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Bicycling Magazine recently published an article titled, “Hey, Bike Shops; Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”  The story follows a heavy-set 59 year old’s sad tale of how he was treated poorly from a number of local bike shops.  

First and foremost, I would be clear that bikes are for almost everyone.  If you are big, small, short, tall, handicapped, old, young, there is a bike for you.  I am about to buy a trike for an older friend who has lost his confidence in his balance.  If your legs don’t work so well, All Ability Cycles, LLC here in Iowa will build you a beautiful hand bike.

Bike Snobbery is not limited to Bike Shops.  It is also a bike culture thing.

After years of road riding and mountain biking I moved to Chicago and started to learn about urban bicycling, which is its own animal.  I remember a time when I was standing in line at a local diner and I overheard a group of people in a booth talking about me. I was standing there in my skateboard helmet wearing full rain gear dripping wet with a bag slung over my shoulder.  I remember one of them talking about me, “…trying to be something I’m not.” They were bicyclists. I was being judged. Their snobbery had depth.

Bike Shop Bike Snobbery is sometimes just misunderstood.

Many years ago I found an old Schwinn and decided to rehab it as a commuter.  It had a one-piece crank, and I stripped out the locknut (which is reverse threaded) in a novice attempt to remove it.  I went into Rapid Transit Cycleshop in Bucktown. At its peak, Rapid Transit Cycleshop was the pinnacle of bike culture bike shops in Chicago.  

I consulted with Adrian Redd, who turned and whispered to one of his co-workers, obviously about me and my bike.  I took this as bike snobbery, which didn’t dissuade me, but I noticed it.  

Years later I became good friends with Adrian and I realized that what I had initially perceived as snobbery was actually frustration.  Adrian understood a great many things about me and my bicycle. He knew I was a newbie. He knew that I had stripped the lockring because it is a common thing for a newbie to do.  He knew his shop probably wouldn’t have my part in stock. Most importantly, he knew my bike was too small for me. He basically knew my whole mission to find the part was a waste of time because at the end of the day, the bike wasn’t suited for my needs.  What I perceived as snobbery was actually anticipated frustration. Adrian simply didn’t know how to deal with the many layers of problems I unknowingly presented. He saw me as an uneducated customer who was going to leave the store unhappy about something because everything was wrong.  In the end, he sent me to a local co-op that had a mountain of Schwinn Varsity bicycles (Mount Varsity at Working Bikes). I secured the lockring and went on to build a bike too small for me which I would never really ride.

Choose a bike shop that caters to your needs.

Bike shops in densely populated areas tend to cater to certain types of bicyclists.  You should understand this when you choose a bike shop. It is best to choose a bike shop that suits your needs. 

I worked at a bike shop called Boulevard Bikes in Chicago.  Boulevard catered to commuters. Every new bike is totally dismantled and rebuilt to meet the demanding needs of commuting, which is very hard on a bike. Every bolt needs to be coated with anti-sieze, grease, or Loctite depending on the application.  Boulevard considers steel frames to be the preferred material for hard core commuters. Roadies or triathletes could find better shops to frequent in Chicago.  

Develop a relationship with a local bike shop that serves your needs to avoid bike snobbery.

I have a home in Iowa and spend a lot of time there now.  I’ll tell you that bike snobbery isn’t really a thing in Iowa.  First of all, Iowans are not snobs by nature. It seems it is simply antithetical to a native Iowan to be a snob.  Second, no bike shop here would survive if it were a bike snob shop. The bike culture here is too diffuse, and almost everyone drives a car.  When I give legal cycling presentations in Iowa I talk about how I find it emasculating to ride on bike paths next to the road, and it falls on deaf ears.  People regularly tell me they don’t like to ride in the street.    

Iowa is small town, even in the city.  There is no anonymity of action in Iowa.  If you are a mean person people will hear about it, and your reputation will follow you.  I suspect that’s part of the reason you tend to get good service in Iowa.

The local bike shop here in Fairfield is AJ’s bicycle shop.  When I first started going to Fairfield, before I lived here, I went into AJ’s shop.  I introduced myself. AJ was less than enthusiastic about the introduction, but he was polite.  Fast forward to three years later, and do you know what? AJ loves me. I bring him business. I always want work done right, not cheap.  I pay him to do things I could do by myself because it saves me time and throws him business. If I need a thing done pronto he bends over to help me out.  That’s all because we have a relationship that I have fostered. It didn’t come easy, but it has developed over time.  

Be a good customer.

Bike shops tend to like good customers, so I suggest that the best way to develop a relationship with a bike shop is to be a good customer.  Don’t go in with the attitude that you know everything. I have years of working as a bicycle mechanic in my past and I often get good or novel advice from my bike shop.  Don’t expect that a local bike shop will be able to beat internet prices. It costs a little money to support your local businesses. Be willing to make that sacrifice. Be open minded and be willing to listen to advice.    

Tipping is suggested.  Bike mechanics tend to like beer.  I am in the minority in this regard, but one customer I really loved used to bring me fresh vegetables.  Another brought me cherry soda. Remember, no one is a bike mechanic for the good money, because bike mechanics don’t make good money.

I understand the complaint that some bike shops don’t treat their customers well.  I also understand that it can be exhausting dealing with difficult customers. The best way to avoid conflict and secure good services is to develop a relationship with a local bike shop.  Bring them business and try to be a good customer.

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The big bike news out of the Oregon legislature this year was the passage of a Stop as Yield law. This was an enormous legislative victory for Oregon cyclists, the culmination of over a decade of advocacy.

But it wasn’t the only legislative victory for Oregon cyclists this legislative session. A less glamorous but equally important addition to Oregon’s bike laws was the passage of a bill clarifying that bike lanes continue through intersections.

Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it?

It’s not. It’s a tale of heartbreaking tragedy, stunning displays of judicial illogic, and justice not only delayed, but flat out denied. And finally, it’s a tale of the triumph of law and reason over prejudice masquerading as logic and law.
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And it all began with a simple question: Does a bike lane continue through an intersection?

There’s a simple way to understand the question. Have you ever heard that it’s illegal to change lanes in an intersection? It’s a common, but erroneous belief.  It’s not illegal in Oregon, or in any of the surrounding states. It is widely considered to be an unsafe practice, and a driver can be ticketed for making an unsafe lane change in an intersection. But illegal? Nope.

On one level, this belief is just a mistaken understanding about the law. But on another level, it reflects a deeper understanding about intersections that is true—lanes continue across intersections, even though they’re not actually painted on the road surface. And because you can be ticketed for making an unsafe lane change when you are in an intersection, it should be obvious that even though the lanes aren’t painted across the intersection, they’re still there.

It’s common sense, really, and it’s also the official position of ODOT.  Virtually everybody gets that. 

And then there’s Judge Pro Tem Michael Zusman.

In a 2009 case in Portland, a driver right-hooked Portland cyclist Carmen Piekarski at an intersection. The driver was cited by police for Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane. But at trial, Judge Zusman held that because there are no bike lane markings in the intersection, the bike lane does not continue through the intersection.

Put simply, Judge Zusman’s ruling was profoundly lacking in legal logic. If, as he held, bicycle lanes do not exist in intersections, then what would be the purpose of a law that requires drivers to yield the right of way before making a turn across a bicycle lane? Did he suppose that the law only applies to driveways adjacent to bike lanes? And if so, why would the legislature have seen fit to protect cyclists at driveways, but not in intersections?

To make matters worse, there was virtually no expert agreement with Judge Zusman’s reading of the law, from law enforcement, to legal experts, to ODOT. Nevertheless, even though the driver in this case was not found in violation of the bike lane statute, the case itself had no value as legally-binding precedent, because it was a trial-level ruling, rather than an appellate ruling, and applied only to that specific case. Piekarski, who suffered injuries including serious road rash and a shoulder injury, eventually settled out of court with the driver’s insurance company.

If there was any consolation to be had from Judge Zuman’s confused interpretation of the law, it was that this was a one-off aberration, never to be repeated. Still, Jonathan Maus at BikePortland made the now-prescient observation that “the law itself could use a bit of clarification so this doesn’t happen again.”

Time passed, and the law was never clarified. With every passing year, Judge Zusman’s ruling receded further into the past, a distant, half-forgotten clusterfudge of jurisprudence.

And then, on November 20, 2017, Jonathan Chase Adams rode his bike into a Bend, Oregon intersection.

He never made it to the other side.

