Bike photos by Steve Magas, a race in Walnut Hills, a bike rack at Ride Cincinnati, A ghost bike dedication ceremony and a beautiful bike bell

Protecting The Rights Of Those Who Ride

Steve Magas is Ohio's Bike Lawyer. He has written about Ohio Bike Laws, bike crashes, bicycle advocacy and court cases for some 30 years. Soon we'll be adding a series of features about your favorite Ohio bike shops.

Three Foot Bill Passes Ohio House

Today – May 24, 2015 – the Ohio House passed House Bill 154 by a vote of 78-15. The bill now goes on to the Ohio Senate – hopefully, we’ll have success in the Senate and get the bill to the Governor before year’s end… or else we have to start all over again…

In 2013 the Board of the Ohio Bicycle Federation started the long, arduous process of getting a bill passed –  our Three Foot Bill was introduced with fanfare, and without real opposition… On May 20, 2013 I testified in favor of the bill before the Transportation Committee. The original bill had 3 parts – a law requiring  a minimum of three feet of space when passing a cyclist, a second provision which would allow cyclists to go through a red light if the signal detector failed to detect them and a third provision changing the definition of a “bicycle” to incorporate pedal driven vehicles with more than 2 or 3 wheels.

3' Banner Columbus

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What Sort of Sentences do Hit/Run Killers Get?

What sort of sentences do hit/run killers of cyclists get? It really depends on whether or not you can show the killer was a “bad guy” –

Joseph Knott hit and killed Logan Snedeker. Knott admitted his guilt to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count each of failure to stop and drunk driving.

The judge sent him away for 9 years.

Logan Snedeker's family watches Sentencing

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2015 Ohio Fatal Bike Crash – Project

I reported in October that 2015 wasn’t going very well – turns out I was righter than right – 2015 was the worst year for cycling fatalities in Ohio in the past 20+ years. Since 1994 Ohio has averaged almost 16 fatal bike crashes per year – in 2015 we had TWENTY SIX.  A short list of cyclists killed in Ohio in 2015 is below.

We are working on a review of each and every fatal crash. We have obtained the full crash report for most of the crashes and will soon be publishing a detailed summary of each case with our analysis of the cause of the crash, what happened and why, who was at fault… We are also trying to obtain information on any criminal cases arising out of the fatal crashes. Stay tuned…

For now, though, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those who lost their life riding their bikes on Ohio roads in 2015…

Cyclists Killed In Ohio in 2015



This has been a lousy year – a statistically crappy year – a year in which 18 Ohio cyclists have been killed, so far.

Yes, EIGHTEEN cyclists killed in Ohio so far this year – We average 15-16 fatalities annually – a “good” year statistically for Ohio is 10-11 and a bad year 18+… Recent crashes have been particularly troubling and emotional including the hit/run death of Charles Startup in Oberlin, Ohio and the horrific crash in Brecksville, Ohio in which a pick-up truck made a left turn into the path of FIVE oncoming cyclists, killing Matt Billings and Jim Lambert, and injuring three others.

Our Fatal Crash Project is looking at each and every one of these 18 crashes in detail. As described below, we are obtaining the crash data and will be analyzing and reviewing each crash in the future.

On a broader level thought the GOAL is – NEEDS to be –  ZERO fatalitiesVISION ZERO is a movement to reach that goal – This needs to be the goal of every motorist, and the official goal and policy of every state. Sadly, it is not. In fact, if you read statistical summaries, as I do, you see things like 30,000 traffic deaths in the U.S. is a “good” year. THIRTY THOUSAND INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE KILLED in the United States in completely preventable crashes, yet that’s deemed a “good” year.

THAT, my friends, is crazy talk…

From the Vision Zero website:

The Vision Zero is the Swedish approach to road safety thinking. It can be summarised in one sentence: No loss of life is acceptable. The Vision Zero approach has proven highly successful. It is based on the simple fact that we are human and make mistakes. The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.

Crash Investigation - Brecksville, Ohio - Two Cyclists Killed

Crash Investigation – Brecksville, Ohio – Two Cyclists Killed


Also from Vision Zero

The Vision Zero starts with a statement: we are human and we make mistakes. Our bodies are subject to biomechanical tolerance limits and simply not designed to travel at high-speed. Yet we do so anyway. An effective road safety system must always take human fallibility into account.

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What do Guns, Roller Coasters and Bicycles Have In Common?

