Information on safe cycling in Florida

Don't ride without a helmet.
Don't ride against the traffic.
Always have a light front and rear at night
Courteousness to pedestrians on sidewalks.
Always carry your cell phone and ID with you on rides.
Ride with a buddy.
Wear cycling gloves.
Hydrate on those hot Florida days
Sunscreen on your arms and the back of your neck!!
Sunglasses to protect your sclera from nasty sun scarring.
Put air in your tires before your ride- saves your energy.
On long rides: drink before you're thirsty, snack before your hungry.
Don't trust that the driver sees you- s/he doesn't. Eye contact does not mean s/he won't run you over.
Don't ride drunk unless you are the back of tandem-You will get a ticket.
If the traffic is rush hour, stay on the sidewalk- cell phones can kill.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tricycles, tricycles, trycycles! This is not your grandpa's three wheeler.

Tricycle Safety
     While researching for an injury case, I discovered this is a first article on tricycles in the FBA News. Trikes are becoming more popular because the new ones are pretty cool.  Okay, really cool.  I am sure you remember the heavy, angle iron three wheelers known to sport about in retirement communities.  Not these- wow! Check out www.Catrike.com, http://www.tridenttrikes.com/index.htm, http://www.evolvetrikes.com, www.TerraTrike.com  (All American engineered and manufactured) www.ICEtrikes.com  (British) http://www.hpvelotechnik.com  (German) www.greenspeed.com.au (Australian).  There are other reasons: my riding buddy who has a ceramic hip replacement (and can’t risk falling on the new hip), not having to get out of your of traps before you stop (and fall over), no pain constantly holding your neck up to see, your upper torso weight isn’t born on your wrists and hands, you don’t lose contact with “favorite body parts” from compression of the perineal nerve and local arteries by the typical hard little seat, etc.

  There are, however, special consideration with these  machines.  For whatever reason you chose to ride, there' are a host of legal/safety/human factors you must consider:

    Pros:
    The newer recumbent models have substantially lower centers of gravity, so they don’t suffer from an upright trike’s instability. 
Great visibility: The normal position on a trike is your head upright.  You have the full 120 degrees of field of peripheral vision a human has when walking.  

