The "Get Out Of Jail Free" Card Strikes Again

By Rick Bernardi

I’ve been car-free since 2002, when a teen driver slammed her daddy’s SUV into the back of my car, while I was stopped at a red light (The first words she said when she got out of her ute were “I’m such a bad driver, this is the second time I’ve done this.” The second words she said: “Oh my God, you’re bleeding!”). I guess she didn’t see the red light. Or me. Or the line of cars in front of me.

Or maybe she wasn't paying attention.

I didn’t plan on going car-free, but it worked out that way, and now it’s by choice. Sure, I’ve occasionally thought about getting a car, but when I add up the costs, I change my mind. But looking back, it’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I last owned a car.

Anyway, I recently joined Zipcar. A friend needed a ride to an appointment that was two and a half hours away by bus, and while she doesn’t have a driver’s license, I still do (although I don’t own a car, I have driven occasionally over the past twelve years).

So I signed up for Zipcar, and there I was, behind the wheel again, driving my friend to her appointment. After dropping her off, I returned to Portland, and then later in the day, drove back to pick her up again. On the way, I noticed a cyclist riding in the bike lane. And it occurred to me as I was passing him, that it didn’t take any special effort at all to see him. I wasn’t intently looking for cyclists, I was just driving. And there he was, easy to see—all I had to do was pay a reasonable amount of attention to my driving, and I saw him.

I soon came to a stop light, stopped, and waited with everybody else. And while I was waiting, he must have passed me, because when I started up again, there he was ahead of me again. And once again, I hadn’t been making a special effort to “see” cyclists. I was just driving, paying a reasonable amount of attention, and there he was ahead of me, unexpected, but easy to see.

Amazing, isn’t it? Without making any special effort to look for cyclists, I nevertheless saw a cyclist ahead of me on the road. I was thinking about this on the drive to pick up my friend, because so many drivers who hit cyclists say “I didn’t see him,” or “He came out of nowhere,” or “He suddenly swerved into my path.” What they are really saying is “I wasn’t paying attention” or “I took unreasonable risks with the cyclist’s life, and he paid for it.” But they don’t want to say that, even quietly to themselves, because that would mean acknowledging that they are responsible for what happened to the cyclist. So they say the magic words “I didn’t see him,” and the rest of society, thinking “There but for the grace of God go I,” gives the driver a free pass.

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Personalizing the Consequences of Bicycle Crashes-  the Gerald Apple Story

By Ann Groninger, Bike Law North Carolina

I always wonder what it will take to get the attention of motorists. How can we drive it into people that they shouldn’t take risks when operating a two ton hunk of metal at high speed? Maybe stricter traffic laws – lower speed limits, prohibiting cell phone use – would help; or increasing punishments for those who break the laws, especially when doing so causes injury or death.

Certainly those measures should be considered. But we can also continue to share stories. All of us involved in cycling, whetherwe interact with other cyclists while riding, or on the advocacy side, or in the legal world, have lots of stories to tell. These stories personalize the consequences of taking unnecessary risks when driving.

And to anyone with a conscience, they should be a daily wake-up call.

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Colorado Bike Law in the Classroom

By Brian Weiss, Bike Law Colorado

We got lots of complaints about the cycling "techniques" of students around college campuses. Here's a group of students wanting to learn to commute safely and to teach others how to do so.

Bike Law Colorado attorney Brian Weiss talked to college students at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU) on the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado on March 21, 2014 about bicycle laws in Denver. The class is putting together a study to teach students and bicycle commuters how to navigate safely in Denver. Brian explained the laws that apply to cyclists, and gave the students insights on how to be a safe commuter.

Brian also gave the class examples of the right and wrong things to do as a bicycle commuter. The students also learned the reasons behind the rules of the road that apply to bicycles. There was about an hour of questions from the students about bicycle laws and how to improve them which was quite engaging.

MSU Professor Amy Findeiss coordinated the bicycle commuter study for her research into cyclist commuting behavior and cyclist habits in the Denver area. In addition to Brian Weiss, Ms. Findeiss also invited the Denver City Planner to discuss bicycle commuting with her students.

This article, Colorado Bike Law in the Classroom, was originally published on Bike Law on April 21, 2014.

Colorado Bicycle Accident Lawyer


Getting Tough on Traffic Violence, Pennsylvania-Style

By Rick Bernardi, J.D.