Sounds like a crazy headline – “Gun Shop Ordered to pay nearly $6 Million” to people injured by gun it sold…

The BIG picture of this story is not about guns at all though – it’s about the power of the CIVIL justice system to put financial pressure on businesses to behave lawfully and about holding businesses which operate illegally accountable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their illegal behavior.

The story here goes to the heart of a huge problem in the gun world – “straw” buyers – someone who doesn’t qualify to purchase a gun uses some nice [qualified] friend to buy the gun they want – it’s illegal – a serious violation of federal law which can lead to the prosecution of the straw buyer, the person who hired the straw buyer and the gun shop.

Here, 2 police officers were shot in the line of duty by a guy they stopped. That guy wasn’t allowed to buy a gun himself so he used/paid a friend, a”straw” buyer, to buy the gun for him from the defendant gun shop.

From the court evidence the shooter took his buddy, the straw man, to the shop and “… pointed to a Taurus semiautomatic pistol and said, “That’s the one I want,” according to SURVEILLANCE VIDEO… Then he helped his friend,[the straw man] who was struggling to fill out a two-page form. A hovering STORE CLERK helped as well, showing the friend how to correct mistakes and ensure he was listed as the buyer.”

The two cops sued the gun shop in CIVIL court- seeking damages for carelessly allowing the straw purchase.

The “friend” is doing 2 years in prison for participating in the purchase. The shooter got an 80 year sentence or shooting two cops. The gun shop is out of business – but hey… don’t fret, the same owners simply shut down that one and opened a new one. Such is corporate life in America…you can bury the sins of the past in bankruptcy filings or the corporate shell game – then simply reload & fire immediately from the new corporate entity…

The civil justice system can’t put anyone in jail – it can’t prevent bad guys from getting guns – it won’t reach into your home and take your gun and does not prevent qualified buyers from buying as many guns as they want… but the civil justice system CAN provide a very strong financial incentive for gun shops to take the steps required under the law to make sure “Straw” sales don’t happen…

Here, the store’s own surveillance video provided all the evidence the jury needed to determine that the store was “negligent” – NOT “guilty of a crime” but careless in failing to see the straw sale happening in front of its corporate face – indeed, HELPING the straw man complete the forms along with the shooter …

This is the same sort of law which requires bars to stop serving drunks and renders them liable when they DO serve drunks and the very foreseeable bad outcome occurs… you cannot ignore warning signs – a guy falls off the bar stool you’d better stop serving him. A guy points to a gun & tells his buddy “That’s the one I want” – you’d better not make that sale…

Will the judgment hold up on appeal? eh… maybe not… the whole “foreseeability” thing may be a stretch… but this is an example of how the CIVIL justice system can provide another angle to attack greedy, careless, troubling and illegal corporate behavior.

This case is not about “guns” at all – it’s about businesses cheating to make money, and also putting the public at risk through their malfeasance. If a concrete company carelessly, or intentionally, ignores problems in its concrete and as a result a building collapses it can be financially liable for the deaths, injuries and losses – if an amusement park ignores laws regarding safety and a roller coaster flies off the tracks it can be held accountable financially in the civil justice system – If a car manufacturer violates federal law and makes a car that is not crashworthy, it can be held liable financially for the foreseeable injuries and damages… these safety laws are designed to protect the public from the foreseeable results of stupid, careless and illegal behavior.

Where do bicycles fit into this equation. Well, one negative angle, for some anyway, are the “lawyer’s lips” that came into vogue.  Sheldon Brown’s incredible webpage discusses them like this –

  • Because some bicycle users are competent enough to remove their front wheels but not competent enough to secure them properly when they reinstall them, virtually all new bike purchasers have been deprived of the handy function of quick-release front wheels.This has been done by encumbering fork ends with extra hardware, ridges or lumps that keep the wheel sort-of attached even if it has been installed by someone who doesn’t know what he or she is doing. Unfortunately, this means that the quick-release mechanism must be re-adjusted each time it is used, seriously slowing down the operation.Since this extra stuff was installed as a defense against frivolous lawsuits by ambulance-chasing shysters, the extra bumps are sometimes known as “lawyer lips” or “lawyer tabs.”

    As “lawyer lips” have become the norm, they have gradually become more important than they originally were, for two reasons:

  • The prevalence of these secondary retention systems in front, and vertical dropouts in the rear has caused the proliferation of inferior skewer designs that are cheaper to manufacture, but much less secure than traditional skewers.
  • The introduction of disc brakes has caused increased vulnerability of the front axle and skewer, due to the disc brake applying an ejection force that tends to pull the axle out of the fork.