    Cons:
Center of Gravity
    If you have the traditional upright seat trike, you have a  higher center of gravity and are unstable.  There's an alarming article in the Journal of Trauma from 1986 (J Trauma. 1986 Jul;26(7):643-8) unflatteringly titled:  The three wheeler (adult tricycle): an unstable dangerous machine." Upright trikes drivers are aware of G-forces in extreme turns which can  empty the rider into the roadway and a motorist’s path.  The new recumbents solve this instability problem, but presents new ones.
Lower to the ground
    In a recumbent trike, you're lower.  While I am preaching to the choir when I say “motorists don’t’ see us,” imagine sitting 4 inches off the road- you are  below the hood of cars in busy traffic.  And this magnifies the pre-existing problem with motorists: There’s no expectation you are there.  Even with the best  visibility we are still invisible.  The common reaction I see in the cases after “What the hell were you doing on the road?” is “How was I supposed to know the trike was there.”  To protect yourself, assume visibility is your job. 
“Wide Load” designation?
    Both types of trikes have a wider footprint.  As you know, human powered vehicles are supposed to stay as close as practicable to the right side of the road (with exceptions).  So for a two we’re about 28'-36" wide.  If car comes too close to a two wheeler, it will hit the hip or elbow or handlebar and knock you to the side.  With a trike that car contact is likely to a left  wheel.  What happens after that is a guess based physics and engineering of your steering mechanism.   Be visible at any cost....
Imperial Lightsavers
    You will do well to have red rear lights and I do mean lights. REAL LIGHTS.  One, to use and one for the one that will fail you.  Keep both running simultaneously even during the day.  Spend some money on those lights folks, this is to your to save your life.  
Dorks Alive!
    The next of course is the flag.   I am sorry you feel you look like a dork.  I do not care, because, you will be an alive dork.  So, get creative -  high viz orange and yellow that flap easily stripe the pole and put a flashing lit on that. Why not put some truck nuts on your backseat or axle?
Flexion/extension injuries
    With that trike, your head is almost directly in line with bumpers, so lots of kinetic energy with an impact.   Beyond a good helmet, be aware your neck is supporting your head and that head weighs between 8-12 pounds.  Make sure the trike’s head support is as close as possible to the back of your helmet and doesn’t allow much distance backwards.  The If you get struck and your head snaps back, it’s can be the mechanism of a serious connective tissue injury.  Keep it straight until you turn
    Anticipating a turn is one of the oldest mistakes motorists makes.  In defensive driving classes, they teach“Don’t turn your wheels until you being your turn.”   That is, having your wheels turned in the direction of your next turn while waiting for the traffic to clear.   In a trike this is a problem as well.  If, indeed, you are hit from behind and the initial impact doesn’t damage your rear wheel(s) (say a 5 mph impact) and they still roll, if your front wheel(s) are turned it could propel you into a heavy traffic lane with higher speed .  Keep your wheels straight at all times, unless you are making the turn.
.....And Tell the other vehicle you ARE...
    Signaling may be harder.  Many of the trikes have two stick control but you still need to signal your intentions stopping or turning (Florida Statutes 316.155(1)).  Make sure your hand is visible and it’s very obvious what you are indicating.  Do it Michael Jackson style, get a special high viz yellow glove for your left hand. 
And of course, the nagging, nagging, nagging. 
    Finally, about those tickets.  From personal experiences I hear, the police are more inclined to give trikes tickets.  It seems the more wheels you have the more you are like a car.  So, like I have always advised when I give talks to bicycle clubs, obey the law.  “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with”  ©. 
While researching this I discovered this is a first article on tricycles in the FBA News. Trikes are becoming more popular because the new ones are PFC. Check out www.Catrike.com, http://www.tridenttrikes.com/index.htm, http://www.evolvetrikes.com, www.TerraTrike.com  (All American engineered and manufactured) www.ICEtrikes.com  (British) http://www.hpvelotechnik.com  (German) www.greenspeed.com.au (Australian).  There are other reasons: my riding buddy who has a ceramic hip replacement (and can’t risk falling on the new hip), not having to get out of your of traps before you stop (and fall over), no pain constantly holding your neck up to see, your upper torso weight isn’t born on your wrists and hands, you don’t lose contact with “favorite body parts” from compression of the perineal nerve and local arteries by the typical hard little seat, etc.
    There are, however, special consideration with these  machines.  For whatever reason you chose to ride, there' are a host of legal/safety/human factors you must consider:
    Pros:
    The newer recumbent models have substantially lower centers of gravity, so they don’t suffer from an upright trike’s instability. 
Great visibility: The normal position on a trike is your head upright.  You have the full 120 degrees of field of peripheral vision a human has when walking.  

