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Steve Magas, Ohio's Bike Lawyer

Don't let a bicycle crash turn your life Upside Down! Lost wages and medical bills pile up while you are in pain. The last thing you need is to be taken advantage of by an insurance company.

Steve Magas, The Bike Lawyer, has been protecting the rights of riders for more than 25 years. Steve has handled more than 200 "bike cases" including wrongful death and brain damage cases, and accidents causing riders to suffer major injuries, fractures, disk injuries, back injuries, neck injuries, surgeries, road burns, clavicle and scapula fractures, rotator cuff injuries and more. Steve provides a FREE CONSULTATION to discuss your claim. Call him at 513-484-BIKE [2453] or write to him at bike lawyer [at] aol dot com to discuss your crash TODAY!

Cool BIKE ART

Check out the very cool Bicycle Art done by Taliah Lempert in New York City.  Her Bicycle Paintings website displays her original “bike art” as well as lots of cool stuff you can buy if you don’t have several hundred bucks to spend on original bike art!    She paints BIKES.  Not fancy, high end, techno bikes carved out of a solid block of UnObtainium, but bikes of real people.  Some very cool stuff there… see below!

Talia Lambert Painting

You can also find some of her stuff at the Bicycle Gifts Webpage, such as prints, cards, etc.  An interesting quote from this page tells you about the artist…

“Painting pictures of bicycles satisfies what I want to say. Structurally they’re beautiful and symbolically very positive. I love how a bicycle relates to the figure and I love exploring what each is specifically to the person who rides them. Many of the bikes I paint are used daily for transportation and/or for racing, some are necessary for the owner’s career. They are worn and customized in unique ways, being at once a specific bike and a collective symbol of empowerment.”

CHECK IT OUT!

Lembert Painting 2

11/11/2009 Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day.  A day to remember.  A day to thank these guys – from the privates to the generals – for what they do, day after day, and what they’ve done and sacrificed.

Back when my dad was enlisting in the Navy three of his older brothers were already serving in World War II.  Dad’s younger brother followed him into the service – making the Magas family a “Five Star” family – five young men all in the service at one time.  That was big enough news to make the The Cleveland Press!

I understand that John Magas, Al Magas and George Magas all saw some pretty heavy action.  My dad, Lenny Magas, and his younger brother got placed in San Diego and The Bahamas, respectively, so a decidedly different military experience than their older brothers!

For me, I’ll never take this service for granted.  I’m thankful for what they do.  I’m thankful all five Magas Boys came back from WWII and went on to live productive lives in the Cleveland area.

Here’s a shot of my dad, Len Magas, from his early Navy days!

Dad in the Navy!

THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE TO RIDE?

BIKE LAW 101 – NUMBER CRUNCHING

NHTSA is all about numbers.  They can crunch numbers like nobody’s business.  If you go here you download some numbers – NHTSA’s 2007 “Traffic Safety Facts” about “Bicyclists and other Cyclists.”

As a lawyer with a math degree, I don’t run away from numbers – I LOVE ‘EM!  But I also try to look realistically behind the numbers to see what they mean.  I can also provide some insight as a trial lawyer who has had the opportunity to work with some outstanding accident reconstruction experts to try to piece together the How and Why of crashes.

The NHTSA numbers show a state by state breakdown of fatal cycling crashes in 2007. There were 698 cycling deaths in the U.S. in 2007 according to NHTSA and a total of 41,059 traffic fatalities.  Cyclists accounted for 1.7% of all killed on U.S. roadways in 2007.

The states with the highest number of cycling fatalities for 2007 are consistently the states with the highest number of cycling fatalities year after year.  They are generally “clustered” as they are in 2007 as follows:

1.  FLORIDA [119]
2. CALIFORNIA [109]

Then a cluster of lower numbers:
3. NEW YORK [51]
4. TEXAS [48]

These four states accounted for 327 of the 698 cycling fatalities in 2007 – or 47%!  Curiously, 3 of the big 4 also led the way in Total Traffic Fatalities.  Can you guess which 3?

Well, CA was first [3974], followed by Texas [3363] and Florida [3214].  New York [1333] was in a cluster of states with 1000-1500 deaths including AZ [1066], AL [1110], GA[1641], IL [1249], MI [1088], NC [1675], OH [1257], PA [1491], SC [1066], TN [1210], and WA [1027].

What is it about New York that makes it so much more dangerous for cyclists but not so much for motorists?  Well, my unresearched view would be that big cities are more dangerous for cyclists than motorists.  A 20 mph collision between two 4000 pound vehicles is unlikely to kill either vehicle operator.  A 20 mph collision between a car and bike is far more likely to kill the bicycle operator.  New York City is a unique breeding ground for low speed crashes, aggressive cyclists and frustrated motorists.  It’s not surprising to me that the cycling deaths are high while the overall number of traffic fatalities is consistent with other midwestern states.

After The Big Four, another cluster of four states appears.

LA [22],  AZ [21], PA[20], SC [20]

So now, 8 states account for almost 60% of all bicycle fatalities.  The other 42 states account for the remaining 40%.

The next cluster is states with 15-20 fatalities.  These include:

IL [18], NC [18], OH [17], MI [17], GA [16], IN [15].

