved some time on Zip Car. I pulled out of the parking space, drove around the block, and there, right in front of me, was a cyclist climbing up a long, steep hill.

Slowly.

My first reaction was a gut feeling that he was going to slow me down on my errand.

Maybe I could pass.

But then I thought about it. How much was he really going to slow me down? By a few seconds? A minute, tops? Maybe I could pass him, but why make him feel pressured? It’s a long, tough climb. I know, I’ve done it, and it’s not easy. He was as far to the right as he could get, doing his best to get up the hill without impeding drivers trying to get up the hill.

I changed my mind. I decided I could wait. Instead of passing him, I held back. I gave him some space on the road, and some time to climb to the next light. Other cars behind me might have passed him, but they couldn’t pass me. So we all held back, giving the guy some space on the road.

And you know what? Nobody honked at me. Nobody tailgated me, or revved their engines, or buzzed me, or yelled “get off the road!” The other drivers just waited patiently, just like me, as we all climbed the hill together.

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Lets Make Lemonade!

by Bob Mionske

Last Friday, it probably seemed like a relaxing, peaceful weekend was waiting for Santa Paula Police Chief Steven McLean. Instead, a firestorm of controversy erupted late Friday evening, and into Saturday, when a video that one of his reserve officers had made surfaced on social media sites.

In that video, the reserve officer, riding as a passenger in a car (and on her own time), made sarcastic comments about cyclists that she passed on the road. That was the entire point of her video—making mean comments about people riding bikes, in an attempt to be funny, in the same way the wannabe popular kids pick on other kids, and try to get everybody else to laugh at it and go along for the ride.

Except this wasn’t a junior high school student making an attempt at popularity with the cool kids—she was a reserve police officer. And while she thought she was picking on the nerds, she was actually picking on the “cool kids” in her attempt to boost her own popularity. The fact is, interest in bicycling has been growing by leaps and bounds for many years now, among everybody from hip urban trendsetters, to working people trying to save a dollar, to families bonding over a common activity, to aging baby boomers looking for exercise, and everybody in between—and it is only getting more popular with each passing year.

But picking the wrong target for her juvenile spite was only the tip of the iceberg. From the perspective of people who just want to ride their bikes, whether for exercise, or to economize, or to reduce their environmental impact, or just for the fun of it all, here was an officer of the law expressing her hatred of cyclists for no reason other than their presence on the road. And let’s be clear—when she repeatedly mentioned running over bicyclists, and ended her video with a statement saying “Like you’ve never thought about it” appearing over a graphic photo of an infamous collision in Mexico, in which a drunk American motorist plowed into a group of cyclists, killing one and injuring several more, her expressed hatred was seen as bordering on an incitement to violence.

And let’s be clear about something else, too. Every cyclist she passed in her video was riding lawfully, and courteously. There were no “scofflaw cyclists” in her video, just ordinary people minding their business, lawfully riding their bikes and courteously sharing the road. There was absolutely no rationale for a reserve police officer to be riding around expressing her desire to run them over. Even if she was on her own time.

That’s not all. When the controversy broke, a message on the Santa Paula Police Department’s Facebook page expressed support for the video, and encouraged cyclists to obey the law. Clearly, whoever wrote that message—another reserve officer, it turned out—was completely out of touch with what was happening on the street. And unfortunately for Chief McLean, he got the initial blame for supporting the video.

But Chief McLean is nobody’s fool. He took immediate, decisive action, placing both reserve officers on administrative leave. And before the weekend was over, Laura Weintraub, the officer who had made the video, had resigned from the Police Department. It’s obvious that these two reserve officers created an enormous public relations problem that he didn’t ask for or want, and the Chief should not be singled out for blame in this incident. In fact, Chief McLean deserves full credit for swiftly dealing with a problem in his Department.

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An Unavoidable Tragedy

(a satire) By Rick Bernardi


EVERYTOWN- A cyclist was killed today when he collided with a vehicle on Main Street. According to Everytown Police Sgt. Ben Dover, the cyclist and the driver of the vehicle were both traveling in the same direction on Main Street. As the driver was attempting to pass the cyclist, the cyclist’s handlebar clipped the front fender of the passing vehicle, causing the cyclist to lose control of his bike. The cyclist smashed into the vehicle, causing extensive damage to the right front fender and windshield. The cyclist was killed instantly on impact. The cause of death was believed to be massive internal injuries. Sgt. Dover noted that the cyclist was not wearing a helmet.

Because the cyclist was only traveling at the speed limit, police believe that the cyclist’s low speed was a factor in this tragic accident. Police also said that, based on what the driver of the vehicle told them, they believe that the cyclist may have veered one or two inches off course just before the accident, and because of this, the driver was unable to take evasive action to avoid this tragedy.