As Adams entered the intersection, the vehicle to his left, a FedEx Ground semi-trailer truck hauling a 25 foot trailer, began making a right turn onto NW Olney Ave. Adams was struck by the side tank, and bounced several times into the side of the trailer, trying desperately to get away from the truck as it continued turning into him.

Adams began to lose control of his bike, and he put his left leg down; his leg was caught by a wheel, and he was dragged under the trailer, and then run over by the rear wheels. Adams, 31, died at the scene. It was three days from Thanksgiving.

Police responding to the scene of the crash declined to ticket the FedEx driver. However, six months later Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel announced that while he would not be filing a criminal charge against the driver, he would be charging the driver with a traffic violation, Failure to yield to rider on a bicycle lane.

Fearing the loss of his commercial driver’s license if he paid the citation, the driver decided to fight the ticket. And once in court, the defense turned the tables and put Jonathan Chase Adams on trial. He had been “bombing” down the hill towards the intersection. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. He wasn’t wearing reflective clothing. He wasn’t equipped with a light.

These were all issues raised to distract from what had actually happened, to shift the blame to the cyclist by painting him as a danger to himself, and to absolve the driver of any responsibility for the fatal collision. And as is usually the case, the cyclist wasn’t able to tell his own story.

He wasn’t wearing a helmet—but a helmet would not have prevented the tires of the truck from running over him after he was dragged under, and it wouldn’t have protected his body or his head from the injuries he suffered.

He wasn’t wearing reflective clothing. But it was broad daylight, reflective clothing wasn’t required, and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

He wasn’t equipped with a light, but again, it was broad daylight. There was no excuse for why he couldn’t be seen. 

He was “bombing” down the hill, but no actual evidence was introduced to establish his speed. Instead, the court heard the perceptions of drivers who had been sitting still in traffic as Adams passed them. And more to the point, he was adjacent to the cab of the truck as both the truck and Adams entered the intersection. When the truck right-hooked him, Adams was struck by the side tank of the cab.

This means that the driver should have seen him in the side mirrors. Had the driver been looking for cyclists as he turned across the bike lane, as Oregon law requires, he would have seen Adams. In Oregon, when a driver is making a turn across a bike lane, the driver has a legal duty to yield the right of way to a cyclist who is in the bike lane. Oregon law doesn’t say “yield if you see a cyclist.” It says the law is violated if the driver “does not yield.” That language puts the onus on the driver to look carefully for cyclists in the bike lane before turning across the lane. You turned without looking? You’re at fault. You gave a quick, cursory look, and didn’t see the cyclist? You’re still at fault. You stopped before turning, looked carefully, didn’t see a cyclist, but there was nevertheless a cyclist in the bike lane and you collided? Now we can try to figure out if you or the cyclist are at fault. 

So how did a FedEx driver fail to yield to Jonathan Adams while he was riding in the bike lane? There are only two possibilities– either he deliberately violated the cyclist’s right of way, which seems unlikely, or he violated the cyclist’s right of way because he didn’t see him. And if he didn’t see him, we have to ask why. It was broad daylight. Adams was in the bike lane. We know for a fact that he was visible in the driver’s rear-view mirror. He should have been visible in the driver’s side mirror. And the driver had a legal duty to look before turning. So why didn’t he see Adams?

The defenses the driver raised—helmet, lights, clothing, “bombing” down the hill—were an attempt to answer that question, by shifting the blame to Adams. He couldn’t be seen because he didn’t have a light (in broad daylight). He couldn’t be seen because he wasn’t wearing reflective clothing (in broad daylight). He couldn’t be seen because he was “bombing” down a hill (past drivers who were stuck sitting still in traffic). He couldn’t be seen because he wasn’t wearing a helmet—no, that doesn’t make sense, but mention the missing helmet anyway, it makes him look negligent.

It’s the kind of defense one might raise if one had made a cursory check, if at all, before turning. It’s not the kind of defense one would raise if one had carefully checked to make sure that the bike lane was clear before turning.

And we can deduce that the driver did not in fact look carefully before turning. How can we know this? The driver’s defense was not “I looked carefully and did not see a cyclist before beginning my turn.” Instead, the driver argued that there is no bike lane in the intersection, so he could not be in violation of the law requiring that he yield to Adams.

Think about it. If the driver had actually looked carefully before turning, wouldn’t that have been his argument? Why argue that there is no bike lane in the intersection, unless that is your best way of explaining what happened? Even if the driver couldn’t see Adams because he was in the driver’s blind spot—a difficult argument to make, given the side mirrors on FedEx trucks—wouldn’t that be the argument he would want to make? And in fact, evidence revealed that Adams was indeed visible in the driver’s rear-view mirror before they reached the intersection.

But if there was no bike lane, then the driver could argue that he did not violate the law when he made his right turn. And that was exactly the strategy chosen. Judge Zusman’s ruling was rising like a zombie from the grave of judicial error, just in time for Halloween.

And Judge A. Michael Adler bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

Like Judge Zusman, Judge Adler saw “no authority” for the argument that bike lanes continue through intersections—despite Prosecutor Andrew Steiner’s introduction into evidence of “Oregon Department of Transportation guidelines for road construction standards and recent court cases and legislation in Oregon.” Facts were simply no match for logic-defying myopia.

But perhaps recognizing that Judge Zusman’s ruling needed some additional buttressing, Judge Adler came up with his own contribution to the “disappearing bike lanes” legal canon: Adams’s “speed carried him outside the protection of the bike lane.” Because testimony had been presented that Adams had been “bombing” down the hill toward an intersection, and past a truck with its turn signals on, Judge Adler ruled that Adams had not been exercising “due care.” What Judge Adler appeared to be saying was that Adams had a duty to slow and yield to the truck before entering the intersection, and that because he didn’t slow and yield, he was in the intersection, and not in the bike lane, at the precise moment that the truck began to turn.

Picture this: You’re driving your car in the right lane. As you enter an intersection, the car in the left lane next to you makes a right turn across your lane, cutting you off, and you collide. According to Judge Adler, you didn’t yield the right of way to the other vehicle, and because there was no lane in the intersection, your right of way was not violated. You should have slowed and yielded to the car making a turn across your lane, and because you were in the intersection, you were “outside the protection” of your lane.

If this seems wrong to you, it’s because it is wrong. There’s no such rule in the law. Even if you’re driving a little faster than the car in the lane next to you, they still have a duty to make a safe turn, or a safe lane change, and they still don’t get to violate your right of way.

But not in Judge Adler’s courtroom. There, the driver turning across your path of travel has no duty to yield, or even to look before turning. The message to drivers throughout the state was unmistakable: Oregon drivers don’t have to look for or yield the right of way to cyclists in intersections.

The problem, as Prosecutor Andrew Steiner noted, is that people don’t understand that bicycle lanes are vehicle lanes. “This is cultural,” he said. “Many people just don’t think of them as lanes.”

The District Attorney’s office did everything they could to bring justice to this tragedy. The prosecutors understood the law, and the facts, and did everything they could, only to be shut down in court by a law that doesn’t exist. It was out of their hands now. There was only one way left to ensure that no future cyclist would be denied justice in a court of law. The legislature would have to step in and tell judges in plain English what everybody else has been trying to explain to them with no avail.

And that is exactly what happened. In May, the Oregon Legislature made clear what everybody had already been telling Judges Zusman and Adler: Bike lanes continue through the intersection, even if they are not painted onto the roadway, and drivers who don’t yield to a cyclist riding in a bike lane are violating the law.

This is an enormous legal victory for cyclists—not as glamorous, perhaps, as the passage of the Stop as Yield law, but a tremendous victory for justice nevertheless. 

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The founder of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team loves his life on two wheels.

Gary Harty was born in Bellows Falls, Vermont, and raised in Colorado – Denver Metro area, and now makes bicycling in Lakewood, Colorado safe and fun.  Gary is part of the baby boomer generation. He attended Colorado State University (CSU) and graduated with B.S. in Psychology. Gary began using the bicycle for commuting as a 19 year old.  What he was spending on gasoline over the summer could be converted into a Biology text book by substituting the bicycle for gas.  

Gary’s first motivation for riding bikes was simply economic.  Later, it was for health and fitness.  Then because of environmental concerns. Each of these motivations remain important to Gary.  Gary says that “is more enjoyable to be on the bike than being a part of traffic.”

