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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.

Granger Township Logic Makes No Sense…

In September, in little Granger Township, Ohio, the folks at Bike Medina County presented some bike safety concerns to  Township Trustees.

“Members of a local cycling organization approached the Granger Board of Trustees with some concerns and a proposed solution at the board’s meeting Sept. 24.

Beth Schnabel and Lynne Nawalaniec, of Bike Medina County, a group that advocates bicycle safety, discussed the lack of safe cycling routes in the county and expressed their concerns about the conditions of the township’s roads and trails for bikers. They pointed out many county roads are very heavily traveled with no safe routes marked for biking.”

 They had a generous donor who was willing to pay some $8,000 for 100 signs reminding motorists about Ohio’s 3 Foot Passing Law for bicycles. The Township folks took it under advisement…

On October 25, it was reported:

The Granger Board of Trustees revisited a previous proposal to reinforce bicycle safety this week.

At the board’s Oct. 22 meeting, Trustee John Ginley said he contacted Medina County Engineer Andy Conrad about a proposal presented at a previous meeting regarding the addition of signs enforcing a 3-foot passing law for vehicles passing bicycle riders on Granger roads. The idea was presented by two representatives of Bike Medina County, a local group that advocates bicycle safety.

Ginley presented several points given to him by Conrad, explaining not all township roads have center lines and the white lines on the sides of the roads are often very close to the edges. He said due to the hzards presented on township and county roads, including motorists who speed or text while driving, he believes the addition of such signs would draw more cyclists to the streets, but also present them with a false sense of security.

Ginley also pointed out it would cost more than $500,000 per mile to widen roads for bike paths. He said he will call the representatives of Bike Medina County and explain the township will not add such signs at this time.

Soooo… I’m clearly not following the township logic here…

Cyclists are clearly using Township roads and want to make roads safer for cycling. They want to remind motorists of the 3 Foot Passing law. However, township folks are afraid that distracted motorists will… what… Look up from their phones and actually SEE the signs?

Township trustees are afraid to “… draw more cyclists to the streets…” and that cyclists will develop a “FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY” from the placement of signs relative to theThree Foot Law?!?!?

I’m sorry, but the Number One Priority of Elected Officials should be to INSURE that its citizens can HAVE a TRUE sense of security. Elected officials need to take steps to promote and insure that lawful roads ARE safe. I cannot understand how a sign, which they don’t even have to purchase, reminding motorists to Give 3′ While Passing Cyclists can somehow lull cyclists into a false sense of security… that makes absolutely no sense to me.

Are Township Trustees are admitting that they have allowed township roads to become HAZARDOUS TO LAWFUL USERS? Instead of Hoping and Praying that people who want to use the roads stay home they choose instead to talk about ENFORCING speeding laws  and ENFORCING texting laws and ENFORCING distracted driving laws?

Seems like a Township that openly admits that its roads are dangerous for lawful use runs the risk of admitting negligence – of admitting roads are a nuisance – of admitting that they have chosen to allow “hazards” to users to remain.

Let’s be clear. In Ohio, just about EVERY road is a BIKE ROAD – just about every road is a LAWFUL place to ride a bike. These “roads” in Granger Township are not dangerous or hazardous to cyclists. Rather,  BAD DRIVERS are dangerous… Folks who drive UNLAWFULLY are dangerous… Folks who SPEED are dangerous. Folks who TEXT WHILE DRIVING are dangerous. Folks who DRIVE WHILE DISTRACTED are dangerous.

As long as the Township or the County officials fail to enforce laws, ticket unlawful drivers and lock up those who are criminally bad, they are derelict in their duty. Roads are Public Ways for the PUBLIC to use to move around the cabin. To tell a big segment of the public “you’d better not use those roads because drivers might run you over” is simply asinine.

A further point relating to Ohio law is that most of the township roads, from what I can tell during a quick look on Google Maps, are your typical Ohio township roads… two lanes … narrow… with very few exceptions.   “Narrow” roads and lanes present a unique opportunity to cyclists under the law.