For “safe” states, I guess you go to Delaware, North or South Dakota, Vermont or Wyoming – each had NO cycling fatalities in 2007.  Alaska, Washington D.C., Maine, Nebraska, Rhode Island and West Virginia each had 1 death.

Conclusions?  I’m not there yet, but the numbers are interesting.  To me, they say that cycling on the roadway is FAR MORE SAFE than “people” think, especially if you avoid The Big Four.  It would be interesting to look further into the numbers for The Big Four and see if there are trends pointing towards a disproportionately high number of cycling fatalities in the urban vs. rural areas.

Good Luck and Good Riding

Hanging Up The Car

THE MAGAS FIRM IS CLOSED TODAY 11/5/2009

The Magas Firm will be closed on 11/5/2009 to take time to remember my son, Andrew Hunter Magas, who died a year ago.  Andrew was a wonderful, caring, loving young man.  He was just 19 years old and had voted for the first time in the Presidential election on 11/4.  He was living on his own and trying life as an adult on for size.  His tragic and sudden death reminds me every day how important it is to tell those you love how much you love them and to appreciate how lucky you are to have them!  Andrew was a sweet, beautiful boy who lit up more lives than he ever knew.  We all miss him very much and we’re taking the day away from “work” today to remember…

Andrew was studying Photography at Antonelli College in downtown Cincinnati.  I think the photo below is a self-portrait… it is one of my favorite recent photos and really shows his spirit and creativity.

ANDREW Portrait

Dr.Thompson CONVICTED in CA Road Rage Case

Velo News is reporting that Dr. Christopher Thompson was CONVICTED of assauling cyclists in a California Road Rage case.

You can read the story here. It is reprinted below.

This case represents a significant victory for cyclists.  The case was aggressively defended by a well funded defense team.  The defense suggested, through expert testimony, that bicycles are inherently unstable and that the victims may have simply fallen off their bikes due to their own inability to stay upright and not due to something the good doctor did!  The defense argued vehemently that Dr. Thompson did nothing wrong and that the beligerent cyclists were to blame.

The charges stemmed from multiple incidents.  The jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts – six felony convictions and one misdemeanor.

Dr. Thompson’s lawyers asked the court to allow him to stay out of jail pending sentencing.  The prosecution objected arguing

– He was a flight risk with no ties to the area.
– He was likely to lose his medical license as a result of felony convictions

The prosescutor argued that there wasn’t a cyclist around who would feel safe if this guy was let out.  The judge agreed and ordered the bail revoked.  Dr. Thompson was handcuffed and taken to the holding cell.

Cases like this are rare, fortunately.  However, attacks, verbal and physical, by motorists are not.  The Prosecutors showed a lot of guts for pursuing such a high profile defendant and the victims have been dealing with this for more than 15 months.  NOBODY “wins” here.  These cases are incredibly taxing for the victims and their families.  The defense challenges the credibility of the victims, blames the victims and attacks the victims on the stand.  Clearly, these cyclists held up well and handled it well – not all people do.

I have not read of the progress of any civil suit – but I’m sure that is on the horizon.  Rarely do well-to-do, highly insured people do things like this.  This case, again, then, is a rarity.

In a high profile case I handled, a civil suit was filed against the murderer of a 15 year old boy.  We won a $3.5 million dollar verdict but only collected a little before the murderer committed suicide in prison.  There is no insurance coverage for “intentional” acts, however, which could limit the recovery in the CA road rage case.

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RearWindshield - CA Road Rage case

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FROM VELO NEWS

A Los Angeles Superior Court jury on Monday found Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson guilty of assaulting cyclists by abruptly stopping his car in front of them on a hilly Los Angeles County road last year.

Thompson, a former emergency room doctor, was found guilty of six felonies and one misdemeanor and could face as much as five years in prison.

He was remanded and ordered held without bail until sentencing. He was handcuffed in the courtroom after the verdict was read.

Thompson was accused of assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving causing specified bodily injury, battery with serious bodily injury and mayhem. The most serious charges stem from a July 4, 2008, incident on Mandeville Canyon Road, the road where Thompson lives, where he was accused of abruptly stopping his car in front of two cyclists. Other charges relate to a similar incident on the same road that did not result in injuries.

In the July 4 incident, the two cyclists hit the rear of Thompson’s car; one slammed through the rear window, the other catapulted over the car into the road. In the earlier incident, the cyclists said they narrowly avoided hitting the rear of Thompson’s car.

Thompson’s lawyer had argued that the cyclists were belligerent and may have fallen because of the inherent instability of bicycles. He suggested that in any case the incident was accidental, not criminal.

Please check back soon for a complete report.

CYCLING SAFER THAN EVER – NHTSA BIKE & MOTORCYCLE STATISTICS Back It Up!

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS MEAN?

Every year since 1993 NHTSA has published a series short papers outlining statistics for a variety of crashes.  These include

–  Bicycles

– Motorcycles

– Pedestrians

– Alcohol issues

– Large Trucks

– School Transportation

– Young Drivers

and more…. you cand find these papers and read them yourself here.

These “Traffic Safety Facts” put some numbers out there for folks to think about.  For example, the 2008 Data indicates that

– 53,000 cyclists have died in traffic crashes in the US since 1932.