Gary has been all over the bicycle industry: bike mechanic, briefly bicycle shop owner with partner, bicycle advocacy in non-profits, bicycle education – safety and maintenance.

Gary and his wife rode from Denver to New England on a self-supported bicycle trip for their honeymoon.  They made our own panniers and tent from one of our sleeping bags.  They bought food daily and prepared our evening meal over a small back-packing stove.  They finished our trip on Prince Edward Island before meeting friends for the long drive back to Colorado and the return to work and reality.  The Hartys’ friends and relatives still talk about the Colorado couple who rode 2,400 miles across the country for a honeymoon.

Gary and his wife have discovered the joy of visiting other cities to see the bicycle infrastructure, the architecture, and the museums.  Gary is planning trips to Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Utrecht on our bucket list.  

In his younger days, Gary was fascinated with bicycle racing.  He raced a time trial at CSU as an amateur racer around the CSU Oval.   One his favorite rides was a 40 mile team ride around the Hughes Stadium, up to Horestooth Reservoir and the back roads to Loveland before returning to Ft. Collins.  He recalls riding his Schwinn Continental, with quick release wheels, dual brake levers, and 38 pounds of steel, I found myself in the lead group of six riders on their fancy light-weight French made bicycles.  Gary’s cycling clubs promoted some pretty big races including the original Golden Coors Stage Race, the Rocky Mountain News Classic, and the Littleton Twilight Criterium.

Gary founded the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team (LBAT) in 2016 because he  was not happy with the lack of bicycle friendly facilities in Lakewood.  Improved bike facilities is the goal of LBAT despite many our the Commissioners who prefer private automobiles.  One of the most successful projects of LBAT was bringing Cycling Without Age from Copenhagen to Lakewood.  

The Hartys operate an active chapter where volunteers take seniors from their affordable senior living communities for rides in specially designed 3-wheel rickshaws (popularly referred to as trishaws) for rides to enjoy nature, feel the sunshine and the wind, and reconnect with the community at large.  This is an extremely rewarding activity and we have met some fantastic people, both residents and volunteers who have participated.

Currently, Gary enjoys riding dirt or riding quiet side streets in Denver.  I recently become involved with the BIKE STREETS Project, the brain child of a brilliant entrepreneur named Avi Stopper.  We have developed a network a low-stress streets that allow bicycle transportation to most places within the City of Denver and beyond.  The first map has recently been printed and is available at the Bike Law Colorado Office free of charge. The Hartys have fallen in love with riding BIKE STREETS. 

The world needs more Gary Hartys, but we are happy that we have one in Colorado.

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I often find myself wanting to ride on a roadway corridor that doesn’t want me there. At best, I could make it across alive with some close calls and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At worst, I wouldn’t be around to write this blog post. 

Of course, a safer, alternate route doesn’t always exist. So, you have to make one yourself. 

Take, for example, the Green Bridge in New Orleans. This key artery connects two parts of great riding in the city: St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans East. The Green Bridge is over a mile long, has no shoulder at its crest, and stands over 13 stories tall. Its speed limit is 55 mph, but traffic travels at an unenforced 70. 

Fortunately, there’s no need to either risk your life or ruin your intended route. When I find myself here, I call an Uber of Lyft not to hop in the car, but to gain a private traffic escort. 

The conversation typically goes like this when the driver pulls up:

Me: Hi, I’m Charlie. I’m not trying to get in your car all sweaty with my bike. Can you just put your hazard lights on and follow me over the bridge so that no one hits me? It should take about 4 minutes and I’ll tip you at the bottom. Cool? 

David the Uber driver: Alllllllright. 

This will likely be the first time your driver has gotten this request, so make the request confidently enough to not give the driver second thoughts. Of course, it’s completely within the driver’s discretion at this point to accept/reject this ride, but I’ve never seen anyone decline it. 

I pull away on my bike and head onto the feeder road. David tails me in his Xterra about 40 feet behind. The adrenalin of the bridge ahead and passing traffic keep me moving at 15 mph up the grade. I feel like Egan Bernal. My legs start to burn as I near the top, which comes just in time to start coasting downhill. Within a few seconds, I’m zooming down the backslope somewhere around 35 mph. Traffic is still passing twice as fast as me, and I’m glad I have cover. 

At the bottom, I pull over and David follows. He rolls down his window and I thank him for literally saving my life. He seems genuinely happy to have done some good. He also seems happy that I didn’t get sweat and bike grease all over his interior. Mutual 5-star reviews are exchanged. Everybody wins.  

So, use this life hack when you need it. As someone who wants to occasionally ride high-speed corridors and live to tell about it, it hasn’t failed me yet.  

If you’d like to keep up with these developments and hear what we’re else doing at Bike Law, drop me an email at charlie@bikelaw.com. I’ll add you to our update list so that you have the latest information on these issues as they develop further. 

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Bike Law by Rachael Maney - 1w ago

Outrage. 

It is what drives action and engagement on the interwebs these days. If it’s not outrageous, it’s boring. The Election of 2018 proved that outrage increases TOS (“time on site”) more than friendship, sympathy, desire, or anything else. 

Judgement.

By definition it is necessary to reach any conclusion about anything. But passing it on others through virtue signaling does what exactly? (“I’m on a mission to save the planet… I’ve booked a commercial flight to go run a marathon up north then another to deliver winter running clothes to the impoverished in Cuba.” Oh, ok. )

Opinion.

Like perspective, we’ve all got one (about everything) and it’s not dependent upon factual findings. Often times, these guys only have power when coupled with their equally as potentially suffocating counterpart, oversensitivity.

Polarization.

Newton explained this long before we had the added pleasure of oversharing, overstating, over indulging, and overreacting to the stuff we find, share, promote, amplify, support, protest on the internet. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Here we are. It’s 2019 and things have never been so extreme.

A couple months ago, while stopped at a gas station during my bike ride, I had a gentleman cyclist tell me very definitively that rolling through stop signs on a bicycle is never safe, no matter what the law (Damn you, Idaho, Delaware, Arkansas! Why would a 14% decrease in bicycle crash injuries and a 30% increase in overall bike safety be incentivizing at all?!). I can only conclude based on his confidence in his proclamation that he believed himself to be an expert, and therefore believed I should consider him as such, too. I politely listened to his incongruous (and counterfactual) explanation and I never did tell him his helmet was on backwards.

On more occasions than I can count, middle aged men (and on one occasion a slightly younger than middle aged woman) felt the need to point out the too-highness or too-lowness or too-slammedness of my seat post and stem. I, myself, am certainly no expert (at anything), so perhaps they are all correct. Maybe these people ride their perfectly fitted bicycles around their respective cities and towns handing out citations for the geometric infractions committed by their fellow (and less or more aerodynamic) cyclists. And maybe they rush to the notice board advertising piano lessons at their local YMCA screaming, “I don’t want any piano lessons!!!!!!” Yeah, it’s out there for you to see. But unless I’ve slid it into your DMs (or the Director of your local Y knocks on your door with a Steinway upright) you can bet it wasn’t directed at you or even posted with you specifically in mind. (Did that offend you?)

I would never approach a stranger at the grocery store and rifle through the contents of their cart, pointing out how much healthier or skinnier they’d be without the cheese doodles and cola. And I would be taken aback if someone else did that to me. Quite frankly, I find it to be really awkward when the cashier verbally rings up my groceries (“…beep! Quinoa…beep! dental floss…beep! oreos- oh, did you see that these are buy one get another package half off?…”) or asks me questions about my personal pharmacy items. It feels invasive. So why do it online? Does the keyboard really make us feel like warriors? Yuck.

And even more so, I think we’ve reached a point (because of generally positive and necessary technological advancements and the availability of platforms like social media) where we, myself included, have a tendency to behave badly when the best course of action is just to mind our own business. This can be complicated and difficult because, at least as far as social media is concerned, we share stuff looking for a response or reaction. The bigger, the better. The number of likes (or varying degrees of such), followers, comments, shares, etc., become the metrics we use to measure our success, or self worth, or value in cyber space and even in real life. Yuck again. 

We are pretty successfully solidifying a culture in which everyone gets a trophy just for showing up; where failure is avoided at all costs and circumvented with cheating, lying, exaggerating, spinning, or simply acting as if the hiccups and challenges that are an important part of a healthy, balanced life do not exist; where the more you’re loved, the more you’re hated; where the need to prove we’re right is more important than the need for peace, or compromise, or understanding, or acceptance, or forward motion; where we feel it is our duty to impose our every opinion about any and everything upon people we will probably never meet, trolling the web for an opportunity to argue about all kinds of stuff, much of which we really know relatively little about. 