Here, many would argue that the civil justice system failed. I disagree. While hardcore cyclists had no problem with manipulating quick release skewers, bicycles were these racing-oriented features were sold to everyone.  Experts would testify as to how difficult it was to properly set the tension on the skewer. Often failures occurred on the 1st ride, or after the 1st attempt by the novice to attach the wheel to the frame. The failures, when they occurred, were often catastrophic. The higher the risk, the higher the duty of care the law imposes…

Another area where civil justice intertwined with cycling was in the infamous “Skid-Lid” helmet litigation in the 1980s, as well as in any number of product defect cases and crashes arising out of investigations by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

While the civil justice system is primarily aimed at compensating the victims for losses, when companies are forced to pay for catastrophic damages, they often end up changing their business practices to avoid similar payouts in the future… hitting for-profit businesses in the money belt is usually the most effective mechanism to use to effect change…

Businesses are in business to make money – when they make it through illegal sales, it can come back to bite them… there’s a very good reason why “straw” purchases are illegal – when the gun shop buries its head in the sand and ignores the blatant warning signals that a “straw” purchase is happening it risks some huge financial, and criminal, penalties…

2015 Ohio Bicycle Crash Numbers & A Closer Look at a Deadly Crash

As of this writing, August 23, 2015,there have been 683 bike crashes listed in the ODPS data base. In those crashes there have been 12 reported fatal crashes, 88 crashes involving “incapacitating injuries” and 303 non-capacitating injuries.

The fatal crashes have included 2 kids 10 and under, 2 kids aged 11-15 and 3 more under the age of 25. That’s a bit unusual. In the past several years, the vast majority of riders killed on Ohio roads have been older.



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Ohio Bike Laws


By Steven M. Magas, Ohio’s Bike Lawyer[1]

I originally wrote this piece in 2010.  Today I am modifying, adding some new content and republishing this summary of Ohio Bike Laws.I am including a brief discussion of “Home Rule” issues and local municipal codes.

Have you ever wondered what “The Law” actually SAYS about riding a bicycle?  Many Ohio riders are familiar with some of the common rules or phrases.  The “AFRAP” rule, for example. Most cyclists have an “opinion” on what “AFRAP” means but have you ever reviewed the actual statutory language?

Many folks also have a sense that we have a “right” to ride our bicycles on the roadway, but where does that right come from? What limitations are there on that right? Can that right be taken away? Can cities pass their own bike laws? Can those be different from State Law?

WOSU in Columbus is a public radio station associated with The Ohio State University. Ann Fisher's All Sides is a very popular show. Ann has invited on for a "Bike" show for the past few years.

WOSU in Columbus is a public radio station associated with The Ohio State University. Ann Fisher’s All Sides is a very popular show. Ann has invited Steve to be on her annual “Bike” show for the past few years.

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I have seen an article floating around some of the bike pages on the “What To Do If You Crash” topic. It’s pretty good, but lacking in a couple critical areas, I think…particulary for Ohio cyclists who crash and are injured when they are struck by a car.

Here’s a short list off the top of my head…

1. Protect yourself – if you can move – move – but leave the bike and debris where it is – do NOT allow the car to move if possible – yes, it’ll cause a back up of traffic, but once the scene is changed, evidence is destroyed…
2. Get police AND EMT’s to the scene
3. Do NOT refuse treatment – get checked out – your adrenaline rush will wear off and pain may well set in. I had one client who rode away from a crash on bike then pedaled directly through the front doors of an Urgent Care when he realized his clavicle was fractured.

Billingsley Crash Scene Read the rest of this entry »


DWD – Driving While Distracted – Has become an epidemic throughout the country. CFBWD is a huge problem – [“Checking Facebook While Driving] – What happens when a distracted driver maims or kills a cyclist?


The typical injury claim is pursued for the injured rider, or the grieving family of a cyclist killed by a distracted motorist. Damages awarded can include paying medical bills, wage loss and out of pocket expenses as well as a significant pain and suffering award. This seems so… inadequate -getting some money from someone’s insurer to cover the damages her/his careless driving has wrought… from the trial lawyer’s perspective, it’s usually the best we can do.

Oh, there may be a criminal case or, more likely, a “traffic” matter. These provide some modicum of satisfaction for some folks… sometimes…

Do “tickets” for texting change driver behavior? Well… first of all, very few tickets are ever written. Do you know anyone who’s got a texting ticket in Ohio? Ever read a story about it? In 2014 the Columbus Dispatch did a story about the limited value of texting laws…

One thing that may work, though, is “punitive” damage claims being brought by the victims.