Ohio, like most states, has a “AFRAP” or “FTR” rule. [AFRAP meaning “As Far Right As Practicable” while FTR means “Far To The Right”].  The key provision is found in Ohio Revised Code Sec. 4511.55(A), which states a cyclist must operate a bicycle “… as near to the right side of the road as practicable...” whatever THAT means.

That word, “practicable,” is undefined in the law. In fact, it appears over 200 times in the Revised Code as a way of expressing time, timing and distance or space and is undefined throughout the Code. For many years in my Bike Cases I would argue that “practicable” HAS to mean, at a minimum, “safe” and “reasonable” from the CYCLIST’s perspective. The legislature would never, I argued, mandate that a vehicle operator take a lane position that was unsafe or unreasonable.

Finally, in 2006 the Ohio Bicycle Federation [OBF] prepared an extensive overhaul to Ohio’s bicycling laws and drafted what we called “The Better Bicycling Bill.” We found sponsors and helped push the bill along the rocky legislative path. Several of us testified in Columbus and were there on that crazy day when our 2:00 pm testimony was pushed back to 7:00 pm or so due to some totally unrelated political shenanigans. Ultimately, we testified, and the bill passed… UNANIMOUSLY… and went into law in September, 2006.

One of the key additions from the Bill was the addition of Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.55(C), which creates exceptions to the AFRAP rule. Under 4511.55(C) a cyclist does not need to ride AFRAP… in essence, may use the ENTIRE lane… under certain circumstances… including “… if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.”

This new provision gave cyclists a broad new right to WIDEN the road.  Just about EVERY township and county road in Ohio is “too narrow” to be safely shared. This means that the AFRAP rule does not apply to just about every county and township road in Ohio.

As this graphic by Keri Caffrey of Cycling Savvy depicts, even a lane as wide as fourteen feet is TOO NARROW to be shared by a cyclist with passing vehicles, side by side, within the lane.

 

In many areas, unfortunately, police do not realize the impact of 4511.55(C) and will demand that cyclists become “gutter bunnies” and hug the white line.  The cyclist has very good reasons for NOT wanting to be far right.

First, hugging the white line sends a visual cue to cars and trucks coming up from behind that there just might be enough room to pass between the cyclist’s elbow and the white line. This sets up a very close, dangerous passing situation. Moving into the middle of the lane encourages those passing to change lanes to pass while providing the cyclist with space to the right if something goes wrong and the cyclist must make an evasive maneuver. Often, county & township roads have little or no berm/shoulder, and may have a steep drop or ditch or fence close to the edge of the roadway.

Second, the cyclist who is out into the lane is far more “conspicuous” than the cyclist hugging the white line. The cyclist in the middle of lane is “perceived” by the motorist at a much greater distance, allowing the motorist more time to concoct a plan for getting around the cyclist safely.

Third, the cyclist who is in the lane is more conspicuous to those coming towards the cyclist from the opposite direction who may be intending to turn across the cyclist’s path into a driveway or onto an intersecting road. Being more conspicuous allows the motorist to perceive the cyclist earlier in the game, and make better decisions about when to start the turn.

Fourth, a lane position towards the middle of the lane makes the cyclist more conspicuous to those who may be pulling out of driveways or cross streets.

So… back to Granger Township… WHAT is going on there?

They do NOT understand the Bike Laws of Ohio.

They apparently do NOT  understand they are responsible for the “Safety” of ALL road users, not just those with their head down looking at their texts or updating their blogs…

 


Helmets and Helmet Laws- Should MOTORISTS Be Required to Wear Them?

Carlton Reid nails it here, in his new piece in Forbes called “I Don’t Wear A Bicycle Helmet.”

“Let me qualify that headline: I do wear a helmet when mountain biking. But I don’t wear one when the sidewalk is icy – yet I could slip when walking and split my skull.I do not don my bike helmet when I jump in the shower, despite the fact falling and hitting my head while covered in suds is far riskier than you might think.Scooping leaves out of high gutters requires a ladder climb, and is decidedly dicy, but before I ascend to the residential roof I do not strap on a lid.Why do I do all of these dangerous things without even giving a passing thought to protecting my brainbox with a helmet, yet I am said by some to be naked if I ride my bike without one? It’s illogical.”

I don’t care what you decide to do. Wear one – don’t wear one.