We should listen more and talk a lot less. Maybe we’d learn something new.

In the bike advocacy world, these things are on the juice. The cycle doesn’t necessarily start with us, but it certainly could end with us. Here are some unarguable facts that might help to clear a few things up: (These aren’t my opinions. They’re like, science and stuff.)

  1. The Earth is not flat.
  2. College isn’t for everyone.
  3. Inclusive infrastructure does increase cycling safety when engineered and implemented thoughtfully.
  4. Just because you can (physically or legally) doesn’t mean you should.
  5. Helmet usage increases your safety (on a bike, stepping out of the shower, cleaning your gutters, and operating a motor vehicle). They do not, however, protect your face, neck, or body in any of these situations or stop your brain from exploding like a cooked pear in a mason jar that’s been shaken if the impact to your head is great enough.
  6. Our political climate has a direct impact on the culture of cycling, the polarization within our community, and hampered success as advocates.
  7. There are way more good cops than bad ones.
  8. There are way more good truck drivers than bad ones.
  9. Having money doesn’t make you an asshole.
  10. Life is a hell of a lot harder in every single way when you don’t have any or enough.

I posted an article with an embedded video yesterday showing police officers responding to a call from a neighborhood resident complaining about a 14 year old girl riding her bike on his lawn. According to the article and as is partially captured in the video, three officers responded to the call, handcuffed the girl, accused her of riding a stolen bicycle, demanded identification, pushed her and her 15 year old brother who rushed to her against the patrol car, then forcibly threw her to the ground (while handcuffed).

Video shows North Little Rock officer throwing 14-year-old girl to ground after bicycle complaint

The kids are black. So are two of the three cops. Many of the comments that followed were nothing short of nonsense. The kids “reap[ed] what they sow[ed],” “…this had nothing to do with being black. Some of the cops are black!” “FTP,” and on, and on, and on. Was it a bike post? A race post? A political post? The biggest news flash is that it’s all of these things and none of them at the same time. 

It’s a cry for help.

We victim-blame our very own (and we do it inside an echo chamber where all the anti-bike folks can’t even pull up a seat with their popcorn and watch us go for each others’ jugulars). We point fingers, publicly shame and humiliate, criticize, name call, and worse. And we’re dying in record numbers. For all you middle aged males out there (and no, I’m not a man hater. In fact, there’s a few I find to be particularly glorious: Bruno Mars, Colin Firth, LeBron James, Bradley Cooper, and the late Michael Hutchence all run a close collective second to Peter, IMHO), you’re the demographic most likely to suffer a bicycle crash fatality.

Of the 25 million Americans that will ride a bike this year, how many have a racing license? Our sport is on life support. Less of us that enjoyed racing are enjoying or racing. Fewer kids ride bikes. That’s cycling’s future turning their backs on the bicycle. (I posted about that too and the same outrage ensued.)

And for all the tariff naysayers (that a 25% increase on tariffs on the least expensive bikes would somehow not negatively impact youth ridership) who solely blame screen time and video games, the irony is that but for your own personal screen time, the opportunity to tell me that the Wall Street Journal and Forbes are wrong would never have presented itself.

But it doesn’t have to be this way and we can certainly do our part to return some dignity and elegance to this thing we do that happens to be the common thread weaving us all together and the fastest way to save the world. 

Most importantly, we can circle back to the humanity and freedom found in cycling and share that with the rest of the world so that maybe, just maybe, we can all take the leap out of second class citizenship and into a position of leadership, thereby growing our community in an inclusive way, and with it, the greatest predictor of bicycle safety.

But it starts here, now, on social media.

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The Oregon Legislature made national news this past week, for all the wrong reasons. The State Senate, with a super-majority of Democrats in control, had been working on climate legislation which would have Oregon join a cap-and-trade market with California and Quebec. Unable to stop the legislation, Republican Senators fled the state en masse, preventing the quorum necessary for passing legislation. Governor Kate Brown ordered State Police to find the missing Senators, which prompted one of the Senators to make veiled threats of violence against the police. Militia groups offered to defend the absentee Senators against the State Police, and the capital was subsequently shut down on the advice of the State Police. With just days to go before the end of the legislative session, the cap-and-trade bill was effectively dead.

Lost in all of that high-stakes drama was a major legislative victory for cyclists: The Oregon Legislature passed an Idaho-style Stop-as-Yield Law.

Ten years ago, a Stop-As-Yield bill failed in The Oregon Legislature, and with it, hopes that Oregon would become the second state to adopt a Stop-as-Yield law. In the intervening years, similar legislative efforts in other states met a similar fate. But over time, something changed—the concept of Stop-as-Yield began to seem less preposterous, more reasonable. Did the arguments finally begin to make sense? Did people just need time to get used to the idea? Arthur Schopenhauer noted that “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Whatever it was that had changed, by 2017, the logjam had begun to break, and Delaware became the second state to pass a Stop-as-Yield law (albeit a limited version of the Idaho law). The following year, Colorado passed legislation that standardized Stop as Yield language, and giving cities and counties the option to adopt a local Stop as Yield law with that language. Neither the Delaware nor the Colorado legislation were complete Stop as Yield laws in the vein of the Idaho law, but they were clear evidence that opposition to the Stop as Yield concept was buckling. 

Then, on April 1 of this year, Arkansas passed a full Idaho-style Stop as Yield law, officially becoming the second state in the country to adopt the Idaho law in its entirety. By April 10, the Oregon Senate was considering its own version of a Stop-as-Yield Law. The tide was clearly turning. But would it turn in Oregon too?

There wasn’t much time left before the end of the 2019 legislative session, but on June 19th, the bill passed in the Senate by 21-8—next stop, the House. With only 5 days left before this legislative year ended, the Oregon House passed the Senate bill by 31-28. It was a squeaker of a vote, but it passed. If the Governor signs the legislation, as seems likely, Oregon will become the 4th state to pass a Stop-as-Yield law.

The Idaho Stop—What Is It?

“Stop as Yield” has been the law in Idaho since 1982, and “Red as Stop” was added to the Idaho law in 2006. Here’s how it works in Idaho: When a cyclist approaches a stop sign in Idaho, the law says that the cyclist may treat the stop sign as if it is a yield sign. This means that the cyclist is required to slow to a reasonable speed when approaching the intersection, and “stop if necessary for safety.” The law continues: “After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard…” However, if the cyclist has the right of way at the intersection, the cyclist may slow to a reasonable speed and roll through without stopping or yielding. This is exactly how a yield sign works, which is why the law is usually called “Stop as Yield.”

The Idaho law also has a “Red as Stop” clause, which means that cyclists are required to stop at a red light, but after yielding to all other traffic, may proceed through the intersection without having to wait for the light to turn green. This is exactly how a stop sign works, which is why the law is called “Red as Stop.”

But is it Safe?

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, there has been “no discernible increase in injuries or fatalities to bicyclists.” In fact, the first year after the Stop as Yield law passed, injuries to bicyclists actually decreased by 14.5%. In other words, decades of real-world experience on Idaho’s roads demonstrate conclusively that Stop as Yield is safe.

And yet despite decades of data showing that stop as yield is safe, opposition to the law has always centered on the perception that it is unsafe, with worst-case fantasy scenarios—ill-mannered cyclists arrogantly blowing through stop signs and leaving chaos in their wake—serving as arguments against the law. 

The reality is quite different; virtually all cyclists are safety-conscious, because they have the most to lose in any collision. When a cyclist treats a stop sign as a yield sign, it may ruffle some feathers, but the cyclist is highly conscious about safety when rolling through the stop. And the data from Idaho shows this.

The Idaho Stop Comes to Oregon

The next stop for Oregon’s Stop as Yield law will be the Governor’s desk. If she signs the bill, as seems likely, Stop as Yield will be the law in Oregon (more on that in a future article). However, this isn’t a full-blown Idaho-style Stop as Yield law.

So how will the law work in Oregon? Listen up, Oregon cyclists, because how you approach and enter an intersection will make the difference between a legal “Stop as Yield” and an illegal “Improper entry into an intersection.”

Under the new Stop as Yield law, if a cyclist who is approaching an intersection where traffic is controlled by a stop sign slows to a safe speed, the cyclist may do any of the following without violating the law:

  • proceed through the intersection without stopping;
  • make a right or left turn into a two-way street;
  • make a right or a left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street.