    Cons:
Center of Gravity
    If you have the traditional upright seat trike, you have a  higher center of gravity and are unstable.  There's an alarming article in the Journal of Trauma from 1986 (J Trauma. 1986 Jul;26(7):643-8) unflatteringly titled:  The three wheeler (adult tricycle): an unstable dangerous machine." Upright trikes drivers are aware of G-forces in extreme turns which can  empty the rider into the roadway and a motorist’s path.  The new recumbents solve this instability problem, but presents new ones.
Lower to the ground
    In a recumbent trike, you're lower.  While I am preaching to the choir when I say “motorists don’t’ see us,” imagine sitting 4 inches off the road- you are  below the hood of cars in busy traffic.  And this magnifies the pre-existing problem with motorists: There’s no expectation you are there.  Even with the best  visibility we are still invisible.  The common reaction I see in the cases after “What the hell were you doing on the road?” is “How was I supposed to know the trike was there.”  To protect yourself, assume visibility is your job. 
“Wide Load” designation?
    Both types of trikes have a wider footprint.  As you know, human powered vehicles are supposed to stay as close as practicable to the right side of the road (with exceptions).  So for a two we’re about 28'-36" wide.  If car comes too close to a two wheeler, it will hit the hip or elbow or handlebar and knock you to the side.  With a trike that car contact is likely to a left  wheel.  What happens after that is a guess based physics and engineering of your steering mechanism.   Be visible at any cost....
Imperial Lightsavers
    You will do well to have red rear lights and I do mean lights.   One, to use and one for the one that will fail you.  Keep both running simultaneously even during the day.  Spend some money on those lights folks, this is to your to save your life.  
Dorks Alive!
    The next of course is the flag.   I am sorry you feel you look like a dork.  I do not care, because, you will be an alive dork.  So, get creative -  high viz orange and yellow that flap easily stripe the pole and put a flashing lit on that. Why not put some truck nuts on your backseat or axle?
Flexion/extension injuries
    With that trike, your head is almost directly in line with bumpers, so lots of kinetic energy with an impact.   Beyond a good helmet, be aware your neck is supporting your head and that head weighs between 8-12 pounds.  Make sure the trike’s head support is as close as possible to the back of your helmet and doesn’t allow much distance backwards.  The If you get struck and your head snaps back, it’s can be the mechanism of a serious connective tissue injury.  Keep it straight until you turn
    Anticipating a turn is one of the oldest mistakes motorists makes.  In defensive driving classes, they teach“Don’t turn your wheels until you being your turn.”   That is, having your wheels turned in the direction of your next turn while waiting for the traffic to clear.   In a trike this is a problem as well.  If, indeed, you are hit from behind and the initial impact doesn’t damage your rear wheel(s) (say a 5 mph impact) and they still roll, if your front wheel(s) are turned it could propel you into a heavy traffic lane with higher speed .  Keep your wheels straight at all times, unless you are making the turn.
.....And Tell the other vehicle you ARE...
    Signaling may be harder.  Many of the trikes have two stick control but you still need to signal your intentions stopping or turning (Florida Statutes 316.155(1)).  Make sure your hand is visible and it’s very obvious what you are indicating.  Do it Michael Jackson style, get a special high viz yellow glove for your left hand. 
And of course, the nagging, nagging, nagging. 
    Finally, about those tickets.  From personal experiences I hear, the police are more inclined to give trikes tickets.  It seems the more wheels you have the more you are like a car.  So, like I have always advised when I give talks to bicycle clubs, obey the law.  “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with”  ©. 
"Vulnerable User" Laws- It's time    before another bicyclist is killed

I was asked to write about vulnerable user laws this month by a reader. 

To gain some perspective, let’s say you are helping set up the wedding reception for the sister of a friend whose family is wealthy, your friend gives you a bottle of wine and saeys: “Please carry this to the table over there.”  You wade through the chairs and tables,  put it down and come back.  Then your friend says: “Please take this one over, but be extra careful with this one.  This is a vintage 1767 bottle of wine bottled by Thomas Jefferson which my grandfather paid 1.75 million dollars at auction.”  How careful are you carrying that bottle?  Both bottles have wine, so what’s the difference in consequences?

Busy mom is driving errands with a child in a car seat, a cell phone in a Hyundai SUV A motor vehicle (MV) approaching an intersection.  Approaching the same intersection are bicyclists pedaling on the road.  There is also walker waiting at the pedestrian crossing, a rider on horseback and two roller bladers in the multi use lane nearby.  There is also a handicapped person in a motorized wheelchair also coming to the intersection.   At the previous light  mom started a text and kept on texting.  She's waiting for a reply.  As she approaches the intersection, she gets hears a text come in and then her phone rings.  It may be her boss.  About this time her child starts screaming bloody murder in the back.  And the light changes yellow to red as she turns to looks at what is causing her child's temper tantrum.....

On the road enter the crosswalk, with the right of way, in front of her speeding SUV is a 1767 bottle of wine bottled by Thomas Jefferson. 