It’s YOUR job to be personally responsible for your own safety. It’s OK if you do… it’s OK if you don’t… I won’t shame you either way.

NOBODY should be shaming anyone for ANY thing they use or wear on their bikes… JUST RIDE THE DANG BIKE…

100s of millions of people ride bikes in the USA… EVERY DAY…,  MANY do not wear helmets. 99.9+% of those rides do not result in death or maiming or head injury …

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Emily Gagnon – After Her Killer Manages To “Seal” The Record

Emily Gagnon was a 21 year old woman from Holliston, Mass. In 2013 she left Holliston for a solo cross country bicycle trip. She was riding to raise money to benefit people who have MS. On September 23, 2013, at 7:20 pm, Emily was killed when motorist Lynne Smith smashed into Emily from behind on State Route 163 near the quaint Lake Erie town of Port Clinton, Ohio. Smith claimed she “couldn’t see” Emily because the setting sun was in her eyes…

Smith was charged under Ohio’s Vehicular Homicide statutes. She cut a deal with prosecutors in which she plead No Contest to Vehicular Manslaughter, a second degree misdemeanor under Ohio law. Smith was found guilty and given the max sentence- 90 days in jail, fine, license suspension. Judge Hany did not order ANY jail time – rather he held that over her head in the event she did anything else wrong. So she got, in essence, two years of being able to do whatever she wanted to do without restriction so long as she kept her nose clean & stayed out of trouble.

Fast forward two years… To her credit, Lynn Smith kept her nose clean and stayed out of trouble. The Court determined that she had “paid her debt to society” and terminated her criminal case.

Now… this is NOT a post about lousy driving, criminal laws with no teeth, crappy sentences for convicted killers or stupid motorist excuses like “I was driving west, towards the setting sun and I couldn’t see… but I kept moving a dangerous two ton machine forward at 50mph…

No… that’s all for another day…

Rather, this is a post about hiding criminal records… specifically Lynne Smith’s criminal record. You see, in June 2018 Lynne Smith filed a Petition to Seal the record of her conviction – to box it up, shutter it up, pull it off the InterBlawg, and hide it from everyone that she was a convicted killer!

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ROAD RAGE – Personal & Professional Consequences

Sometimes very ugly behavior by a motorist DOES have consequences…personal and professional.

In 2015 a Columbus cyclist was riding along. From his testimony, he was riding to the right of a line of cars stopped by a garage truck.  This apparently enraged a motorist who was stuck in line. The cyclist testified that he made a turn, and the motorist followed him, passed him VERY closely and then slammed on the brakes in a classic “brake check” maneuver, causing the cyclist to hit the back of the big black Mercedes.  The Mercedes driver recalled it differently, claiming the cyclist smacked his car while passing on the right and suggesting that he followed the cyclist because he thought his car was damaged. He claimed the cyclist intentionally ran into the back of the car.

… and THEN… it got crazy…

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Negligently Designed Infrastructure- Can you “Sue The State” or City?

In Portland Oregon a cyclist was hit by a car at 60 mph! He lived, but suffered very serious injuries, incurring medical bills in excess of $350,000.
 
Not surprisingly, he sued the driver. However, because he hired a law firm that really looks hard at bicycle cases, a couple of additional claims were filed against the City of Portland and the State of Oregon.
 
Jim Coon, who is a partner with long time cycling lawyer Ray Thomas, sued the City and State alleging that the design of the bike infrastructure was part of the cause of the crash. Those in the bike lane must cross over an area of roadway which is set at 45mph, but at which traffic routinely travels 50-60 mph. Here the cyclist claims that he looked back and saw a truck- he estimated that he had enough time/room to cut over the lane… however, the defendant zoomed around and passed the truck, and slammed into the cyclist.
These photos, from the Oregon Live page, show a bit of the problem…

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Sun Glare? Can’t See? Kill A Kid? NO PROBLEM- at least in New Philadelphia, Ohio

On his last day alive on planet Earth 12 year old William Logan Morris chose to ride his bicycle along County Road 52 near New Philadelphia, Ohio on a cold, crisp sunny December afternoon. He was riding southwest along County Road 52 around 4:15pm on December 14, 2017.  This road, in Tuscarawas County, is a typical Ohio country road… two- lane,  asphalt – narrow lane [looks like about 10′ lanes from the crash report] – there was a  centerline present but no edge lines – no real “berm” other than dirt.