Conversely, the cyclist will be violating the law if the cyclist:

  • Fails to yield the right of way to traffic lawfully within the intersection or approaching so close as to constitute an immediate hazard;
  • Disobeys the directions of a police officer or flagger;
  • Fails to exercise care to avoid an accident; or
  • Fails to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in an intersection or crosswalk.

What about red lights? Unlike Idaho, Oregon’s law does not have a “Stop as Red” provision. However, the law does allow a flashing red light to be treated as a yield sign. Under the new law, if a cyclist who is approaching an intersection where traffic is controlled by a flashing red light slows to a safe speed, the cyclist may do any of the following without violating the law:

  • proceed through the intersection without stopping;
  • make a right or left turn into a two-way street;
  • make a right or a left turn into a one-way street in the direction of traffic upon the one-way street.

Conversely, the cyclist will be violating the law if the cyclist:

  • Fails to yield the right of way to traffic lawfully within the intersection or approaching so close as to constitute an immediate hazard;
  • Disobeys the directions of a police officer;
  • Fails to exercise care to avoid an accident; or
  • Fails to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in an intersection or crosswalk.

Violations of the Stop as Yield Law will be a Class D traffic violation, currently subject to a minimum fine of $65, a maximum fine of $250, and a presumptive fine of $115. The presumptive fine is the amount you can pay on the ticket without having to appear in court, unless the law or the court requires the defendant to appear (see ORS 153.061). The court can impose a higher fine, up to the maximum statutory sanction, if the law or the court requires the defendant to appear.

However, while tickets are the most common concern of cyclists who roll stops, there’s a more serious concern that cyclists should be aware of: What happens if a cyclist rolls through a stop sign and gets hit by a car? As it currently sits, the cyclist is in a compromised position. The cyclist’s violation of the law will almost certainly become an issue with the driver’s insurance company, particularly if there is a police report stating that the cyclist broke the law. If there is any way that the insurance company can minimize a payout on a claim, you can bet they will go for it. The bottom line is that if you break the law by rolling through a stop sign and you get hit by a car, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to be compensated for your injuries.

This is true now, and it will continue to be true after Stop as Yield becomes law, because even under the Stop as Yield law, the cyclist is still required to slow, yield, and enter the intersection lawfully. The best way to protect yourself legally, even after Stop as Yield becomes law, is always going to be to ride within what the law allows.

Finally, it’s extremely important for cyclists to understand that Stop as Yield is not the law in Oregon. Yet. In all likelihood, it will become the law in Oregon, but even then, it won’t officially become Oregon law until January 1, 2020, if the Governor signs the bill. So until it officially becomes the law, Stop as Yield is still not legal in Oregon. This means that until Stop as Yield officially becomes law, you can still be ticketed for rolling past a stop sign, and you can still be found to be at fault if you roll a stop sign and are involved in a collision as a result.

All that said, 2020 is shaping up to be a vastly improved legal landscape for cyclists in Oregon.

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It’s Tour de France time. I follow the racing daily through the footage on TV feed and still photos. But I hadn’t ever considered what’s happening on the other side of the camera lens. Like, what actually goes into snapping these pictures that we see documenting the Tour’s happenings?

I started to care more about this – and only by chance – after meeting a client named Chris Graythen. During our first meeting, Chris tells me about riding his bike in New Orleans when he was hit. The driver’s insurance company blamed Chris for the crash, which is why he needed legal help. I ask Chris about his broken collarbone and how it’s affecting his daily activities. He responds that he’s getting by, but he’s worried about it affecting his job. When I ask him what he does for a living, he tells me that he’s a photojournalist who covers events like the Tour de France. Chris explains the physical demands of hanging off a motorcycle for weeks in France to capture some of the best shots we see from the race. At that point, I realized that I knew very little about the process of how these picturesque images are brought to us. It becomes evident that there’s an unseen amount of effort, skill, coordination, and sacrifice that goes into literally every shot of the race. 

Fortunately, Chris has healed from his injuries and we successfully wrapped up his case. He and I grew to be friends through this process, and I told him that I wanted to get a full flavor of his behind-the-scenes race action. I sat down with him last week before he left for France. Here’s what I learned from him over guacamole and a beer at Juan’s Flying Burrito. 

CT: So, Chris, are you a cycling fan?

Chris: If you’re shooting the Tour de France, you really need to be a fan at heart and have institutional knowledge of the sport. We’re editorially covering the story of the race first, but we’re also contracted to shoot for teams, riders, and product vendors since they’re relying on us for the shots they post daily on social media. For example, I have to know things like which Sky riders (now Team Ineos) wear Oakleys. But pretty much everyone involved with the Tour has some interest in cycling. My interest goes back to my days at LSU when I managed the Bicycle Shop in Baton Rouge, and really before that watching Greg LeMond and Lance on TV.  And now I get to ride alongside the peloton capturing these guys fighting each other on every stage.

CT: Good for you. I’ll be watching from my desk and sofa. How did you get into photography anyway?

Chris: I come from a family of photographers and journalists. My uncle Bill Haber was an AP photographer for 40+ years. My great uncle Bob Roesler was with the Times-Picayune sports for over 45 years as the executive sports editor. They both told me not to expect to make any real money in this industry. You have to do this because you love it. Around 2002, I came out of college and landed a job at Lakeside Camera. I started shooting for the Times-Pic and stayed in town through Hurricane Katrina. My photos were suddenly on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today. I had been freelancing for Getty Images and was hired full time in 2007. I’ve been with them ever since. (Note: Getty currently has over 120k of Chris’s images on its site). 

CT: I know that you shoot all sorts of sporting events. What’s most different about photographing the Tour? 

Chris: With the Tour, you’re part of the race. You can affect the outcome. In Formula 1, Indy Car, the Olympics, or really any other sport, I’m off to the side and out of the way. With the Tour, you’re literally part of the event and have to respect that closeness. For instance, I tape my lenses onto my cameras so that they won’t come loose and fall into the pack. I also act as a second set of eyes for my moto pilot by letting him know how close we are to the riders next to us. 

CT: I’d imagine that it’s competitive to get the Tour assignment from Getty. 

Chris: Yes. It helps to know the language [French]. In the race, there are constant updates coming over the radio on breakaways, time gaps, incidents, and whatever else is happening at that exact moment. The updates come in French first, with an English translation to follow. Sometimes the English translation lags or doesn’t come at all depending on what sort of immediate news is occurring. So, knowing French is essential to getting where the action is happening.

CT: Impossible n’est pas français.

Chris: It might be a stretch to say I’m fluent, but I’m conversational. 

CT: So, you’re holding onto the back of a motorcycle driven by some guy for thousands of miles. How well do you know your moto pilot?

Chris: Pretty good at this point. We’re responsible for showing up with our own motorcycles and pilots at the Tour. ASO (Tour organizer) gives us a slot and we hire a private contractor to drive us. This is different from races in the U.S., like at the Tour of California where the race hires the moto and assigns us to one. At the TdF, we’re responsible for the safe operation of our motorcycle and following protocol, so it’s much smoother if you know your pilot.  

CT: Can you ride anywhere you want next to the peloton? How is the chaos organized? 

Chris: No no no. There are strict protocols. Cars stay on the right, motorcycles on the left. The television feed motos get priority – there’s one for the breakaway, another for the front of the peloton, and one for the back of the peloton. There’s also two helicopters and another four motorcycle photographers along the road capturing the “pretty” shots for TV. But for passing in the peloton, there’s a very specific pattern. We ride up to the back of the peloton and get a head nod of permission from the rear regulaire, who’s also on a moto, to pass the peloton. Of course, there’s a tiny width of space for us to actually ride by the pack, which can be dicey. We’ll make it to the front of the pack and check in with the front regulaire. Once acknowledged, this regulaire will grant permission to us to circulate through the peloton to capture shots. 

CT: Any memories that stand out from last year’s Tour?

Chris: I remember during the cobblestone stage outside of Roubaix, we needed to get up the road and couldn’t get past the riders. We didn’t have many options, so my pilot turned off the race route and took us through a grassy field. We were going literally 100 through high grass to get to the next sector for some shots. I remember hanging on for my life.  

CT: 100 kph?

Chris: 100 mph. 

CT: Are you typically holding on with one hand and shooting with one hand? 