– 332 cyclists died in 1932, which accounted for 1.3% of all traffic deaths that year.

– 716 died in 2008 – or roughly 2% of all traffic fatalities.

– 1003 died in 1975 – the worst year ever for bicycling fatalities.

– The 716 fatalities in 2008 was 6% LOWER than the 760 who died in 2007 and a almost THIRTY PERCENT less than the 1003 who died in 1975.

DRUNK CYCLING continues to be a problem, much to my amazement.  26% of the 716 cyclists killed in 2008 had blood alcohol levels at 0.08% or higher, making them legally “intoxicated” for DUI purposes.

What does this mean?

Smashed Bike Wheel - smaller

To me, it means that cyclng is SAFER THAN EVER. Bikes are outselling cars, but bike fatalities are going DOWN.  Further, the alcohol component, while baffling, tells me that serious cyclists are safer than ever.  No serious cyclist gets drunk and goes out for a ride.  My unresearched, seat-of-the-pants, before breakfast suspicion is that a close look at those drunk cyclist deaths would reveal that some/many of the drunk cyclists were once drunk MOTORISTS who changed their vehicle of choice, but not their habit of drinking and driving.

So, GO RIDE A BIKE folks… it’s safer today than ever before!

Steve Magas

The Bike Lawyer

MAGAS SPEAKS AT Ohio Traffic Engineers Conference

OTEC is the annual Conference for Ohio Traffic Engineers.  It’s a “big deal” at the Convention Center in Columbus each year as hundreds of traffic engineers, planning professionals, industry representatives, professors and others meet to watch experts present on a variety of topics.  Through the efforts of some concerned bike advocates, there was a half day of “Bike” stuff presented as one of the seminar/conference options for attendees.  I was asked to speak on “Bike Law” of all things.

Instead of speaking about legal research and cases and such dry mumbo jumbo stuff, I decided to speak about “UNDERSTANDING THE DNA of the CYCLING ADVOCATE.”  From this title, I argued that transportation professionals who had a role in deciding and planning and designing and implementing bike lanes, sharrows, bike trials and city bike plans, these people needed to know a bit about the “DNA” or make-up of those lycra-clad Bike Advocacy fanatics who have been screaming at them!

I was watching my dog get ready for a nap the other night.  As he prepared to lie down, he circled several times on the carpet.  Virtually every I’ve ever seen does this.  We had a brief discussion of why, and my contribution was the thought that buried deep in my pup’s DNA is some sort of reason for this.  Maybe dogs long ago had to mat down the tall grass and weed before tehy could comfortably lie down, or maybe they picked a spot inthe tall grass because it hid them well from predators.  Whatever the initial cause, the need to circle still exists in most dogs.

To take a look at what’s in the DNA of a Cycling Advocate, I begin with a story about a car crash. The crash happened on Memorial Day in New York City.  Tens of thousands of people were riding their bikes.  We were in the middle of a Bike Boom & bikes were everywhere.  Cosmopolitan magazine was sponsoring a car race through the city streets.  During the race a driver, Henry Wells,  lost control, zigzagged around and ran into a vehicle operated by Ms. Evelyn Thomas.  Mr. Wells was arrested by police as Ms. Thomas was rushed to a local hospital where she was diagnosed with a leg fracture…

A Ho Hum story, you say… well, perhaps but I left out 3 key points…

1.  The crash occurred on Memorial Day in 1896!

2.  This was the FIRST recorded vehicle crash in the U.S.

3.  Ms. Evelyn Thomas’s vehicle of choice was a “Columbia” – one of the finest bicycles available at the time~!

In 1896, “The Law” had not caught up with technology.  In fact, there were no laws governing “motor cars.”  However, New York’s courts decided and held that a bicycle was a “vehicle” and the operator had to follow vehicle rules.  The New York Times said, in an 1896 editorial, that”…since bicycles had been declared by the courts, they should be declared by statute entitled to the privileges and subje t to the duties of wheeled traffic.”  Later, New York’s first Vehicle Code was written and included in the definition of a “vehicle” was a “bicycle.”

Ms. Thomas’s First Crash, and the work of the courts and legislature recognizing the right of a person to operate a bicycle on the roadway all comprises a section of the DNA of a Cycling Advocate.  These historical victories instill an inherent sense of BELONGING on the roadway.

This Vehicle Code, and paving of the country’s roads, was the high point of the  “Good Roads Movement” in the U.S.

The Good Roads Movement is another strand of the Cycling Advocate’s DNA.  You can check out a wiki article here.  The Good Roads Movement began when cyclists by the hundreds of thousands banded together to a common and easily definable goal – Good Roads, Paved Roads.  Again, this occurred in the 1880’s or so.  “Roads” at that point were little more than a mucky, rutted mess made by horses and wagons.  To RIDE one needed smooth, paved roads.  As noted above, we were in the midst of a Bike BOOM and people were ready to ride!

The Good Roads Movement was an odd assortment of advocacy bedfellows – cyclists, farmers, politicians. But they had CLOUT.  The League of American Wheelmen was founded and soon had a Million Member Mailing List for its Good Roads publications!  If you wanted to get elected in many parts of the country you had to talk to the Good Roads people and make it happen!