You know if she rear-ends a car she gets a ticket and her insurance pays.  She may or may not injure the occupant, they are surrounded by a steel cocoon.  Now, if she hits one of the people not surrounded by a steel cocoon (the bicyclist, etc.), mom gets same deal: ticket and call the insurance company.  Though the one of those vulnerable road users may get catastrophically hurt, lose or impair a significant bodily function, be permanently disfigured, off work for two months and the bike for six months....it’s still only a ticket and a insurance hike but, it’s still no "skin off her nose."  Here’s the kicker.... what if the woman (like so many drivers in Duval, Dade, Pasco, Collier and Escambia county drivers and the working poor) does not have bodily injury coverage to pay for the medical bills, physical injury, lost work, pain, mental anguish loss of enjoyment of life of those not in steel cocoons- bicyclists and pedestrians.  What’s that? No insurance if she hurts someone? Holy Guacamole! What?  Yes, here in the land that can’t count votes, the legislature in its finite wisdom, again this year has not made bodily insurance required of those driving the deadly weapons we cyclists know as cars, trucks and motorcycles.

So, where were we?  Oh, yeah.  Vulnerable user law.  
What if...... it were like a hate crime?  A crime against a specific class of people that were deserving of higher protection because of vulnerability?    What if the law recognized that those folks at the intersection were vulnerable and the SUV driver was on notice that hitting one of them would  carry repercussions that carried onto her bank account and affect her life as permanently as it affected the vulnerable user’s live? Beyond “feeling awful,”  a $185.00 ticket and insurance premium hike. Or what about criminal penalties?  Down to the jail, kid off to husband/boyfriend and she has to post bail?  Think that possibility might get Florida drivers to pay attention to vulnerable users on the road? 
                       
That’s what vulnerable user laws do.  It is a recognition that road users who don’t have steel cocoons around them are vulnerable.  In Europe they have these. Ah, yes.  Europe.  Cycling heaven.... But wait....  Oregon, Illinois, Delaware, Washington State, and New York also have these statutes. Whoa.  Here in the States? Are there legislatures and governors who really care?  Wow. 

Wait a minute... Florida has a legislature and a governor.   Can you even think of a state which needs it more than Florida ?  

So, how do we get the message to the SUV mom or the people who buzz us inches away yelling epithets, or criminals that come at us head on in our lane because merely because we are using the roads?   Vulnerable user laws.  Why not make hitting a vulnerable user have direct financial penalties of say $15,000.  Paid not from the insurance company but directly from the bad, distracted or vindictive driver?  Let's say the fine is due to the State of Florida and goes into bicycle infrastructure fundHow about a suspension of driver's license for a year? Maybe even a criminal penalty of six months in jail?  Do you think faced with that fine and license suspension that busy momma may leave the phone in her purse? Do you think the jerks that buzz us will think twice before assaulting us with those deadly weapons? (In Florida motor vehicles hold the same legal class as a gun- a "dangerous instrumentality.")






Seriously.  It's time.  In Florida we have lost cancer researchers, doctors, veterinarians, business leaders, CEOs, writers, math teachers, dad's, grandfathers, grandmothers, mom's, children, sisters and brothers.  These are literally the pillars of our community.  They were slaughtered because vehilce drivers do not face any criminal penalties or fines or consequences.   The police just don't ticket them.  Do we have to keep up the slaughter of bicyclist for the sake of treating vehicles like entertainment centers, childcare facilities or phone and text centers?   Enough.  Driver's need to have the sword of Damocles hanging over their very lives to take killing cyclists seriously. 

The League of American Bicyclist has a model law posted on its website.  http://www.bikeleague.org/action/bikelaws/modellaws.php This would work in Florida.

So you dear reader,  go to the League's website and print a copy of the law.  Write a letter to your representative and ask him or her for an appointment time when you can come in and talk to him or her.  Then take the law with you, go meet them and ask him or her to submit this filed in the Senate or House.  The bills have to be filed in Tallahassee by August 31, 2014 for next years session.  We don't have time to wait.  If you ride or love someone who rides, you may be next victim of Florida's slaughter of bicyclists.  It’s time for Florida bring home to motorists a real  threat of personal financial or criminal consequence for hitting us bicyclists.