Chris: Um, no. You hold on by squeezing with your legs. You need both hands for great shots. I’m not strapped on. I’m forward-facing but sideways or turned around. 

CT: What equipment are you using? 

Chris: I have two cameras (Canon EOS-1D X Mark II) with me at all times on the bike – a wide angle and a zoom lens. I also have two spares in my luggage in case something breaks, since I probably can’t replace a camera or lens in a remote area of France. For my clothing, I have to pack for all four seasons in a day. You have to wear long pants on the moto, and I wear a moto jacket just in case we go down. I also pack rain gear for the cameras. You have to be ready for anything.  

CT: I’m guessing that four cameras + lenses and your other equipment isn’t cheap?

Chris: Probably about $80k. 

CT: Are you decent at packing?

Chris: I can fit two weeks of clothes in one duffle bag.

CT: Any other memories from last year?

Chris: Our Getty team travels with Team Quick-Step, so we’re typically staying with them. When Julian Alaphilippe won Stage 10 last year, I was with the team for the celebration that night. Julian was pouring champagne for everyone and it was amazing to see the emotion that comes with achieving a life goal. 

CT: What’s the hardest part of your job at the Tour?

Chris: It’s so physically and mentally demanding. Over the course of the Tour, we’re typically covering twice the ground as the racers. You can’t have any lapse in concentration since you could affect the balance of the moto and then of course the race. No photographer wants to end up on YouTube for doing something noteworthy. During each stage, you’re constantly running up and down hills to get the best shots. At the finish of each stage, it’s elbows out to capture the winner rolling to a stop. You’re competing with team personnel, doping control, soigneurs, and other press to get there. This is a daily ordeal and a constant fight. 

CT: Some random questions for you. Can the motorcycles descend mountains as fast as the racers?

Chris: (Laughing). No one can keep up with racers on a descent. 

CT: Do you edit your own photos?

Chris: Thankfully no. I upload the untouched photos to Getty’s editing facility in Spain. They handle the photos from there. 

CT: Will we start seeing drone photography in the Tour soon?

Chris: The laws in Europe are much more lax for drones compared with here. I have a drone that I can use to shoot photos, but I can’t sell them now because of the licenses needed for “commercial” drone photography. For the Tour, there may be some interference issues with the low-flying helicopters, so I’m not sure that we’ll see drones in the Tour soon. 

CT: Who’s your pick to win this year’s Tour? 

Chris: Egan Bernal. I think this year’s route favors a climber and he’s in excellent form. 

CT: Tell us about some of the other racers.

Chris: Froome is a really nice guy. Cavendish is too. I typically talk with him about watches since he’s into those. Michael Schar is a Swiss rider who I’ve talked with at length about his true passion: American muscle cars. I also like following Chad Haga’s blog deconstructing the Tour. 

CT: You were hit by a careless driver, broke your collarbone, and initially blamed for the crash. We worked together to pull out a win. What do you think of lawyers now? Were you pleased with your legal representation? 

Chris: Yes, Charlie – you know the answer to that. I take my Bike Law water bottles with me to the Tour and also have my Bike Law sticker on my laptop. It’s a shame that I had to meet you because of my crash, but I’m glad that we crossed paths. I was very pleased with both the effort and outcome.

CT: Thanks Chris. Be safe and see you after July. 

All photo credits to Chris Graythen and Getty Images. 

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Bike Law by Lauri Boxer-macomber - 2w ago

Prologue 

Last month, I rode across the Casco Bay Bridge to talk e-bikes and insurance with Bob O’Brien, the Vice President of Noyes, Hall and Allen Insurance in South Portland, Maine.  Although I have yet to invest in an e-bike for myself, I have been captivated by e-bikes and their potential to get and keep more people on bikes ever since I saw friends use an e-bike to maintain their bicycle commuting routines over some of San Francisco’s steepest and most dizzying hills during their son’s pre-school years.  

In Maine, we recently passed new e-bike legislation, and it won’t be long before more people in my home state are using e-bikes. I already have a neighbor who commutes over forty miles a day on her e-bike, a friend with orthopedic challenges who recently purchased an e-bike so that she could continue to ride with her zippy husband, and a professional colleague who keeps his suits smelling cleaner than mine by using his pedal-assist e-bike to climb hills and get around the city on hot and muggy summer days.  

Further, bike shops across Maine are now carrying and renting a wide selection of e-bikes alongside fleets of more traditional gravel, road and mountain bikes and are introducing them to the public at places like the State House, Eastern Trail and the Camden Snow Bowl.  Event organizers have also noted that people are asking to use their e-bikes at events like BikeMaine, the Trek Across Maine and the Dempsey Challenge. In addition, members of Maine’s aging population are becoming increasingly intrigued by the opportunities that e-bikes present when it comes to allowing them to keep pace with their children and grandchildren.

With this new electricity in the air, it is important for people to understand the insurance issues that accompany this newer form of transportation, as well as what they can be doing to best protect themselves and others in the event of a crash, collision or other incident.  This is how I came to meet up with Bob O’Brien for the e-bikes and insurance interview below. Not only is Bob a guru on all things insurance, but he is an avid bicycle commuter. I knew that he would find this topic as interesting as I do and would do his best to help answer questions like the following:

  • Are e-bike owners required to carry insurance?
  • If I am riding an e-bike on a public roadway and am hit by an uninsured or underinsured motor vehicle operator, will my own insurance cover my damages?
  • If I am jogging on a multi-user trail and am hit by an inattentive or dangerous e-bike rider will that e-bike rider’s motor vehicle insurance cover my damage?  
  • Does my homeowners insurance cover my e-bike if it is stolen or damaged?
  • Are there any companies that carry insurance that specifically covers e-bikes?
  • If I rent an e-bike from a bike share program like Jump, Lyft or Lime do I need to worry about insurance coverage?
  • If I am hit by an inexperienced Jump, Lyft or Lime user, will there be insurance coverage?

What follows is my interview with Bob.  First, a few notes, warnings and disclaimers:  

This is not a piece about Maine’s new e-bike laws.  If you want to read a summary of the news legislation, check out my article on that here.  

Although there is some discussion of the law in the interview, no portion of the interview should be construed as insurance or legal advice. If you have specific questions about an e-bike insurance issue or e-bike legal case, understand that you should seek competent advice from either an insurance agent or an attorney, depending on the question and circumstances. Answers to questions about coverage are often very fact specific and highly circumstantial.  

Readers are forewarned they may find some of the ambiguities in Bob’s responses or this area of law to be frustrating.  As Bob pointed out when we met, the insurance world has yet to catch up with the electric bike and scooter movement. Peoples’ questions about who covers what, if at all, in e-bike cases are much like the questions that were asked about Airbnb, Uber and Lyft during the nascent stages of the home away from home and ride sharing movements. Insurers have yet to tackle some of these issues in policies and often there is no explicit guidance in policy language. 

It is hoped that those who read this piece will be alerted to insurance issues surrounding e-bikes in advance of them arising in their own lives.  For those who are e-bike owners or who plan to ride in places where e-bikes are present, the questions I ask of Bob are questions that you may want to be asking your own insurance agents and companies.  Likewise, for those renting e-bikes or organizing events where e-bikes are present, the liability questions discussed below are ones that should be considered together with your insurance companies and legal counsel. 

The Interview

Lauri:  Let’s start out with some background information on you.  I know you are an avid bicycle commuter and have been in the insurance industry for quite some time.  Tell me some more about why you ride and why you work in this field. 

Bob:  I consider myself a transportational cyclist. I try to bike, walk or take public transportation first, and drive only when there’s an overriding advantage to do so. I’ve been a bike commuter since 2008, year-round since 2010. I love the way it combines health and ecological benefits, and how it encourages me to shop local. I’ve been an insurance agent for 25 years. I really enjoy being part of the local community and helping people and businesses to protect their loved ones and things that bring them joy. 

Lauri:  How about your experience with e-bikes?  Have you ever ridden one? Do you have any interest in acquiring one?

Bob:  I rode my first e-bike last winter in Cambridge, MA. It took a few minutes to get over the feeling that I was moving a lot faster than I should be for the work I was doing. I really liked it. My commute is only 6 miles one way, and I can handle the hills comfortably. If my commute was longer or hillier, I’d strongly consider buying an e-bike. As I get older, I think it could extend my years enjoying a transportational cycling lifestyle.

Lauri:  Okay, now on to the topic at hand.  Let’s start out with one of the most frequently asked questions: Are e-bike owners required to carry insurance under Maine’s new e-bike laws?