The driver, who remained at the scene, was heard to be grieving over the incident. “Dang cyclist shoulda been wearing a helmet if he was going to ride that close to me,” the grief-stricken motorist said. “Just look at the damage to my car! Who’s going to pay for this? These cyclists think they own the road, but none of them have insurance or a driver’s license!”

“Of course, the driver is terribly distraught,” Sgt. Dover explained. “He will have to live with this for the rest of his life. Cyclists really need to be careful to obey the traffic laws. Just last year, we had another terrible tragedy when a cyclist took a drink of water from his water bottle and got sucked under a passing truck.”

Although they didn’t witness this completely unavoidable accident, bystanders agreed. “These bikers don’t seem to know what a stop sign is,” said one bystander. “They think the law doesn’t apply to them.” Dudley Wright, owner of the Wheel Fast Bikes Shop agreed, saying, “Of course, cyclists need to obey the traffic laws too.”

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The Bike Law Interview: Jackie Carmichael, Bike Law Utah, On Bicycle Friendly Utah

The Bike Law Interview: Jackie Carmichael, Bike Law Utah, On Bicycle Friendly Utah

By Bob Mionske

When the League of American Bicyclists released its annual rankings for Bicycle Friendly States this year, there was some shuffling among the states, as there always is, with some states gaining ground this year, and other states losing ground (my state, Oregon, fell from 3rd place to 5th ). The standout is Washington, which has held onto its first place ranking every single year, since the League released its first state ranking in 2008.

One of the big success stories happened in a state that may not come to mind right away as a particularly bicycle-friendly state. This year, for the first time, Utah broke into the top-ten states, with an 8th-place ranking. To understand just how much Utah has achieved, consider this: just three years ago, Utah was ranked at 31st place.

Clearly, Utah has done something right. To find out more about this remarkable turnaround, I talked with Utah bicycle accident lawyer Jackie Carmichael.

Jackie Carmichael

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FUBAR in OC

By Rick Bernardi, J.D.

Road rage is nothing new to cyclists. Sooner or later, every cyclist will be accosted by some driver who is focused on dishing out some abuse, when he (or she) should be focused on safely operating their vehicle. And when the vehicle itself is the violent driver’s weapon of choice, safely operating the vehicle is the exact opposite of what the driver has in mind.

Most drivers aren’t hostile, and many are even courteous and friendly. But still, some drivers are extremely hostile, and they will go out of their way to express their hostility, and even endanger our lives. It’s common enough that, as bicycle accident lawyer Bob Mionske reports, many cyclists are now riding with video equipment.

Now, just to be clear, we aren’t talking about drivers who are feeling a little annoyed because they saw some cyclist break a law. We’re talking about drivers who become angry simply because of a cyclist’s presence on the road—and then acting on that anger. These are the drivers who decide to take the law into their own hands and do something about that cyclist on the road. Never mind that the cyclist is obeying the law. These violent drivers don’t care about that. Never mind that the cyclist has a right to be on the road (and may even be prohibited by law from riding anywhere but the road). These violent drivers don’t care what the law says. They think the law is wrong, and they are willing to take the law into their own hands to enforce their own warped ideas about what the law should be.

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The Bike Law Interview: Bryan Waldman, Bike Law Michigan: Bicycle Law on the Michigan Driver's Exam?

The Bike Law Interview: Bryan Waldman, Bike Law Michigan, On Bringing Bicycle Law to the Michigan Driver’s Exam

By Bob Mionske

Michigan has long been the epicenter of the American automobile industry. Although the automobile wasn’t invented there, and American automobile makers actually began manufacturing in other states (Duryea in Springfield Massachusetts in 1893, and Studebaker in South Bend, Indiana in 1902), it was in Michigan that the American industry firmly took root, beginning with Ransom Olds pioneering the use of assembly line technology in automobile manufacturing at his Oldsmobile factory in Lansing, Michigan (established in 1897).

In 1903, Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company (actually his third automobile company, after his first and second companies failed) in Dearborn, Michigan. But it was in 1914, when Ford significantly expanded upon the assembly line concept and other introduced other innovations, including vertical integration, and “Fordism,” that he was able to bring the price of an automobile within the reach of the middle class. Once Ford had achieved that breakthrough, sales and production took off, and the American automobile industry, centered in Michigan, became a titan of American manufacturing ... and American roads.

But although Henry Ford’s name is synonymous with the automobile, less well-known is his other passion—bicycles.


Henry Ford, Detroit, Michigan, 1893

The American bicycle industry had taken hold elsewhere—with Albert Pope manufacturing Columbias in Hartford, Connecticut (1878), and Adolph Schoeninger manufacturing Crescents (1889) and Ignaz Schwinn manufacturing Schwinns (1895) in Chicago, Illinois. Albert Pope was a pioneer in the use of mass-production, vertical integration, and standardized parts for manufacturing bicycles; later, Adolph Schoeninger expanded upon Pope’s concepts with the use stamped parts in manufacturing. Henry Ford, a bicyclist, machinist, and Detroit, Michigan native, successfully adopted these same concepts in manufacturing his automobiles.