Roads started getting paved, which led to improved commerce as it was easier to get products to move around the country.  The successes of the Good Roads Movement led to the adoption of “bicycles” as part of the “Vehicle” definitions of many states vehicle codes.

If you want

This, too, is a strong strand of the DNA of the Cycling Advocate.

MORE ROAD RAGE NEWS – Can a Powerful Canadian Lawyer “Spin” the Death of a Bike Messenger?

Bob Mionske wrote a great piece on a crazy road rage incident on his blog at Bicycling magazine which he reprinted on his  BicycleLaw.com blog.  The incident was captured on film and has been thousands of times, including an annotated version on You Tube here or  here. Security cameras captured the incident.  Bob’s article discusses the disparity of the parties and the “spin” which the rich and powerful have the ability to create…

You Be The Judge

Steve Magas
The Bike Lawyer

=================

A swift public relations campaign couldn’t save a successful Canadian lawyer from the fact that he ran down and killed a bike messenger.

By Bob Mionske

He was Metis, one of the officially recognized aboriginal peoples of Canada. The oldest of eight children, at the age of six he had been adopted by a foster family, together with his four-year old brother, as their mother struggled with an alcohol addiction. “We just grew up with poverty, with nothing,” his younger brother, now serving time for drug trafficking at Stony Mountain Prison, near Winnipeg, noted. “We probably had one of the hardest lives growing up. A lot of foster homes. Broken-down families.” As a young man, the older of the two brothers had gotten into trouble with the law over some bad checks, and had left his home town for a new life in Toronto, where he struggled with his own addiction to alcohol. For a time, he was living on the streets, homeless, but for the past several years the avid cyclist had worked as a bicycle courier.

A province away, another boy, 10 years his senior, was growing up. It might as well have been a world away. This boy’s father had been a mayor, and when he grew into adulthood, he also would take up the mantle of public service, exceeding his father’s own accomplishments. But first, there was university, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree, and then a Master’s Degree. Afterward, he entered law school and after completing his law degree he continued his legal studies at Harvard Law School, where he earned an advanced law degree, graduating magna cum laude. Following law school, he clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada, before accepting positions with two of the largest and most prestigious law firms in New York and Canada. A Fullbright Fellow, this brilliant man also taught law while in private practice, first at the University of London, and later, at the University of Toronto. He entered politics with his election to the Ontario Legislature, and later served in cabinet posts, first as Attorney General, and subsequently as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, and Minister of Economic Development. In May of this year, he resigned his cabinet position, to take a position as CEO of Invest Toronto, but it was widely believed that it was only a matter of time before he would become Ontario’s Premier. And beyond that?

Darcy Allan Sheppard and Michael Bryant came from different worlds, but when they met in the heart of the posh shopping district on Toronto’s Bloor Street, their worlds violently collided. In the wake of that collision, one life ended, and another lay in ruins. On the night of August 31, Sheppard—the Toronto bike messenger—and Bryant—the Toronto politician—both on their way home, became involved in a minor traffic dispute that quickly escalated into a violent incident of road rage, and within moments, Sheppard lay mortally injured on Bloor Street. Within hours, Bryant faced charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.

When serious charges have been laid, all but the most indigent will hire a criminal defense attorney to represent them. Michael Bryant was no exception; it was soon announced that he had retained Marie Henein, one of Toronto’s best criminal defense lawyers, with a well-deserved reputation as “a formidable opponent” who is “razor sharp” and “a lawyer’s lawyer.” Henein wasn’t Bryant’s only hire, however—the morning following Sheppard’s death, it was revealed that Bryant was being represented by the Toronto PR firm Navigator Ltd., which, among its other services, specializes in “CEO Reputation Building” and “Crisis Communications.” After being released on his own recognizance that morning, Bryant went before the cameras to offer his “deepest condolences” to Sheppard’s family, in a page straight out of the textbook of crisis management.

Immediately following this initial foray into rebuilding Bryant’s reputation, Navigator set to work disseminating Bryant’s spin on the incident. Bryant’s Facebook page received a makeover, with links to his press statement posted on his wall, and his candid profile photo replaced with an earnest, professional headshot. A blog and twitter account were set up “to quickly correct inaccuracies with factual responses,” with the posts reportedly focusing on responding to “what others have written and posted on twitter and youtube.”

This emphasis on spin control was not met without some criticism:

When a news story says, “We have new information from a source …” is that source Navigator? Or someone egged on by Navigator? We won’t know because Navigator “prefers to be inconspicuous.” Reporters talking to them have to agree that everything is off the record. Why?