Two years ago, Frank J. Aritz, Jr. was riding his bike in State College, Pennsylvania. It was after midnight when he rode past a marked police cruiser and shouted something that was unintelligible to the officer. Probably a mistake under any circumstances, but especially so considering that Aritz was riding drunk (against the law in Pennsylvania). And riding on the sidewalk (against the law in State College). And riding without a light (against the law). With all the laws he was breaking, it probably would have been better had he just quietly pedaled past the officer. But he shouted something, and when the officer ordered him to stop, he ignored the order and continued pedaling (against the law).

He did everything he could to attract police attention to his lawbreaking, and as a result, was tried and convicted on charges of DUI, riding at night without a light, and violating the no-riding-on-the-sidewalk ordinance. Aritz was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 15 days to 6 months. He appealed his sentence, and this week a panel of the State Superior Court upheld the arrest and his sentence. Aritz will serve at least 15 days, and possibly more, up to 6 months in county prison.

The lesson for cyclists? Don’t be that guy. Pretty basic, really.

But that’s not what’s important about this case.

What’s important about this case is what happened to Autumn Grohowski, and her family.

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Welcome Bob Mionske to the Bike Law team!

By Ann Groninger (Bike Law North Carolina) and Peter Wilborn (Bike Law South Carolina and Bike Law Maryland).


We (Ann and Peter) are thrilled to welcome Bob Mionske to the Bike Law Team. Bob is a guru on bike law. If you don’t already know, Bob is a Portland, OR attorney and cycling advocate who handles bicycle accidents and stands up for cyclists’ rights across the country. He is also a former U.S. Olympic and professional cyclist. Bob is a nationally-published author whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Esquire and VeloNews. He is currently a columnist for Bicycling Magazine and his column Road Rights can be read here. His book Bicycling & The Law is the first legal book written for cyclists since 1895. He can now be reached through the website,

Bob joining Bike Law will allow us to provide the highest level of service to cyclists across the country. Stay tuned for more big news in the coming weeks, as more lawyers in other states join the Bike Law Network!


This article, Welcome Bob Mionske to the Bike Law team!, was originally published on Bike Law on January 27, 2014.

Maryland Bicycle Accident Lawyer

Let's (Not) Avoid The Real Issues

Let’s (Not) Avoid the Real Issues

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

By Editor on January 8, 2014 in News

Letter to the Editor, by Bob Mionske

RE: “Santa Barbara cyclists have gone collectively insane.

That was the conclusion readers of the Santa Barbara View were invited to reach, based on anecdotes involving exactly two cyclists. Do you see the logic? If two cyclists were doing something wrong, that must mean that all cyclists—at least in Santa Barbara—are collectively insane.

And since all cyclists have gone collectively insane, we can just ignore all of the cyclists who were riding lawfully on the same day that these two riders were behaving badly. If two cyclists were not riding lawfully. all cyclists are collectively guilty, all are “collectively insane.” Even the ones who were riding lawfully and courteously that day, and every day. Tar them all with the same brush, and let God sort them out.

By the same token, we can also ignore all of the drivers who were breaking the law that day. Speeding? Why that’s a driver’s sacred right, isn’t it? Sure, it’s the number one cause of traffic “accidents,” and virtually every driver does it, but why quibble over that, when we have far, far bigger fish to fry, like one irresponsible guy who was speeding on a bike?

Why point out that virtually every driver rolls through stop signs—the world-famous “California stop”—with a little “pretend-to-stop” tap on the brakes if they can be bothered, when we can look down our noses at a cyclist who wasn’t wearing a helmet? Sure, helmets are not required, and aren’t even designed to provide protection for collisions with cars. But if we don’t blame cyclists for not wearing a helmet, we might have to look at the real cause of cyclist injuries and fatalities, and we wouldn’t want to open that Pandora’s box. Just like we wouldn’t want to require drivers to wear helmets, even though head injuries are much more common for drivers than they are for cyclists.

What about drivers violating a cyclist’s right of way? No, we don’t want to talk about that either, even though it’s the most common cause of bicycle collisions, and has happened to every cyclist out there. Instead, let’s complain about the “cycling hell” of somebody getting some exercise once a month. Let‘s complain that some cyclist was wearing—Shock! Horrors!—cycling clothes while riding his bike.

And while we’re studiously avoiding the real issues, why not make up some imaginary laws that victimize drivers while we’re at it? In all my years of handling bicycle injury cases, I have never once seen a driver cited for hitting an at-fault cyclist. Nor has anybody else ever seen such a preposterous injustice. In fact, in the real world, it is all-too-common for an at-fault driver to face no charges after injuring, or even killing a cyclist. And when drivers are cited for carelessly causing serious injury or death, it is almost always on a minor traffic violation, like “failure to yield.” If you were killed by a careless driver who got the kid glove treatment afterwards, would you feel like drivers are the victims here? Would your bereaved family feel that way?

