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.


Happy Bike Month everyone. There is just TOO much to talk about – Radio appearances, crazy City Council actions – criminal motorists… and …well… this one that “hit the fan” this week…

Jessamine County, KY – A single mom, Cherokee Schill, was ticketed for “careless driving” on her 18 mile commute. She started riding her bike to work a year or so ago. Her route takes her along US 27 from Nicholasville to Lexington. This is a busy stretch of 4 lane, 55 mph roadway, but one on which cycling is “lawful” and permitted under Kentucky law.

A ticket or two, as she has received, would have been bad enough. However, the prosecutor of Jessamine County decided to take it a step further. He sought an INJUNCTION BANNING HER FROM RIDING HER BIKE on US 27! [yes, that merits Bold Face/All Caps/Italics in my opinion]

Now, there’s no allegation that she was riding in some crazy manner, weaving in and out, slipping from sidewalk to berm to road, running red lights and riding willy-nilly… No sir -she was doing something even more dastardly… she was riding in a straight line and slowing down the cars!

Yes, friends, riding safely, in a straight line, using front and rear daytime running lights and wearing HiViz clothing is now considered “careless” in Jessamine County, Kentucky -so “careless” that the State has to seek injunctive relief banning you from the road.

Cherokee Schiff Rides to Work



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The Bike Lawyer on the Radio!

On April 22 I was very happy to be a guest on Ann Fisher’s wonderful, and popular, “All Sides” radio program on WOSU in Columbus, Ohio. We had a long list of topics to cover- as well as emails, tweets and old school phone calls to answer. All in all a very interesting and fun hour that FLEW by!

You can watch/listen here

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 on for a “Bike” show for the past few years.



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The Columbus Dispatch ran an intriguing story recently. They, and I, downloaded the most current data available from the Ohio Department of Public Safety relative to bicycle crashes and found some startling numbers. For 2013, the total crash numbers were reported as being lower… like a LOT lower… for 2013 than for any previous year recently. Could this possibly be true? Had there been Five HUNDRED fewer crashes?

2013 Bike Crash Stats - ODPS

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Dr. Unk, the Drunk Doc, Pleads Guilty – Is Sentenced

Dr. Unk, the DrUnk Doctor who ran down a cyclist last year, was sentenced recently. You may recall that I started following this case shortly after Dr. Unk drove off the road, and into/over a cyclist.


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Martha Shaw – Killed in Union County – Justice … On Its Way …?

[Blogger’s Note: This piece has been updated to incorporate some information received after the initial publication…]

On September 5, 2013, around 11:45 am, 57 year old Martha Shaw was riding her bike westbound on County Road 132.  CR 132 is one those typical idyllic country roads in rural Ohio – two lane, 55 mph, but very little traffic. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Ms. Shaw’s decision to ride that day, other than the fact that it was a gorgeous bright sunny day – perfect for a nice ride.  From what I have read about Ms. Shaw, she was doing something she truly enjoyed at the moment she lost her life.

I don’t know the circumstances behind Cynthia Troyer’s driving that day either. The 57 year old Troyer was driving a big old 2003 Mercury Sable wagon westbound along CR 132 as well. Why did she smash into the rear of Martha Shaw’s bicycle? Why didn’t she “see” Ms. Shaw – who was clearly there to be seen? Why hasn’t she been charged with any sort of crime?

The crash report and investigation is very clear here. Martha Shaw was simply run down, at speed, by Cynthia Troyer.  However, like many fatal crashes, there’s a lot more to investigating the crash than simply looking at the scene!

ACDA is a nice way of saying smashed into from behind...

Martha Shaw was killed by Cynthia Troyer on 9/5/13

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Where Are They Now? Columbus Drunk/Killer ED MILLER?

Maybe that title’s a little harsh – although Ed Miller DID plead guilty to being drunk while driving and DID plead guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide- killing Steve Barbour while driving drunk.  But, where is he now?

Well, he’s back on the street after serving a little over one year of his three year sentence.

Inmate Ed Miller's page

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2014’s First Fatal Crash- Just Down The Road…

Fred Carey, a high school teacher and cyclist, was killed on February 21, 2014 on Round Bottom Road in Union Township, Clermont County Ohio.  Mr. Carey was riding on Round Bottom, a popular cycling road, around 6:30pm. According to police, he was riding lawfully when he was struck from behind by a yellow van. The driver did not stick around, choosing to run and hide. Some time later, cops tracked down Todd Shaw, 51, and were able to locate the yellow van. While details have not been released, police have indicated that “alcohol was a factor.”

Todd Shaw Mug Shot Read the rest of this entry »

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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