Commenting on the ambiguous blurring between news and spin, one Toronto criminal lawyer said, “Look, the headline on this story should be: ‘Navigator, changing your perceptions without you even knowing it.’ ”

Responding to questions regarding his company’s work for Bryant, Navigator spokesperson Dan Robertson offered a defense: “From day one, there has been speculation, innuendo and rumor. It is perfectly fair to insist on accuracy, especially at a time when Mr. Bryant is not able to publicly tell his side of the story.” Ironically, Navigator could have been describing the man their client was charged with killing; if anybody in this incident was “not able to publicly tell his side of the story,” it was Sheppard, who now lay dead as speculation, innuendo and rumor about him replaced facts about the clash that led to his death. Within 48 hours of Sheppard’s death, the initial shock of the story would give way to a tidal wave of negative news stories about what was termed Sheppard’s “darker side”:

  • On September 2, Toronto police announced that they were investigating whether Sheppard had grabbed the driver, or his wheel, “to confirm the accuracy of witness accounts that have suggested the cyclist may have been trying to get Bryant into a headlock and that the two may have been wrestling for control of the wheel.”
  • In the same September 2 article, police reported that Sheppard had been involved in a dispute—described as “a noise complaint or a domestic dispute”—with his girlfriend earlier in the evening, and that “police intervention was required.” Sheppard was also reported to have consumed alcohol; one neighbor described him as being “drunk as a clunk,” while a fellow messenger said he “might have had one,” but “It didn’t constitute any unruly behavior.” On the scene, police decided to allow Sheppard to continue on his way, after concluding that, “he appeared to have been drinking but was not drunk and posed no threat to anyone.” Following his death, however, police announced that they were waiting for a toxicology report on Sheppard. They did not scrutinize the driver as carefully. Stating that “there was no reason to ask Bryant for a breathalyzer,” police reported that Bryant had not been drinking. The obvious next question—was the driver under the influence of other substances?—will forever remain an unknown.
  • Also appearing on September 2 was a separate news article detailing Sheppard’s past run-ins with the law in his hometown of Edmonton; there were 56 counts against him, charging Sheppard with “possession of stolen property, fraud and uttering a forged document, all under $5,000.” The charges stemmed from allegations that Sheppard had stolen 17 checks from the Canadian Multicultural Society in 2002, made them payable to himself, and forged the signatures. He was released on bail in 2003, fled Edmonton, and never returned.
  • September 3, descriptions of Sheppard as a man “admired by his co-workers for his charisma and adored by his family and friends for his comedy” were countered by complaints from neighbors, who said he “drank often and would have loud parties with his cyclist friends.”
  • September 3, in an editorial with the giveaway title “Michael Bryant and self-Defence,” the Ottawa Citizen suggested that “investigators were too quick to charge Bryant,” proffering that “maybe it wasn’t ‘criminal negligence’ on Bryant’s part that caused the tragedy.” Dismissing the initial reports of a verbal argument between Bryant and Sheppard, the paper instead raised the specter of anonymous “reports that Sheppard tried to commandeer the vehicle, reaching in to grab the wheel and attacking the driver,” opining that “if this was, for all intents and purposes, a kind of car-jacking, then it’s hard to blame the driver for flooring it.” After implying that Bryant had been “terrified” by Sheppard, the paper again posited Bryant as the victim, noting that “In any event, Bryant will have his day in court and it is almost certain that self-defense will feature prominently.” The editorial concluded that “Bryant seems pretty certain that he is innocent of the accusations and, if true, he should be allowed to have his life back”—a conclusion that somehow missed the obvious irony that Sheppard would never have his life back.
  • September 4, in another editorial, the Toronto Sun also proffered the suggestion that Bryant was the victim, rather than the aggressor, posing the question “Finally, ask yourself what you would have done if you were in a car with your spouse, with the top down, and someone was attacking you?”

So that was the spin. Why do I think it’s spin? Because details about Sheppard’s ancient run-ins with the law over stolen checks had nothing to do with what happened the night of his death. Neither did stories about noise complaints from neighbors, or his problems with alcohol. And perhaps most important, neither did invented “questions” about road-raging cyclists and terrified drivers. But they had everything to do with shaping public opinion, turning the public against Sheppard, and in support of Bryant. The story shifted from the factual “cyclist run down by road-raging driver” to the fanciful “terrified driver attempts to flee angry, drunken criminal.”

So to set the record straight, here’s what really happened.

The night of August 31, Darcy Allan Sheppard was on his bike on Bloor Street, riding home from his fiancee’s apartment. It was 9:45 p.m. As he approached a traffic light, he passed to the left of a Saab convertible that we now know was Michael Bryant’s. After passing Bryant, who was stopped at the light, Sheppard cut in front of his car and also came to a stop. Shortly thereafter, as the light turned green, Bryant drove forward, perhaps bumping Sheppard’s wheel. Sheppard turned his head back, in Bryant’s direction. Witnesses reported that when the light turned green, there was a toot of the horn from Bryant, and a shout to “get moving,” followed—perhaps—by a return shout from Sheppard. Then, incredibly, Bryant hit the gas, pushing Sheppard forward into the intersection, knocking him off his bike. As Sheppard struggled to get to his feet, Bryant backed up, stopped, turned his wheel and began to drive past Sheppard as he sped away.

Sheppard gave chase, grabbing onto Bryant’s car as it sped by. Witnesses reported hearing shouting, and noted that Bryant was “very, very angry.” They also reported that as Bryant sped down the street with Sheppard clinging to his car, he was driving on the wrong side of the street, at about 60 miles per hour, driving up onto the sidewalk, driving against the trees and posts and newspaper boxes lining the street in what they reported appeared to be an attempt to brush Sheppard off his car. Down the street 100 yards, Sheppard was slammed into a mail collection box, and crumpled into a heap in the street as Bryant’s rear wheels ran over him. Witnesses reported that Sheppard, who lay in the street bleeding heavily from his nose and mouth, attempted to get up, but was advised to remain still until an ambulance arrived. Bryant continued driving down the street to the end of the block, before turning in to the driveway of a luxury hotel, where he finally stopped his car.

