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.

What do Tow Trucks & Bicycles Have In Common?

What do tow trucks and bicycles have in common?  A case released yesterday by the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t mention “bicycles” at all but could have a big impact on the governing of bicycle riders on the roadways in Ohio.

The Answer is that both Tow Trucks and Bicycles face two types of regulation – state and local….  In Cleveland v. State, released by the Ohio Supreme Court on January 21, 2014, the Court held that a sentence of a state law which took away the power of a municipality to regulate tow trucks violated the Ohio Constitution and had to be “severed” from the balance of the statute!

This made Tow Truck Owners sad, and local politicians very happy…

Tow Truck operators are not happy with the Ohio Supreme Court's decision to allow local regulation

Tow Truck operators are not happy with the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision to allow local regulation


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Are YOU a “Recreational User?”

“Recreational User” is an important legal concept, actually concept[s], cyclists ought to be aware of. The Supremes of Ohio just came out with a new recreational user case involving injured people vs insured people and …wait for it… the victim loses again…

What impact does this case have on cyclists? Not a good one, that’s for sure-

Recreational Users





The case, Pauley v. Circleville started in 2006, when Circleville obtained 150-200 free truckloads of free dirt. It was used for various purposes including leaving 2 large mounds – 15 feet tall – In January 2007 a group of kids decided to sled down one of the mounds. It was dark but they lit up the hill with car headlights. There were other sled marks around- no warnings. One kid went down the hill, hit something and was critically injured – he’s a quadriplegic. They couldn’t find what was struck that night, but the next day they found a railroad tie in the dirt mound.

Mom sued the city. The city claimed immunity under the “recreational user” statute. That law says that if you open you land up for free you are generally immune from lawsuits over defects in the property. The plaintiffs argued that when you CREATE the defect, one that’s hidden from view, there should be liability since the property owner is making the land MORE dangerous.

The court agreed with the City holding “[n]o owner owes any duty to a recreational user to keep the premises safe for entry or use.” Since there is “no duty” there can be no recovery – even if the land owner creates a blind, hidden defect that hurts someone. [Now, this wouldn’t apply if the owner “set a trap” I imagine – that is an “intentional” act]

You can read the case here –

How does this impact bicycle riders.

First, if you ride on a bike trail you are riding on an area covered by the recreational user statute- if you are riding on a roadway, sidewalk or bike lane the rec. user law does NOT apply. If the owner of a bike trail creates a hazard – there is no liability.

While this case in Circleville was percolating, I had a case in Greene County involving a fellow who fractured his hip in a bike crash. The crash was caused by the failure of the county & a contractor to put down striping on the bike trail which would not be slippery when wet. I filed the suit and we went through discovery. However, the case law in this area was going so poorly that we decided not to push it further. I predicted that our current Supreme Court was going to whack the victims and protect the insurance companies… which is exactly what it does… in case after case…

The other “recreational user” concept you need to understand as a bicycle rider is the one which screws you over if you happen to get whacked by a cyclist on the bike trail.

If you ride your bike TO the bike trail, using roads and sidewalks then a “negligence” standard applies. If someone else is careless, negligent, and you get hurt as a result you have a claim against them for damages – your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering…

If someone is careless on the bike trail and you get hurt, you LOSE – you have NO claim against them. You are on the hook for YOUR OWN medical bills and wage loss. Why? Because courts have held that you become a “recreational user” when you enter the bike trail – sort of like someone playing soccer or softball. There is NO LIABILITY if you are a recreational user, even if somebody is ridiculously careless and you end up as a quadriplegic.

A friend of mine challenged this theory on a bike v. bike crash case in Warren County – and lost – took it to the court of appeals -and lost -tried to get into the Supreme Court, but they didn’t take the case. PRobably good that they didn’t… maybe a new judge or two will be elected and we can stand a better chance of winning this argument in the future.

There were two dissenting judges in the Pauley case – Pfeiffer & O’Neill. Justice Pfeiffer makes a cogent point –

  • “And let’s be accurate here—we are not talking about a single railroad tie. That tie that crippled this child was part of an overall scheme of disposal of huge mounds of debris that the city had incredibly decided to place in the middle of a recreational park! Cover it with a light dressing of snow, and the perfect killing field was created. I would hold, as a matter of law, that when the owner of a property that enjoys the immunity granted by the people of Ohio for recreational purposes makes a conscious decision to use the property for other purposes, the immunity ceases.


OHIO BIKE CRASHES – 2012 By The Numbers

As many of you know, I am a numbers guy – as an old not-quite-reformed math major who made a right angle turn, or perhaps a tangent arc, into law school, I’ve never shied away from “doing the math.”

Here’s some of the math from 2012 – Ohio had, roughly, 11,536,504 people living in its 88 counties, according to the 2010 census.  I looked at the county-by-county breakdown of population for the 10 largest counties in Ohio. I then downloaded from the Ohio Department of Public Safety webpage the 2012 crash data for all of Ohio listing  bicycle crashes, deaths and injuries in Ohio, and then again for each of the top 10 largest counties.  I downloaded the results by Age  and then reshuffled the deck and downloaded by “Light Condition” – i.e., daylight, darkness.  I was wondering if things were sort of … even… all over the state … if bigger, more urban counties were more “dangerous” …

The results are, I think, rather intriguing and certainly raise more questions than they answer.