In the typical injury claim described above there is no “punishment” involved. In fact, a jury in Ohio is instructed by the judge the purpose of “compensatory” damages is NOT to punish, but to make the victim whole. “Compensatory” damages are intended to “compensate” the victim for out-of-pocket losses, wage loss, and pain and suffering. Juries are instructed that sympathy for victim is completely irrelevant when measuring the damages assessed.

A punitive damage claim goes beyond the basic “injury” damages and IS designed to “punish” the wrongdoer with an extra award of money damages to the victim. These are only available in very rare cases in which the victim can prove the wrongdoer acted with “malice” … intentional aggression… OR… if the wrongdoer acted with a “…a conscious disregard for the rights and safety of other persons that has a great probability of causing substantial harm …”

Punitive damages are unique in that they are NOT covered by insurance. They must be paid directly by the wrongdoer.

Punitive damages claims have come under fire by those seeking “tort deform” …er… “reform.”  There are those who feel that the less than 1% of cases seeking punitive damages is just too many… that these claims arising when “malice” is an element need to be reigned in… Doctors paved the tort reform path in Ohio by amending medical malpractice rules in 2003. A Pro Tort Reform legislature followed suit in other tort cases and, after the Ohio Supreme Court became the best court insurance dollars could buy, the reforms were upheld [despite being found by prior versions of the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional…].  Currently, if you are catastrophically maimed in Ohio, your recovery options are severely because the legislature has deemed your injuries to be of less importance than the careless party’s money or insurance… but I digress…

In 1994 the Ohio Supreme Court recognized that evidence of intoxication is sufficient to pursue a punitive damages claim. The court said “…We are convinced that the conduct of drinking and driving may well, under the circumstances of each individual case, constitute the kind of reckless, outrageous behavior justifying a jury to conclude that the defendant possessed a willful indifference to the rights and safety of others justifying an award of punitive damages. We hold that evidence that a negligent driver had consumed alcohol prior to a vehicular accident is relevant and admissible to establish whether the driver can be deemed to have acted with actual malice justifying the award of punitive damages…”

In 2014 a court in Montgomery County upheld a $2.0+ million award against a drunk motorist and the bar serving drinks. The jury included a $50,000 punitive damages award. This case was rather unique because the motorist was a dancer at the club – and was encouraged by the club to drink on the job. She was drunk when she crashed into, and maimed, the victims on her way home from “work”… The award against the club was significant.

In more recent years there have been many studies indicating that texting while driving is far WORSE than drunk driving. Even the venerable “Car & Driver” concluded that texting was far worse than drinking and driving in its admittedly non-scientific testing.

However, there is currently no Ohio Supreme Court case which holds that a motorist who kills or maims while texting or downloading a fax or updating their FB page is sufficient to lead to punitive damages.

We are working on this – lawyers representing victims in Ohio are doing research and filing motions, seeking to have a punitive damage claim added to such cases. In Florida courts have allowed such claims to proceed to the jury.

In this day and age, it should be very clear though the research, as well as the legislative pronouncements, that texting and driving can, and should, lead to serious consequences when the [reasonably foreseeable] catastrophic crash ensues… I hope Ohio joins the growing number of court systems which will allow a punitive damage award in cases in which a texting drivers causes a catastrophic crash.


Happy Bike Month – More Great Bike Art!

Happy Bike Month – Day 2

I hope you got out to ride today – a gorgeous day here in The Queen City.

I hope you got to see some groovy Bike Art too! One of my favorite Bike Artists is Taliah Lempert. You can see her work in NYC or here.

When I first opened my solo practice I was looking for “Bike Art” and ran across Taliah’s gorgeous work. I checked in with her about using one of her pieces in a new card I was developing. She was agreeable and my “Bike Law/Art” card was developed. This 4″x6″ card was printed on heavy stock – full color – and my thought was that you would carry it with you on the bike. If you were stopped by a police officer for something stupid you could look at the painting first, take a deep breath, then turn it over and use the Ohio Revised Code citations to help you in your discussions with the officer.

Fast forward a few years and now THOUSANDS of these cards are floating around the panniers and seat bags of Ohio Cyclists…

If YOU would like 1… 100… 1000 + of these cards just let me know. Send me an email – give me a call – let me know How Many and Where To Send and I’ll get them out!

Stay Safe!

Steve Magas

-0- 2014 Bike Card