This is not spin. It is not supposition. It is not rumor. It is fact. We know this, because remarkably, the incident was captured on security cameras, which corroborated the eyewitness accounts. Anonymous spin doctors can suggest news leads and story angles to divert media and public attention, and anonymous internet comments can invent fantasy versions of what actually happened, but the camera doesn’t lie.

And the camera shows that on the night of August 31, Michael Bryant used his car to ram Darcy Sheppard out of his way, before fleeing the scene as Sheppard gave chase on foot. Moments later, Darcy Allan Sheppard lay dying on a Toronto street as Michael Bryant sped away.

(Research and drafting provided by Rick Bernardi, J.D.)

ROAD RAGE CASE AGAINST E/R DOC CONTINUES

Velo News has been publishing regular updates of the Road Rage trial going on right now in California.  An Emergency Room doctor is accused of committing a road rage incident in which two cyclists were injured.

You can read the latest here…

Patrick Brady’s story of 10/22/09  is particularly compelling and reprinted below.  You can read the story on Velo News here or simply follow along below —

Steve Magas

The Bike Lawyer

================================

Road Rage – E/R Doc on Trial in CA

Velo news –

LAPD investigator tells jury in road rage trial he was shocked at a driver’s comments.

By Patrick Brady
Published: Oct. 22, 2009

“I WANTED TO TEACH THEM A LESSON” – Trial Continues

A traffic investigator told jurors in the Los Angeles road rage trial this week that a driver’s comment at the scene of the incident “was so shocking his words burned into my brain.”

Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson is on trial in Los Angeles Superior Court for assault and other charges related to an incident on a narrow canyon road involving two cyclists on the Fourth of July, 2008. Thompson also faces charges related to a similar, earlier, incident on the same road, involving a different cyclist. If convicted of all charges, Thompson could spend up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors say that after a brief exchange of words on the Fourth, Thompson passed the two cyclists then slammed on his brakes, causing the riders to crash into the rear his car.

On Tuesday, the jury heard testimony from a Los Angeles police traffic investigator, a doctor who treated the cyclists at the scene and a plastic surgeon who operated on one of the cyclists’ broken nose. The testimony was graphic enough that one juror had to leave the court room for a few minutes after feeling faint. Jurors also heard from the cyclist who says he had the earlier encounter with Thompson.

After a break Wednesday, testimony resumes Thursday.

’Burned into my brain’

LAPD traffic investigator Robert Rodriguez said he arrived at the scene on Mandeville Canyon Road with the fire department and asked Thompson what happened.

According to Rodriguez, Thompson said, “I just live up the road. I was driving to go to work. The bikers were in front of me, three across. I honked my horn and yelled ‘ride single file.’ The bicyclists flipped me off and yelled back. I passed them up and stopped in front to teach them a lesson. I’m tired of them. I’ve lived here for years and they always ride like this.”

Thompson’s attorney, Peter Swarth, questioned Rodriguez extensively about how he could recall the exact words, since Rodriguez did not write them down for more than 90 minutes.

Later, Deputy District Attorney Mary Stone asked Rodriguez in re-direct examination how he was able to remember.

Rodriguez replied, “That statement was so shocking his words burned into my brain.”

Stone asked, “Have you ever been to a collision where someone said they wanted to teach that person a lesson?”

“Never,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that after Thompson’s comments, he decided the incident was assault with a deadly weapon and called the department’s patrol division to take over the investigation.

Samaritan neighbor

Physician Bruce Rogen later testified that he came upon the scene while driving up the canyon to his home that morning.

Rogen said he approached Peterson, who was “sitting cross-legged leaning forward dripping blood. The piece of cloth to his face was sodden with blood. There was a fair amount of trauma. I identified myself as a doctor and asked a few questions. I was concerned there could be more damage.”

Rogen checked Peterson for a head injury. He checked the injury to Peterson’s nose and removed his own shirt and used it to apply pressure to the wound.

In listening to the description of Peterson’s blood loss, one juror began feeling faint and court was recessed for five minutes.

On cross-examination, Swarth asked Rogen about any exchange he had with Thompson and with the cyclists regarding Thompson — a former emergency room physician.

“(The cyclists) didn’t want him to treat them,” he said. “They didn’t want him nearby.” Asked to describe Thompson, he said, “He seemed agitated, anxious.”

Surgeon testifies

Geoffrey Keyes is the plastic surgeon who operated on Peterson. In his testimony he said Peterson’s injuries included a broken nose and broken internal structures as well as scars on his lip, chin and nose. He needed nasal septul reconstruction.

The surgery was performed under general anesthesia, required re-breaking the nose and using chisels to shape the bone and took an hour and half to complete. Displays included photographs taken before and after the surgery.