But let’s ignore that reality, for the convenient fiction of a make-believe world where drivers are all scrupulously law-abiding victims of insane cyclists run amok, rather than the often careless law-breakers of the real world, who injure some 50,000 cyclists and kill some 700 cyclists annually.

That way, we won’t have to deal with the real issues.


Bob Mionske is the author of Bicycling & the Law, and writes a monthly column on bicycle law for Bicycling magazine. A former U.S. Olympic and pro cyclist who was on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team with Dave Lettieri, owner of FasTrack Bicycles in Santa Barbara, Bob has since become a nationally-known cycling lawyer and advocate for the rights of cyclists at

Nothing Can Keep Her From Driving- And What Can We Do With A Person Like That?

When I was in law school, I used to work nights in the law library. After the library closed, I would walk to the nearest bus stop, 30 minutes away, where I would catch the last bus home. One night, I was running a little late, or maybe the bus was running a little early. Whichever it was, I saw the bus approaching the stop from a distance, and began sprinting for the stop, but I was just too far away. I missed the last bus home. I briefly considered calling a cab, but it was really out of the question for a law student with no money, so I started walking along Barbur Boulevard, back towards downtown Portland. After a walk that lasted several hours, I finally arrived home in the early morning hours.

I thought about that walk home two weeks ago, when I heard about a hit and run crash that left a Lewis and Clark College student lying crumpled on Barbur Boulevard. The student, Henry Schmidt, 20, had been riding back to campus from his job in town, when he got a flat. He started walking his bike home, when, within minutes, he was hit by a driver who then left the scene. Schmidt sustained severe injuries, including a lacerated spleen, broken clavicle, two broken legs, three broken vertebrae, a fractured cheekbone, along with scrapes and contusions.

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Cyclists say there's a pro-motorist bias when tragedy strikes

Bangor Daily News: Cyclists say there’s a pro-motorist bias when tragedy strikes

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

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff
Posted June 25, 2013

BELFAST, Maine — Two weeks ago on a stretch of U.S. Route 2 that runs through the tiny western Maine community of Hanover, tragedy struck.

A cyclist in the annual Trek Across Maine charity ride was killed when he lost control of his bike as a tractor-trailer passed him. So far, the driver of the truck has not been charged by police in connection with the accident. But other cyclists, many in Maine and others from as far away as Oregon, said they believe that the way Maine law enforcement officers handled the death of David LeClair shows a pro-motorist bias.

“Essentially, the police are motorists. They’re not cyclists. The motorists come up with a version of the events that put the blame on the cyclist who’s not there to defend themselves,” said Bob Mionske of Portland, Ore., a former professional cyclist and attorney specializing in bicycle law. “Who’s to say any different?”

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Words Escape Me

By Rick Bernardi

What does one say, in the middle of the night, when once again, a cyclist lays dead and our system of injustice gives us its grotesque pro forma ritual of shifting the blame to the cyclist, and exonerating the driver? What does one say, when over and over again, the justice we receive is nothing but a mockery of justice? What does one say, when all one feels is a cold fury at the lies that perpetuate our system of injustice? What does one say when there are no words? What does one say?

I will try to find the words.

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Are Portland bicyclists showing signs of an unfortunate new trend?

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

The Oregonian: Are Portland bicyclists showing signs of an unfortunate new trend?

This bicyclist pretty much had the eastbound walkway of the Hawthorne Bridge all to himself one night earlier this year. But a Portland attorney says that when things get crowded, bicyclists are beginning to lose patience with each other and fights sometimes erupt. (John Killen/The Oregonian)

Dana Tims, The Oregonian By Dana Tims, The Oregonian

June 13, 2013

As both a cyclist and an attorney who specializes in cycling-related cases, Portland's Bob Mionske knows a good deal about road rage incidents pitting motorists against bicycle riders.

But for whatever reason -- warmer weather? More people taking to two wheels to get around? -- Mionske is seeing an ugly new wrinkle this year, played out through what he says are increasing numbers of instances where two angry, fist-clenched bicyclists are facing off in the Rose City.

"I have so many friends who are suddenly regaling me with stories of fights on bikes," Mionske said. "Someone is riding along, someone else flies by them in an unfriendly way, words are exchanged and just like that, people are threatening each other with fisticuffs."

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