Do it.   
http://www.bikeleague.org/action/bikelaws/modellaws.php

http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/FileStores/Web/HouseContent/Approved/ClerksOffice/HouseDirectory.pdf

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FloridaBicycleLaw.com Donates $2,000 to Tampa Police Dept for "3 Feet" Window Decals

FloridaBicycleLaw.com in the news with Tampa Chief of Police and Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Weird how it is.   You see an idea and follow up on it.
I was driving in a suburb patrolled by a Tampa Police Department cruiser.  the the back I saw this:

 So, I called up Alan Snel of Southwest Bicycle United Dealers (SWFBUD) and said: "Hey, what are those doing on the cruiser?"  He explained that about 50 of the 400 cruisers Tmpa Police Department had these stickers on them.  I said: "How do we get the rest of them covered with stickers?"  He said he is good friends with the Chief, Jane Castor, and that he'd ask her.  Well, he asked and Chief Castor was glad to get a donation of money for the more of the cruisers to get the stickers on them.  So FloridaBicycleLaw.com and SWFBUD had a ceremony (complete with BIG check) with Chief Castor and Mayor Bob Buckhorn to donate money for the stickers for more stickers on the back of police cruisers.
It got written up:  http://seminoleheights.patch.com/articles/tampa-resident-donates-2-000-to-make-roads-safer-for-bicyclists?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001#youtube_video-9740152

NOW, think of the message the local motorists are getting from the back of these cruisers. Think of the message the police officers are getting from the back of these cruisers as they sit in the garage.  Think of the general public's message.  Wait....... Think of the message to all the delegates from all over the United States at the Republican National Convention when they see the message on Tampa Police cruisers!   Maybe other cities and town leaders will get the message too: bicycle riders have rights!


Now think, if it's going to stop the killing of our fellow cyclists, pretty cheap donation, huh?

Here's the official video from the Tampa Police Department: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKViBcip-T4