The earlier incident

Previous articles:

Oct. 20, 2009: Defense suggests cyclists were looking for a fight
Oct. 19, 2009: Road-rage trial begins
Oct. 12, 2009: California road-rage case heads for court
Dec. 24, 2008: Mionske: Mandeville incident inspires Cyclists Bill of Rights
Aug. 15, 2008: Mionske: Bikes v. cars
Aug. 8, 2008: Mionske: Where’s the justice?
July 14, 2008: Mailbag: Readers sound off
July 13, 2008: Doctor charged
July 10, 2008: LA incident rallies cyclists

Final testimony on the day came from Patrick Watson, a former professional adventure racer who filed charges against Thompson for an alleged incident that occurred in March, 2008.

Watson said he and training partner Josh Crosby were descending at roughly 30 mph —the speed limit for the road — when Thompson approached from behind. Crosby and Watson moved to ride single file, he said.

Watson said, “The car came so fast and so close I had to jump off the road. I did a bunny hop up the curb into the grass. When I jumped back on the road Thompson slammed on his brakes.”

Watson said he bunny hopped back onto the curb and stopped. He got off his bike and leaned it against a fence.

“(Thompson) drove straight at me and then he drove off,” he said.

Watson contacted the police and attempted to press charges, but ultimately, no charges were filed.

Asked by Stone why he contacted the district attorney, Watson said, “I wanted to make sure they did something this time.”

Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Mary Stone rested the prosecution’s case against Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson on Friday afternoon, following five and a half days of testimony in Thompson’s trial on assault charges.

The charges stem from an altercation with two cyclists on a Los Angeles County canyon road on July 4, 2008, and another incident involving two different cyclists in March that year, on the same road.

In the final two days of the prosecution’s case, jurors heard testimony from two cyclists involved in the March episode, which did not result in any injuries.

Jurors also heard testimony from doctors who treated the cyclists in the July 4 incident; an accident reconstruction expert who analyzed GPS files from cyclists in both incidents; another cyclist who said he had an altercation with Thompson earlier, and finally an LAPD detective who investigated the case.

The March incident

Thursday began with defense attorney Peter Swarth finishing up the cross-examination of Patrick Watson, one of the riders involved in the March incident. Swarth spent a great deal of time going over Watson’s two bunny hops onto the grass next to the road as well as the distances between Dr. Thompson and Watson at various stages of the incident.

Watson had difficulty relating specific distances at specific points. Eventually, in referring to the point at which Watson got off his bike, Swarth said, “You wanted to kill (Dr. Thompson)!”

“I was pissed,” Watson said.

Testimony then moved to the inability of a motorist to identify a cyclist by anything such as a license or other identifying mark.

Swarth charged, “You remain anonymous!” to which the prosecution objected as argumentative, which the judge sustained.

Next to testify was Patrick Watson’s training partner, Josh Crosby. Crosby had an easier time describing the events of the day to the jury. He said Thompson passed them, words were exchanged, then Thompson pulled ahead, forcing Watson onto the grass and Crosby into oncoming traffic. He said after Watson returned to the road Thompson stopped suddenly, forcing Watson back onto the grass and Crosby into the oncoming traffic lane yet again. Crosby said when he told Thompson to get out of the car, Thompson accelerated toward each rider.

Later, under cross-examination, Swarth asked Crosby why he wanted Thompson to get out of the car. Swarth asked, “Did you want to educate him?”

“I don’t think there was any need for education,” Crosby said. “I think he knew what he was doing.”

Swarth asked what his plan was.

“The plan,” Crosby said, “was to see if my teammate was okay, get (Thompson’s) info and wait for the cops.”

GPS data

Watson, in the March incident, and Stoehr, in the July 4 incident, each used GPS devices on their bikes. Accident reconstruction specialist Gerald Bretting said the devices showed Stoehr was going 28.1 mph and Watson was going 29.2 mph just prior to Thompson passing them in their respective incidents.

A third incident raised

Patrick Early told jurors that he had an incident with a driver he believes was Thompson, sometime in the winter of 2008. Early, who said he is a casual cyclist, said he could hear a car approach at a high rate of speed, which he estimated to be 40 to 50 mph. He said he could judge the speed by the engine’s high rpms, the tire sound on the road and the sound of air moving over the body of the car.

Following a loud, long honk of the horn, Stone asked Early what he did next.

“I braced for impact,” he said. “I thought I was going to be hit.”

Early works in the automotive industry and described in great detail how he identified the vehicle that passed him. He even drew a sketch of the differences in body styles of various Infiniti models.

According to Early, as the car passed, the driver turned and said either, “Get the fuck out of the road,” or “Get the fuck off the road.” Early said he couldn’t be certain which of the two it was due to wind noise.

Early said he yelled back after the car was past, “I think, asshole.”

Early said the driver stopped approximately 25 feet ahead of him. Because Early was riding uphill at only about 10 mph, he was able to stop without running into Thompson’s vehicle.

Early testified the driver was “angry, extremely angry. He was in a rage; he was someone out of control.”

The defense begins its case at 11 a.m. Monday.

