The Bike Law Interview: Bruce Hagen, Bike Law Georgia

When I first teamed up with Peter Wilborn and Ann Groninger to help launch the Bike Law network, there were exactly four states in the network—Maryland and South Carolina, represented by Peter, North Carolina, represented by Ann, and my own state, Oregon

Since then, the network has expanded to 22 states, and continues to grow.  In fact, it is now possible for a cyclist to ride coast to coast, or from our southern border to our northern border, and always be riding in a Bike Law network state. You can now even cross into Canada and still be riding within the Bike Law network!

One of the more recent states to be brought into the Bike Law network is Georgia, ably represented by Georgia bicycle accident attorney Bruce Hagen.  Recently, I had a chance to talk with Bruce about bicycle law, advocacy, and of course, lots of great bicycling in the great state of Georgia. Here’s what he had to say.

Bruce Hagen, Bike Law Georgia

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The Bike Law Interview: Vance Preman , Bike Law Missouri and Bike Law Kansas

Last July, a cyclist was attacked in a road rage incident in Sunset Hills, Missouri. The cyclist, Randy Murdick, alleged that after the driver had yelled “Get off my roads!” he swerved into the cyclist, knocking him off his bike. The cyclist was injured and his road bike was damaged in the incident, which went viral when it was further alleged that the road raging driver was Mark Furrer, then-Mayor of Sunset Hills.

But despite the shocking nature of the attack, the Mayor’s alleged road rage was clearly out of step with city governments across the state, which are increasingly passing strong measures to protect cyclists from harassment.

Recently, I caught up with attorney Vance Preman of Bike Law Missouri and Bike Law Kansas; we had the opportunity to chat about this incident, as well as other issues, and the state of cycling in Kansas and Missouri. Despite one bad incident making the national news, the good things happening in Kansas and Missouri bicycling are clearly the real news. Like anywhere else, there's still plenty of work to be done, but if, like me, you want to know what's really happening in Kansas and Missouri, read on, as Vance Preman gives us an insider's perspective on the law, advocacy, and lots and lots of bike riding.

Bob Mionske and Vance Preman at the First Annual Bike Law Network Summit 

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The Bike Law Interview: Amy Benner, Bike Law Tennessee

By Bob Mionske

Over the years, I’ve written a number of times about incidents in Tennessee. In 2009, there was the crash that killed David Meek, a well-known and popular Chattanooga cyclist. The morning of March 5, 2009, Meek was commuting to work when he was sideswiped by a passing truck, and thrown under the wheels. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries. Although Tennessee has a 3-foot safe passing law on the books, the traffic investigator invented an imaginary standard for safe passing that let the inattentive driver who had sideswiped Meek—“he never saw” Meek, even though Meek had been “lit up like a Christmas tree”—off the hook for Meek’s death.

Three weeks later, Ed Rusk, another Hamilton County cyclist, was deliberately buzzed and hit by a driver towing a trailer. And yet the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputy responding to the incident said that he couldn’t ticket the driver because the driver didn’t know about the 3-foot passing law.

And when the Deputy completed the accident report, he wrote that there was no evidence that the trailer had come into contact with Rusk. Even an eyewitness statement corroborating Rusk’s account of the collision was left out of the accident report. Thus, despite having deliberately hit a cyclist, the driver was not charged with any violation.

Nevertheless, several officials, including then-Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, then-Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, and then-Hamilton County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Dusty Stokes had all announced their support of enforcing the 3 foot passing law.

Then, two years ago, Gary Hooper, another Chattanooga-area cyclist, was buzzed and run off the road by a car that passed within inches of his bike. A Chattanooga Bicycle Club member got the car’s license plate number, but when the incident was reported to the Red Bank Police Department, the cyclists were told that nothing could be done because the car hadn’t actually made contact with Hooper.