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Horn Tooting

There’s a neat new website around – Ohio Active. The site has links and articles for all kinds of cool stuff relating to riding a bike, staying fit, health and nutrition and more. I offered to write some stuff for them and they asked to do a bit of a profile about my practice.

I’m not all that great at shameless self promotion and horn tooting, but I thought this article turned out pretty cool!!  If Mom were still around I’m sure she would cut it out and paste it up on the fridge as well as mail it out to all the aunts, uncles and cousins!!


And Now For Something Completely Different…

OK, so many heavy posts recently… Time to shake it up…

This is my two and a half year old grandson learning how to go underwater – his favorite game in Florida was “Bobbing for the GoPro”

Which brings me to an important Bicycling point… I purchased the GoPro a few months ago with the plan of shooting some short bicycling movies, editing with a voiceover and graphics and creating several neat little YooHoo…er… YaHoot…er… YouTube videos… so far I’ve been too busy with real work, and stuff that’s not quite “real work” but very important [like the Three Foot Bill, Bike Month, several new advocacy issues, radio appearances, testifying before the Ohio House Transportation committee, speaking at Ohio’s Bike Awareness Day, the sentencing of Andy Gast’s killer…]

So, in the future, I hope to be able to post here some very clever, mildly humorous, short, easy to understand videos… just as soon as I learn how to quit shooting 25 second, high def, colorful videos of me staring blankly into the camera trying to figure out if it’s on…

More later… details to follow… Film at 11… er… well… we’ll see…

Ride LEGAL & Be Safe!



One Sentencing + Two Fatal Crashes = Rough Week

I was in Florida for a week – didn’t ride a bit but soaked up the sun. Got back early Sunday knowing Monday would be rough – the sentencing of Andy Gast’s killer was set for 10:30 am. I was preparing a post here about the sentencing, and about how relatively “safe” the summer has been, when I came across two stories of two similar crashes… both fatal…

On July 12, 2013 a 58 year old cyclist, Janice Howard of Arcanum, was riding east on Delisle Fourman Road in Darke County, Ohio when she was struck from behind by 24 year old Jessica Jones.  Jones can be heard screaming on the 911 tape about how she was blinded by the sun and never saw the cyclist.

Up north, in Ottawa County, the OSHP is investigating the death of another  cyclist – 37 year old Dale Tusen of Port Clinton, Ohio. He was struck from behind at a little before 6:00 am this morning by a 2012 Chevy Impala operated by 68 year old Michael Swint.

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Andy Gast’s Killer to be Sentenced July 22, 9am -BE THERE

Andy Gast was killed on August 28, 2012 while taking an early morning bike ride.  Andy was riding near Lunken Airport when he was run down by Melvin White. It was a dark, foggy morning. Andy had front and rear lights. Melvin White was not, it seems, drunk or texting but just on his way to work. White was charged with two counts of Vehicular Homicide in Hamilton County Municipal Court Case No. 12CRB33907.

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I’m Baaaaack! And ON THE RADIO!

Sorry for the long delay between posts – between cases, Bike Month, the Three Foot Bill, cases, depositions and other litigation stuff… well… it’s been a crazy few months.

Today, though, July 8, 2013, I will be appearing on All Sides with Ann Fisher!  WOSU radio – 89.7 FM – to Talk Bike!  Later today, I’ll have a full report of that, with 8×10 glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back, in three-part harmony – as well as updates on:

– The Three Foot Bill – HB145 percolating in Columbus

– Criminal Motorists – Including the upcoming sentencing of Melvin White, who ran over and killed Andy Gast in Cincinnati last August

– Dr. Unk, the allegedly drunk doc who ran over a cyclist north of Columbus

– My radio experiences with Ode Aduma and Bicycling Today on AM 1390, The Sports Animal

– The 6,000 word essay I wrote on Ohio Bike Law

– The recent Bike Racing epidemic which erupted for a weekend in Cincinnati

and more… more … more…

So Stay Tuned!



On September 12, 2012 Dominick Schiavone was riding an Omega Quest bicycle northbound along the berm of  U.S.Rt. 23 in Delaware County.  Dr. Elizabeth Unk was driving northbound on U.S. 23 in her 2007 Chrysler Pacifica.  According to the police report Dr. Unk “…traveled off the right side of the road and stuck …” Mr. Schiavone.

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Queen City Bike’s Frank Henson has done a bang up job at QCB – his latest success is talking Norton, the billboard folks, into providing space for “PSA” type announcements.  The Three Foot Law Billboard was released today – it looks pretty groovy.



There are a number of subtle things going on here

– The cyclist is NOT a lycra clad racer on a racing bike made of the latest molecules of unobtainium.

– The cyclist is NOT on top of the white line, but is taking a good lane position.

– The Motorist is crossing the centerline.

– The centerline is a Double Yellow – reinforcing the fact that Ohioans, since 2006, have been permitted to cross the double yellow line to pass a slower moving vehicle.

The logos at the bottom include MY new logo – [I gave a few bucks to QCB to help get this billboard done] along with the Ohio Bicycle Federation and others who helped make this happen.

The Billboards will go up for Bike Month in May – and hopefully stay up through the summer riding season!

Great Job FRANK!