Bob:  No, so long if the bike truly is an e-bike, as defined by Maine law.  Some bikes with motors do not qualify as e-bikes. They may fall under the definition of motorcycles or mopeds, in which case insurance would be required by the State.  

Regardless of whether coverage is required of e-bike owners, it is recommended that all e-bike owners consider the risks and responsibilities associated with owning an e-bike and the insurance protections that they may want in place in the event of a crash, collision or another unfortunate event.   

Lauri:    If I am riding an e-bike and hit a pedestrian or another bike rider with that e-bike, will my automobile insurance, homeowner insurance, or rental insurance cover the losses caused by me?  Likewise, what if I damage property (e.g. dent a car or cause damage to someone else’s bike) with my e-bike?  Will there be coverage?

Bob:  Most automobile policies exclude liability coverage for the operation of a vehicle with fewer than four wheels.  So, most likely your automobile insurance would not offer coverage for the losses caused by you while on your e-bike.  

Coverage, if any, might be available under your homeowners or rental insurance policy, if you had such a policy in place.  Most homeowners and rental insurance policies offer protection for their insureds for any bodily injuries or property damage caused by an insured while riding a regular bicycle (i.e. a non-motorized bike). However, these same policies generally exclude coverage for damage caused by an insured while operating a “motor vehicle.”  

This begs the question: Is an e-bike a motor vehicle?  Many homeowners and rental insurance policies define “motor vehicle” as a “self-propelled land or amphibious vehicle.” Under Maine’s new e-bike laws, the answer could very well depend on whether a bike falls under the definition of e-bike and the class of e-bike you are riding at the time of a crash, collision or incident.  

Under Maine’s new e-bike laws, a Class 2 e-bike appears to be a “self-propelled vehicle,” so under most standard homeowners and rental policies, there would not be coverage for the damages caused by you. However, if you were pedaling or riding a Class 2 e-bike unassisted at the time of a collision you may want to argue that it was not a “self-propelled” motor vehicle.  

With respect to Class 1 & 3 e-bikes, there’s a stronger case to call them NOT self-propelled vehicles.  Still, depending on the bike, the insurance policy, and the circumstances surrounding an event, this will be left up for interpretation by insurance adjusters, attorneys, and ultimately the courts. 

Lauri:  Several years ago, I wrote a piece about the importance of a bicyclist’s own automobile insurance in the event of a crash.  In that piece, among other things, I talk about how uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (i.e. the coverage from a bicyclist’s own insurance) may be available in cases where a negligent driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance.  If I get hit while riding my e-bike, and the driver who hit me flees the scene, fails to carry insurance, or does not have enough insurance to cover my damages, will my own automobile uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist insurance cover me? 

Bob:  Most standard automobile insurance policies exclude coverage to insureds for their damages when they are operating motor vehicles that are not explicitly listed as insured motor vehicles under their policies.  

Most standard automobile policies do not define the term “motor vehicle,“ and most e-bike riders do not consider their e-bikes to be “motor vehicles” and, therefore, don’t purchase automobile insurance coverage for them or have their e-bikes described and listed on their insurance policies.  That said e-bikes do have motors, which could cause some carriers to deny coverage in the circumstances you describe above. On the other hand, if there was a legal dispute regarding policy interpretation, courts would have to decide. Would a court use the definition of “motor vehicle” found in Maine law, which makes it clear that e-bikes are not motor vehicles? If so, the court might find that the uninsured and underinsured coverage afforded to e-bike riders is the same as would be afforded to the riders of traditional bikes. For now, it’s unclear to me how insurers and courts will interpret Maine’s law. 

Lauri:  As an attorney who regularly represents people involved in motor vehicle operator versus bicycle rider crashes, it has been my experience that most bicyclists will have access to medical payment coverage (“medpay coverage”) under their own automobile insurance, regardless of fault.   If I am riding my e-bike and am involved in a crash with a motor vehicle operator, will I have access to my medpay coverage?

Bob:  Most standard automobile policies exclude medpay coverage for injuries sustained while occupying a motorized vehicle having fewer than four wheels. As I discussed earlier when we touched on access to uninsured and underinsured coverage, there is uncertainty right now on how strictly the term “motor vehicle” will be interpreted in e-bike crashes and coverage questions.

Lauri:  Could a person get around the ambiguities about whether they are entitled to uninsured, underinsured and medical payments coverage under their own insurance policies by paying for additional coverage on their e-bike and getting it listed on an automobile policy?

Bob: Yes, but you might have to find a new insurance company or agent. Only a few insurers offer specific e-bike policies. Our independent agency represents more than a dozen insurers, and only one has an e-bike solution. Call your agent first. If they can’t help you, try another agent or check online. Just be careful: a lot of the e-bike policies have really low uninsured motorist limits. 

Lauri:  Bike share programs, many of which offer e-bike options, are popping up all over the world.  One of the positive aspects of these programs is that more people are riding bikes, which helps to increase public attentiveness to bicycles on the roadways.  However, the “user agreements” for these e-bike share programs often contain releases, disclaimers, assumption of risk provisions and binding arbitration clauses, all of which appear to be designed to deny coverage by the bike share company and its parents and affiliates in the event of a crash, collision, or other tragedy.  Given these “user agreements,” do you have any thoughts on how people can protect themselves through personal insurance or other means?

Bob:  Honestly I don’t. Even the specific e-bike policies I’ve seen only cover the ones you own, not ones you use or rent. Before I used one of those shared e-bikes or scooters, I’d read the agreement and make sure I had some protection from the sharing network. For now, I limit myself to traditional bike shares. You’re covered when you use those just like your regular bikes. 

Lauri: How can I make sure that I have property coverage for my e-bike so that I can replace it if I crash it on my own, it gets stolen, or I drive it into my garage because I forget it is on my roof rack?  Also, how do I confirm that I am purchasing replacement coverage (i.e. cost of replacing my e-bike) versus purchasing depreciated value coverage (i.e. value of property at the time it is damaged)?

Bob:  Most “off the shelf” homeowners and renter insurance policies pay depreciated value, not replacement value.  However, you can purchase a replacement cost option for most policies. 

It is important to note that most “off the shelf” policies cover your belongings for sixteen “named perils.” Theft is a named peril. Collision is not. You can purchase “open perils” coverage on many policies. This covers damage unless it’s excluded. Collision is not excluded.   BUT, most standard homeowners and rental policies exclude coverage for damage to “motor vehicles.”  As discussed earlier, most standard homeowners and rental policies also define “motor vehicle” as a self-propelled land or amphibious vehicle.  Is your e-bike a motor vehicle? If not, it would most likely be covered under the policy. 

Lauri:  If I have an umbrella policy, will it apply to any of the scenarios that we have already discussed in this interview?  

Umbrella policies provide no property coverage. They usually cover excess liability above your primary homeowners, rental and automobile insurance policies.

Some umbrella policies have the same exclusions and definitions as home and auto policies. Others do not. In addition to providing excess liability coverage, umbrellas with separate insuring agreements may also provide “first dollar” coverage for claims NOT covered by your auto or home policy.  

Some insurers offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on the personal umbrella policy. Depending on how that coverage form treats e-bikes, you MAY have UM coverage on your umbrella policy. 

Lauri:  Are you aware of any insurance companies that specifically offer e-bike coverage?   

Bob:  There are a few companies out there, but purchasers are cautioned to make sure that they are getting the coverage that they want at a price that is fair.  

SAFECO, one of the insurers that my company works with, does have an insurance product for e-bikes that provides up to $500,000 in liability coverage (i.e. coverage that protects you if you hurt someone else with your e-bike), $500,000 in UM/UIM coverage (i.e. the underinsured and underinsured coverage we discussed earlier) and will even write up to $25,000 in medpay coverage (i.e. the medical insurance that will be available to you for reasonable medical expenses incurred, regardless of fault).  However, right now, e-bike coverage is expensive in comparison to scooter coverage, which shows that the insurance industry has a way to go before e-bikes are normalized. But, at least there is a product out there right now that I would feel comfortable selling people.

Lauri:  Many people these days are giving up their cars and are relying solely on e-bikes, bikes, walking and public transportation to get around.  Are there companies that will offer these people the same types of protections available to people who carry automobile insurance (i.e. UM/UIM and medpay coverage) if they are involved in a collision that is not their fault?  What companies and products would you recommend?