And in January of this year, another Chattanooga-area cyclist was assaulted in an incident that garnered the attention of cyclists nation-wide. After first repeatedly buzzing the cyclist, two local teens returned to the scene and assaulted him with pepper spray. But when the cyclist reported the assault, the tables were turned on him, with a Marion County Sheriff’s Sergeant accusing him of committing a felony by violating an imaginary law. The County prosecutor continued with the Kafkaesque turn of events by investigating the cyclist for assaulting the teens who had pepper sprayed him. Eventually, the truth came out, and the two teens were convicted, but that may be more a testament to the power of video evidence and social media than to the willingness of local law enforcement to take crimes against cyclists seriously (note, however, that the Chattanooga Police Department DID take the buzzing and assault very seriously, and would have charged the culprits if the incident had happened within their jurisdiction).

Taken together, all of these incidents suggest a law-enforcement culture that winks at drivers who endanger, assault, and even kill cyclists.

But the story is not that simple.

Chattanooga has made great strides in becoming a bicycle-friendly community, and the Chattanooga Police department has garnered a national reputation as a bicycle-friendly police force. And Memphis is also developing a national reputation on its way to becoming a great bicycle city

Clearly, the narrative coming from Tennessee is complex, and evolving. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Tennessee bicycle accident attorney Amy Benner about the state of cycling in Tennessee.

Amy Benner  

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The Bike Law Interview: Daniel Flanzig and Jim Reed, Bike Law New York

By Bob Mionske

New York is a study in contradictions. The state is ranked 29th for bicycle-friendliness in the League of American Bicyclists’ 2014 annual ranking. And yet New York City is ranked as the most bicycle-friendly city in America by Bicycling magazine. Under the leadership of Janette Sadik-Khan, and with the support of then-Mayor Bloomberg, the city made dramatic strides towards integrating bicyclists into the city‘s fabric. And yet under the leadership of then Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, the police department has seemed to be engaged in a war with cyclists, periodically engaging in stringent crackdowns for violating imaginary laws, all in the name of “bicycle safety,” while simultaneously refusing to charge dangerous drivers for real violations that have resulted in serious injuries and deaths.

But New York is bigger than The Big Apple, stretching upstate, north to the Adirondacks, and west to the Finger lakes, and beyond, to the Great Lakes. To get a better picture of the state of cycling in the Empire State, I recently talked with New York bicycle accident attorneys Daniel Flanzig and Jim Reed, of Bike Law New York.

Daniel Flanzig


Jim Reed


Bob: Daniel, Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. First, I’d like to welcome you to the Bike Law network. You are both well-known in New York cycling circles; you co-author Wheels of Justice, a monthly column for the New York Bicycling Coalition, and are both board members of the NYBC. Can you tell me how you first got involved in representing cyclists in New York?

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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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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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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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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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The Bike Law Interview: Jason Crawford, Bike Law Colorado, On Denver's First Protected Bike Lane

The Bike Law Interview: Jason Crawford, Bike Law Colorado, On Denver’s First Protected Bike Lane

By Bob Mionske

I recently came across a photograph. In the photo, a woman is riding her bike in the right lane on a street with two lanes in each direction. Behind her is a man on a bike, and in the left lane, next to the male cyclist, a car. A few pedestrians are on the sidewalk on this otherwise deserted street. Nothing like you would see in a cycling capital like Amsterdam, or Copenhagen.

Except this street scene is in Copenhagen. So where are all the cyclists? Where are all the world-famous protected cyclepaths?

There are no cyclepaths, nor legions of happy Danes on bikes, because this scene is from 1973, when Copenhagen streets looked much like the streets in any American city—completely dedicated to the automobile, with small numbers of cyclists sharing the same lanes as automobile traffic.

1973 was the height of the 1970s bike boom in both America and Denmark, and it was also the year America and Europe were thrown into an energy crisis brought on by an oil embargo from OAPEC. From that point in time, Copenhagen and American cities went in completely opposite directions. 

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