The crash report says it was 25 degrees – visibility was “10 Miles” – so a nice bright sunny…er… well… the report says “95% Cloud Cover”- but let’s assume it’s bright and sunny… Sunset that day was 5pm, so the crash was well within the daylight hours…

William Morris was killed around 4:15pm that day when a huge Dodge Ram 1500 truck driven by 41 year old Troy Dalpiaz slammed into him from behind.

As young William Morris was riding on County Road 52 he was likely unaware that Mr. Dalpiaz was hurtling towards him from behind at 40-45 mph and “couldn’t see” him. Children tend to believe the best in us – they trust adults to do the right thing.  I would bet that William Morris never dreamed that anyone would be stupid enough to drive a big truck down the road if they “couldn’t see” what was in front of them.

Mr. Dalpiaz was driving the 2+ ton truck down the road at, he claims, 40-45 mph… I say “he claims” because the posted speed here is 55 mph and few folks go flying down these open country roads while driving 10 mph below… but hey… let’s give him the benefit of the doubt…

Sunset on December 14, 2017 was at 5pm… so … Surprise … Surprise – the sun was setting in the west 40-45 minutes before sunset… Mr. Dalpiaz was driving “southwest” so towards the setting sun… So Surprise Surprise… there was sunshine coming into Mr. Dalpiaz’s front windshield. “Sun Glare” as the prosecutor noted… made visibility difficult, if not impossible.

Mr. Dalpiaz wisely chose to not drive into the sun when he couldn’t see anything in front of him …er … kept on driving forward at 45 mph in a 2 ton pickup truck – even though he couldn’t see …

In fact he told the Ohio State Highway Patrol after he killed William Morris that he couldn’t see… he never saw young William Morris before he slammed into him with the right side of the truck… in fact, it appears that he never saw ANYTHING for ” FIVE TO SIX SECONDS” prior to the crash… he was just driving along on Hopes & Prayers I guess…

Sadly… the prosecutor here felt these facts were not enough to charge the driver of the truck with ANY sort of crime at all…

 

 

 

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HAPPY BIKE MONTH 2018!!!

Here we go – Midnight on May 1- the start of Bike Month 2018.

Amazingly, in Ohio we have had Zero Fatalities in January – February -March – April 2018 so far as I can tell.

Now, we’ve had really crappy weather too – cold and wet and snowy here for much of the time – but the Good Stuff is coming now…so LET’S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE and Have a:

HAPPY 
BIKE
MONTH
& HAVE
FUN!

 

 

 


Among the “WORST” States for Hit/Run – Ohio?!?

“Ohio One of the Worst States for Hit/Run”
Big headline from Columbus TV station… but.. wait… what about… the…  facts?
 
Ohio had 61 hit/run crashes involving at least 1 death in 2016…that’s a horrible thing, and a horrible number. For Ohio, that’s a BIG number… 61 represents a BIG jump from the prior year when we had 42, and from the prior 10 yr average of 37.2.  However, Ohio’s numbers for 10 years have run the gamut from a low of 30 to 2016’s high of 61 – which states are really the “WORST” though?

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Where In the Heck Are We Supposed to RIDE??

Very nice article by CO bike lawyer Megan Hottman analyzing Colorado’s version of O.R.C. Sec. 4511.55 in Ohio – the “Where in the heck are cyclists supposed to ride” statute…
http://www.roadbikereview.com/…/how-far-to-the-right-should…

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The “Right To Travel”

A very interesting decision came out of Ohio’s First Appellate District [Cincinnati/Hamilton County] the other day.

Blue Ash, Ohio has a local “toy vehicle” ordinance that says:
“No person on roller skates or riding in or by any means of any sled, toy vehicle, skateboard or similar device shall be permitted on any street, highway or public lot unless the same is designated and marked as a ‘play street’ or ‘play lot.’ ” Blue Ash Code of Ordinances 311.03(a).

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