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.

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

Emilee 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, Emilee was killed when motorist Lynne Smith smashed into Emilee from behind on State Route 163 near the quaint Lake Erie town of Port Clinton, Ohio. Smith claimed she “couldn’t see” Emilee 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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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:





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……/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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Ohio’s 2017 Fatal Bicycle Crashes – A Brief Review

While the Ohio Department of Public Safety [ODPS] does not release its “Crash Facts” until later in the year, we can be fairly certain that all of the fatal bicycle crashes have now been reported. I try to track EVERY fatal bike crash in “real time” – meaning I set my Google Alerts to try to pick up media reports and I rely on folks around the state to send me reports that they see.

I’ve reviewed the preliminary ODPS stats, which reflect a total of 19 cyclists killed in Ohio in 2017. I’ll review each crash after we receive the full and complete report from each crash. We will obtain the report, all photos, all cruiser/body cam videos, all field sketches & measurements, all witness statements and any other data available. We will try to determine exactly what happened adn how the crash might have been avoided. We will try to determine if any criminal charges came out of the crash and what happened in the case.

For now, here’s a brief summary of the crashes.

19 Fatal Crashes

Fault Assigned by Police?

10 – Cyclist at Fault
9  – Motorist At Fault

CYCLIST at Fault

3- Not Visible Dark-No lights
– Darting
– Illegally in Roadway
– Wrong Side of Road
3 – “Other improper action”
–  Failure to Yield


–  Failure to Yield
– Left of Center
5 – Follow too closely
– Ran Red Light
– Ran Stop Sign
-Improper Lane Change

Daylight v. Night?

11 – In the DARK
7- Cyclist at Fault
4 – Motorist At Fault


5 – Hit/Skip
4 – In the DARK
3 – Unsolved
4 – Rear-end Collisions
1- Head-On Collision


16 – Communities with Population < 50,000
3  – Communities with Population > 50,000

Counties in which 2 Cyclists were killed?

 – Hamilton
– Franklin
– Cuyahoga
– Tuscarawas

Date County
1/1/17 Montgomery
1/5/17 Tuscarawas
1/6/17 Franklin
2/6/17 Sandusky
2/16/17 Williams
3/10/17 Jackson
5/22/17 Hamilton
6/2/17 Clark
6/30/17 Cuyahoga
8/8/17 Cuyahoga
8/16/17 Franklin
8/18/17 Wayne
8/19/17 Hamilton
9/27/17 Mercer
10/3/17 Holmes
10/24/17 Lorain
10/27/17 Washington
11/1/17 Coshocton
12/14/17 Tuscarawas


Date Victim Age
1/1/17 Wilbur Vanwey 47
1/5/17 Joseph Yoder 46
1/6/17 Jason Bostic 35
2/6/17 John Parish 60
2/16/17 Keith Brown 57
3/10/17 Benjamin Snyder 15
5/22/17 William Rust 61
6/2/17 Kaden Webb 11
6/30/17 Emmanuel Wen 2
8/8/17 Jesse Parker 36
8/16/17 Joshua Richardson 41
8/18/17 Jeremy Grimm 42
8/19/17 Anthony Grace 44
9/27/17 Nicholas Hemmelgarn 67
10/3/17 Nelson J. Miller 30
10/24/17 Jason A Baird 26
10/27/17 Therea Leigh Fillmon 49
11/1/17 Robert Yoder 14
12/14/17 William L. Morris 12


Emmanuel Wen, the two year old listed above, probably should not be listed as a “cyclist.”  Apparently he was riding on a “Big Wheel” type 3 wheeled “toy” when he left the driveway and got onto Cedar Road where he was struck by a large vehicle.

William Rust was killed by an hit/run motorist who was allegedly using heroin. He was killed near the same place on US 52 that Michael Prater was killed a year earlier… by a hit/run motorist using heroin… who is now serving a 13.5 year prison term. We are still waiting for Steve Sickle, William Rust’s killer, to come to trial. His case is set for “Pleas or Trial Setting” on January 8, 2017.

Nineteen people were killed. Nineteen families grieving… friends… relatives… trying to figure out what happened and why. Nineteen separate crashes – 19  deaths out of the … 40,000… or so … which happened due to something stupid or careless on U.S. roads… I hope we, as a country, society, can start to take traffic safety seriously some day…


CURTILAGE? The NRA & AMA Support a Convicted Criminal? And this relates to Bicycles…how??

Curtilage” – that’s a funny word, eh? To lawyers dealing with fundamental constitutional rights, though, it’s a pretty important word. It’s a word that has recently made for some “strange bedfellows”… as shown in recent US Supreme Court filings.

In Collins v. Virginia the question of whether the search of a motorcycle without a warrant was lawful is the question. Collins was convicted of crimes relating to a stolen motorcycle. He challenged the search. “Amicus curiae” [“friend of the court”] Briefs SUPPORTING the criminal defendant’s claim that the search was illegal were filed by both the NRA and the American Motorcycle Association [AMA]!

The “curtilage” of one’s property is the area immediately surrounding a dwelling house which has been given the same protection under the law as was afforded the house itself. The US Supreme Court has held that the Fourth Amendment protects the curtilage of a house and that the extent of the curtilage is determined by factors that bear upon whether an individual reasonably may expect that the area in question should be treated as the home itself. In essence, Police cannot typically search the “curtilage” of one’s home without a warrant.

Here’s one artist’s interesting view of the 4th Amendment issues surrounding property, curtilage, outbuildings, garbage and the like…

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