SIX MOST COMMON CAUSES OF AUTO CRASHES

A website called “SixWise” publishes articles about how to make money, protect yourself, avoid being taken advantage of and the like.   I cannot vouch for the veracity of their research, but  I found their article about the Six Most Common Causes of Auto Crashes to be interesting… I’ve edited a bit and republished below:

The SIX Most Common Causes of Auto Crashes

After the world’s first automobile-related fatality, which occurred in London in 1896, the coroner said: “This must never happen again.” [MAGAS NOTE--> Actually the first death was in Birr, Ireland.  A famous scientist, Mary Ward, fell from a moving vehicle and died.  You can read the fascinating story of this incident here.]  Little did the coroner know that from then on, some 25 million people would have died in vehicle-related accidents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

And even with all the advancements in vehicle safety technology, the number of people killed in auto accidents continues to rise. Close to 1.2 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and that number is expected to rise by 65 percent by the year 2020, says a report by WHO and the World Bank.

What’s causing all of these accidents, which are, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the leading cause of death among people aged 3 to 33, should then be of great interest to all of us drivers out there. Ironically, when you take a look through the top six causes you’ll see that the greatest threat to drivers is the drivers themselves.

Distracted drivers cause between 25-50 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle accidents.

1. Distracted Drivers

Mark Edwards, Director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association stated, “The research tells us that somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in this country really have driver distraction as their root cause.”

The distractions are many, but according to a study conducted by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), rubbernecking — or slowing down to gawk at another accident — caused the most accidents, accounting for 16 percent of all distraction-related crashes.

“I’ve had as many as three accidents at one scene, at one intersection,” says Officer John Carney of the Fairfax County Police. “Rubbernecking is the most dangerous distraction, in my experience.”

After rubbernecking, other common driver distractions included:

  • Driver fatigue (12 percent, see below)
  • Looking at scenery (10 percent)
  • Other passengers or children (9 percent)
  • Adjusting the radio, cassette or CD player (7 percent)
  • Reading the newspaper, books, maps or other documents (less than 2 percent)

Another increasingly serious cause of driver distraction is cell phone use, as more than 85 percent of the estimated 100 million cell-phone users talk on their phone regularly while driving, according to a Prevention magazine survey. At least one study has found that driving and talking on a cell phone at the same time quadruples the risk of crashing, which is why many cities have recently begun banning their use while driving unless a hands-free device is used.

2. Driver Fatigue

Drowsy drivers account for about 100,000 accidents every year in the United States, according to the U.S. National Traffic Safety Administration. The risk is greatest from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., the time when most people are used to sleeping, however some people also become drowsy from noon to 2 p.m.

Symptoms of driver fatigue include heavy eyelids, frequent yawning, a drifting vehicle that wanders over road lines, varying vehicle speed for no reason, misjudging traffic situations, seeing things “jump out” in the road, feeling fidgety or irritable and daydreaming.

Other than making sure you are well-rested before getting behind the wheel, the Motor Accidents Authority (MAA) offers these tips to help avoid fatigue-related auto accidents:

  • Take a break from driving at least every two hours.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before a long trip.
  • Share the driving whenever possible.
  • Avoid long drives after work.
  • Avoid drinking before driving.
  • Pull over and stop when drowsiness, discomfort or loss of concentration occurs.
  • Find out whether any medicine you are taking may affect your driving.

3. Drunk Driving

In 2004, an estimated 16,654 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, according to NHTSA. This is an average of one death almost every half-hour. Drunk drivers were responsible for 30 percent of all fatal crashes during the week in 2003, but this percentage rose significantly over the weekends, during which 53 percent of fatal crashes were alcohol-related.

The only way to prevent this type of accident is to not drink and drive. Whenever alcohol is involved, choose a designated driver in advance. This person should not drink at all before driving.

4. Speeding

Speeding is a multi-tiered threat because not only does it reduce the amount of time necessary to avoid a crash, it also increases the risk of crashing and makes the crash more severe if it does occur. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when speed increases from 40 mph to 60 mph, the energy released in a crash more than doubles. Simply slowing down and obeying posted speed limits can go a long way toward making the roads safer.

When traffic gets heavy, resist the urge to succumb to aggressive driving.

5. Aggressive Driving

Exactly what is an aggressive driver? According to the New York State Police, it’s anyone who:

“Operates a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner, without regard for the rights or safety of the other users of the streets and highways.” This includes behaviors such as:

  • Aggressive tailgating
  • Flashing lights at other drivers because you’re irritated at them
  • Aggressive or rude gestures
  • Deliberately preventing another driver from moving their vehicle
  • Verbal abuse
  • Physical assaults
  • Disregarding traffic signals
  • Changing lanes frequently or in an unsafe manner
  • Failure to yield the right of way

If you come across an aggressive driver, the New York State Police gives these tips to protect yourself:

  • Remain calm
  • Keep your distance
  • Do not pass unless you have to
  • Change lanes once it is safe
  • If you cannot change lanes and an aggressive driver is behind you, stay where you are, maintain the proper speed and do not respond with hostile gestures
  • If the situation is serious, you may call 911 to report an aggressive driver

6. Weather.

Inclement weather, including heavy rain, hail, snowstorms, ice, high winds and fog can make driving more difficult. You’ll need more time to stop and may have trouble seeing the road clearly, so when the weather gets bad be sure to leave extra room between the car in front of you and slow down. If necessary, pull off the road to a rest stop (or to the side of the road, well out of the traffic lanes) until conditions improve.

Sources

Washington Post: VA Study: Eyes on the Road

British Medical Journal April 10, 2004;328:851

Smart Motorist

Indiana State Medical Association

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

NYS Department of Motor Vehicles