But the Michigan story doesn’t end there. Today, bicycling is making a comeback around the world. In the United States, bicycling tripled in some cities between 1990 and 2009—and Michigan is experiencing that wave of interest as much as the rest of the country. While the American automobile industry is still centered in Detroit, new bicycle manufacturers are also setting up shop in Detroit and Grand Rapids, taking advantage of the state’s deep and innovative reservoir of engineering talent.

And there’s more. Detroit, a symbol of urban decline for the last 50 years, culminating in bankruptcy in December of 2013, is also a symbol of the potential for a sustainable urban rebirth and visions of a new bicycle utopia

That renewed interest in cycling isn’t limited to Detroit. In 2008, Michigan ranked 12th on the League of American Bicyclists first annual ranking of Bicycle Friendly States. But after the League’s first state rankings, Michigan fell in the rankings for three consecutive years, before reversing its freefall in 2012. This year, Michigan ranked 14th, falling slightly from last year, when it recaptured its 12th place ranking.

And unlike some states, Michigan doesn’t seem content to be resting on its laurels. Last month, Michigan bicycle accident lawyer Bryan Waldman reported on new legislation that had just passed unanimously in the Michigan House. If this legislation is signed into law, driver’s education courses will be required to “include information concerning the laws pertaining to bicycles and motorcycles and shall emphasize awareness of their operation on the streets, roads, and highways of [Michigan].”

Recently, I caught up with Bryan to talk about what is happening in bicycling advocacy in Michigan. Naturally, he wanted to talk about HB5438, the legislation that would require driver’s education courses to include instruction on bicycle laws.

Bryan Waldman

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Big Ideas: Idaho stop is one hot potato

This news article featuring Bob Mionske has been reproduced here for our archives. To access the original article, follow the link.

The Toronto Star: Big Ideas: ‘Idaho stop’ is one hot potato


A law to let cyclists treat stop signs as yields makes practical sense, cycling advocates say. But the idea has proven to be politically toxic.

Cyclists pass through an intersection on Beverley St., not necessarily coming to a full stop. In Idaho, cyclists are legally allowed to go through stop signs without stopping if it is safe to do so. The so-called Idaho stop has become something of a tourist attraction for out-of-state cyclists visiting the area.

Richard Lautens / Toronto Star File Photo

By: Tim Alamenciak, News reporter, Published on Fri Jun 13 2014

The rolling stop — it’s an idea that cycling advocates say could encourage more riders, ease bicycle commuting and make riding more efficient. Besides, many riders already do it, much to the outrage of the public.

Among cyclists it’s known as the “Idaho stop,” after the state that first legalized the practice in 1982. Since then, bike riders in the potato state have been told to treat stop signs as yields — allowing them to proceed without coming to a full stop if the way is clear. It’s a policy that cycling advocates across North America and in Toronto have been eyeing enviously.

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The Bike Law Interview: Ann Groninger, Bike Law North Carolina: On Raising The Next Generation

The Bike Law Interview: Ann Groninger, Bike Law North Carolina: Raising The Next Generation of Cyclists

By Bob Mionske

I recently had the opportunity to talk with North Carolina bicycle accident lawyer Ann Groninger. Ann had recently written a well-received article about being buzzed on a morning ride. Or I should say, it was well-received by cyclists, all of whom have had similar experiences on the road. But some motorists had a different reaction, expressing their disdain for “scofflaw cyclists” (despite the fact that Ann had been riding lawfully, and was nearly hit by a “scofflaw driver”), or worse, expressing a thinly-veiled intent to assault cyclists with their vehicles. Before writing about her own brush with near-disaster, Ann had written another excellent article asking “Are bicycle crashes accidents?” Ann had also written about personalizing the consequences of bicycle crashes—in this case, the impact that a negligent driver had on the cyclist she hit, and on his widow.

It was clear from Ann’s articles that she wants drivers to understand that, in her words, “these stories personalize the consequences of taking unnecessary risks when driving”… “what I want to talk about is the value of human life and how people can take it so lightly…by riding my bike on the road, especially alone, I am putting my life in the hands of people who don’t care about it and are willing to take pretty big risks with it.” For Ann, these stories “should be a daily wake-up call” for anyone with a conscience.

So when I talked with Ann, I thought our conversation would go in that direction. But when I asked her to talk with me about a bicycling issue she was interested in, she surprised me with her answer: “kids.” Here’s what she had to say.



Ann Groninger


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