Bob:  SAFECO is the only company I’m familiar with that I’d recommend. Because they offer up to $500,000 UM/UIM and $25,000 medical payments, I’m comfortable placing my clients with SAFECO. 

Lauri:  Event organizers often debate whether to allow e-bikes at their rides, races and events.  Is there a specific type of insurance coverage that these organizers should ensure is in place before allowing e-bike riders at their events?  

Bob: Because insurance coverage for e-bikes is rare, organizations shouldn’t expect that riders are properly insured. If the rider has no insurance, the sponsoring organization could be open to liability for injuries or damages caused by the participant. Event organizers should check with their insurance agents to make sure the organization’s assets are protected. 

Lauri:  What else?  Any other words of wisdom on e-bikes and insurance?

Bob:  In all cases, it’s best to check with your agent to see what kinds of insurance policies and coverage you have. Explain that you are an e-bike owner and that you’re concerned about insurance coverage. In all cases, your agent should be able to show you the wording in your policy that leads them to think you do or don’t have coverage, and why. 

Lauri:  Thank you, Bob, and happy riding!

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Brooke Nelson has been the ride director of the Cheaha Challenge (www.cheahachallange.com) since shortly after the 2014 ride and in the past 5 years, ride participation has increased 188%.  Since 2016 when it became the only UCI Qualifier, Alabama’s biggest ride has become known nationally and internationally.  The 2019 ride had participants from 31 states and 13 countries. So, who is Brooke Nelson, who took a very good ride and made it great?

Brooke and her husband Tom (who so happens to be the president of NEABA – Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association www.neaba.net) are the proud parents of 3 young men ranging in age from 24-33.  They returned from Texas to the Anniston area, where Brooke grew up, about 20 years ago.  At that time Tom and Brooke’s brother, Barry Nichols went into business together and expanded the well known Animal Medical Center on Quintard Avenue.  And, the Nelson family actually has a cabin in Cheaha, with their backyard abutting a national forest. As Brooke says, given a few long weekends, she can walk out her back door and hike all the way to Canada.

Brooke has been involved in sports all her life.  She has fond memories of her father, who served in the Navy, waking Brooke and Barry up early in the morning for calisthenics.  Brooke’s first bike was a Huffy with a banana seat. She graduated from that to a Schwin and she continued to keep at it, eventually getting into triathlons about 28 years ago.  Brooke is an accomplished triathlete and believes in the concept of better living through fitness.

So, when she was approached by her brother and Mike Poe, who previously had directed the Cheaha Challenge, she agreed to use her marketing skills and combine that with her passion for fitness to take on the role of race director for the Cheaha Challenge.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

The ride’s start was moved from Piedmont to Jacksonville.  And, the ride, which had been held in conjunction with the Sunny King Criterium and the Noble Street Festival, split off so that it could be conducted on the same day year after year (the 3rd Sunday in May).  Brooke was instrumental in adding the Ultra – a grueling double metric century (this year’s course was 126 miles long with just over 13,500 of climbing) as well as a fun family styled cruise event on the Chief Ladiga Trail (www.silvercometga.com) where riders can do an out and back of 50 miles.

Soon thereafter Cheaha was recognized as one of the top 10 Gran Fondos in the United States as well as a UCI Qualifier.  Brooke credits the success of the ride to the army of volunteers who work – this year it was slightly over 500. The Ride gives back to the community in many ways and one of these is by its support of NICA teams (www.alabamamtb.org) .  About a half dozen local high school mountain biking teams are supported by the Challenge and in turn, these teams provide scores of volunteers.  The economic impact of the Ride to the local community is now right at a million dollars, all of which is accomplished on a budget of less than $140,000, made up primarily of Ride entry fees and sponsorships.

Just a few more words about the Ultra – the ride is so difficult that fewer than 50% of people who sign up and attempt it complete it within the time deadlines – this year 274 tried/131 did it. There is a 22% grade climb at mile 124 so there’s that.   All participants who finish are given a finisher’s shirt which sport a different motto each year (SHIRTS). However, all people who try and fail are sent the ashes of their shirts. Brooke came up with this idea, she says, from her own “evil mind.” And, while sending ashes initially caused a pretty good bit of controversy, Brooke tells many stories of people finishing the Ultra with the ashes of last year’s failed attempt taped to their bicycle.

In addition to the Challenge, Brooke is extremely excited about several other things going on in the northeast Alabama cycling world.  Coldwater Mountain, which is a mountain biking trail of 38 miles (runners are able to run in the opposite direction) is poised to move from its Bronze status to silver status (www.imba.com/project/coldwater-mointain).This upgrade is based in large part on the proximity of other well maintained and well used mountain bike trails in the area – 130 miles of trails within a 25 mile radius of downtown Anniston (www.pinbike.com/news/local-flavors-the-complete-mountain-bike-guide-to-calhoun-county-alabama.html). Other nearby trails include Coleman Lake (40 miles-horse and mountain bike), Kentuck ORV (23 miles – ORV and mountain bike/gravel) and Henry Farm (6.5 miles – mountain bike and hike).  NEABA hosts a 3 day fat tire festival in mid-October which has been adopted by SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association) as its southeast regional festival http://cwmfattirefest.com/index.html).

NEABA, after 2 years of all volunteer work, recently completed the transformation of its new headquarters building located at 26 West 10th Street in Anniston.  The building also is used by the running club (Brooke still is an avid triathlete meaning that she runs and swims in addition to cycles) and it already has served as a meeting place for some pretty prestigious events.  Recently the executive board of IMBA (International Mountain Biking Association – www.imba.com) met in Anniston at NEABA headquarters.  And, the Alabama Backroad Series (www.alabama-backroads-cycling.com) award dinner and banquet will be held there in January 2020.

So, whether it’s riding to the State’s highest point during the Cheaha Challenge, riding some of the best single track in the State at Coldwater Mountain or having a good place to meet, then it seems like the northeast Alabama area is a pretty good place to go.  And, having Brooke (and Tom) Nelson advocating for cyclists isn’t too bad either.

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Thanks to some outstanding advocacy efforts, both the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia have recently scored two important wins for cycling safety.

Pennsylvania:  “Dutch Reach” in State Driver’s Manual

TheDutch Reach method of opening a car door has finally been added to the State Driver’s Manual after many years of conversation.  This method requires the driver to use their right hand to open the door which forces the driver to look to their left prior to opening the door.   

It’s critical that new generations of drivers become aware of their responsibility to look out for the most vulnerable road users including pedestrians and cyclists. By adding the Dutch Reach to the PA Driver’s Manual, hopefully new drivers will better understand the dangers of “dooring” a cyclist. The advocacy work on this issue was driven by the PA Pedestrian and Pedalcycle Advisory Committee, chaired by Sarah Clark Stuart, the Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition.

Pennsylvania joins a short list of other American states whom have embraced the “Dutch Reach” into their state law or manuals, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington.

Click this link to see the Dutch Reach entry into the manual: Dutch Reach

Click this link for the entire PA Driver’s Manual (page 93).

Philadelphia:   Speed Camera Legislation Signed

Shifting to another noteworthy event in cycling safety in the Keystone state, we shine a light on bill 190184 known as the Roosevelt Boulevard Speed Camera Legislation.  This long-overdue legislation was signed into law June 19, 2019 by Mayor Jim Kenney at a press conference which included key stakeholders.

     

Photos: Families for Safe Streets Philadelphia stand with Mayor Kenney after bill signing

Roosevelt Boulevard is an 11- mile stretch of road which is notorious for car, pedestrian and cycling crashes.  In 2018 alone, 21 deaths occurred on that Boulevard making it among the most dangerous in the City of Philadelphia.   

Latanya Bird, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, spoke about the tragic loss of four family members nearly six years ago on the Boulevard.  

She, along with other family advocates including Laura and Rich Fredricks have been working tirelessly to advocate for this bill and other traffic-safety measures.  

This legislation authorizes the city to install speed cameras throughout the Boulevard. Notices and signage informing drivers of the cameras are expected to go up in the Fall of 2019 and the enforcement stage of the bill is targeted for the end of year.

Bike Law PA Attorney Joe Piscitello notes that “…The Vision Zero Alliance and the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition have been extraordinary advocates for cycling safety in our city and state. It’s an honor to be part of this collective effort and gratifying to see solid seeds of change. Hopefully, these measures will indeed result in a decrease in cycling- related injuries and death along our roads throughout the state.”

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