Sunday, April 22, 2012

     If you don’t mind I’d like to slip into Medical mode for all you cyclists out here, here’s a discussion that I have with my injured cyclists clients and the parents of young cyclists.
      The human brain weighs approximately 3.0/1.5k pounds. It is sitting in a semi-opaque fluid called cerebral spinal fluid. It is inside your skull surrounded by seven layers of protective tissue and you’re a custom-fitted housing, the cranium (bone).  That skull (which may sound ├╝ber bullet proof) is only (think really carefully about this number) one-ten of an inch (2.945-2.972mm, male/female) thick. That's it.  And your brain is attached to the human body only at its base (with the various veins that flow into nourishing and enriching and taking away the brain activity by-products).  That's it!   The attachment, in its basest analysis, makes the brain like a neural punching bag wobbling back and forth on your brain stem.
      The human body has been essentially unchanged for the last 200,000 years. Two hundred thousand years ago there was no pavement, sidewalks, trucks, trailers, helmets, wheels, houses, buildings, gas tanks, steel, plastic, glass, wire or anything that humans invented in the last 10,000 years. The human body at that time, as it is today, can run, walk approximately 3.1mph/5.0kph miles per hour. The average human can run 12-15 mph/19.3-24.1kph. Those folks ran faster would have exceeded their body design tolerances and injured themselves with any type of fall. Look at it another way and you can see why people who ran faster than 12 mph are not in our genetic pool.  So the human body, specifically to our discussion the skull,  evolved to tolerate speeds less than the fastest the body could run.  You run faster you are going to get hurt.  Your body isn’t designed to go that fast.
      One alarming thing about our bodies’ design: if you were standing completely upright and were to lose all motor control and collapse to the ground from an average height, let’s say 5'9 inches/.5'4" [average man/woman], you would injure yourself, including your brain pretty seriously. So humans that pass out spontaneously, are also not in our genetic pool.
Look at where all the cool stuff is that  you do is located:
     Let’s talk about hurting the brain.   Back to the “coup-contrecoup.” When the brain wobbles, it collides with the inside of your skull.  There’s name for the injury to the brain from this internal trauma of the punching bag: “coup-contrecoup.”  This is a bad thing.  Trauma front, back or sides is going to cause your brain to experience trauma with coup-contrecoup, and will damage the neural cells bodies, the sheath coating the connections between the cells, or the connection or  cause blood vessels to burst also resulting in brain damage.  And this is without fracturing your skull.  So if you were not genetically designed to not pass out, you’d fall and chances are, sooner or later, injure your brain, maybe pretty bad.
      So, you are designed to no pass out and not run faster than your body can tolerate.  All of this leads can lead us to the following conclusion: if you are riding a bicycle taller than your body and you are proceeding faster than the human body is designed to withstand you have all the necessary forces for, in engineering speak: exceeding your design tolerance specs. Which means you can end up breaking your cranium, your skull, should your cranium come in contact with the objects that were not around 200,000 years ago at a speed your one-tenth of an inch skull isn’t designed to handle.
      From my clients over the past 26 years of doing personal injury I know breaking your cranium can result in cerebral spinal fluid leaking out of your ear, leaking out of any cracks in your skull. But, that’s not all that would be leaking out. Once the tissue is damaged, it’s ripped, so blood would also “leaks” out too. Or the blood might even stay in your brain, which is actually a bad thing, a very bad thing.  Blood, as neurosurgeons will tell you, is a toxic substance to neural  tissue, especially brain cells, all brain cells.  Sufficient blood leakage on the brain as we know from stroke victims (where blood vessels break in the brain), results in loss of function, palsy, memory, sensory (think -loss of sight, smell, hearing).
      Why I am I discussing this?  I’ll tell you, but first, answer this for me please: Where do you think your sense of humor is located?  Where do you think memories of learning to ride a bike are?  your significant other’s phone number is stored, the combination to your bike lock, your underwear size, how much milk you have in the refrigerator is?  Where do you thing your preference for your color, style of clothes, favorite food, your personality, decision making skills, your language skills, your memories, your hearing abilities, your visual abilities, your ability to walk, your ability to not defecate or urinate on yourself, to move your eyes, to keep your eyes open, to hear.  Where’s that located?  Your brain.
     Look where all the stuff you do is located: 





     As a back drop to this discussion, keep in mind (pun not intended) your brain is where all this sits. “But that is not all” said the cat in the hat, that is not all: Everything that makes you you, your personality, your accent, your self control, your vocabulary, your likes and dislikes, favorite movie, favorite sights, sounds and feels, are housed in that very delicate tissue and that very delicate structure on essentially punching bag design. That very structure which you are propelling along at more than the speed than your human body was designed to tolerate......
      This all brings me to my point: wear your helmet properly. “Ah,” you say, “I wear my helmet!” Really? Ask yourself this $25,000 question: is it properly worn? Here’s story that happened four weeks ago.  A riding buddy companion relayed to me the case of a cyclist who went off pavement and reentered trail incorrectly falling over onto the pavement’s shoulder. He had a helmet on, however.  His injuries? Well, according to my friend, there was a pool of blood which occupied half of the trail of about 10 feet's width. The cyclist was unconscious and did not know who he was other than a guy in intense pain. Paramedics, not just EMTs were called and drove the big truck onto the trail some three miles in to pick him up and rush him to the emergency department.  Three weeks later, when I saw this very same cyclist  after the incident.  He said he had sustained three fracture sites in the orbital bones just above his left eye, (right where his helmet was supposed to have been) a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury).  What he didn't know (that I did because I see the bills for these types of injuries) was what his hospital bill was like: on the average $25,000 to 50,000 for a brain injury. What struck me was that he had had his helmet on, however when I saw he had an inch and a half gap from the bottom of his chin to where the strap was: the strap was not tight enough to have kept his helmet in place. It didn't keep the helmet where it could so it could have protected him. I pointed this out to him and told him he’d get to repeat that experience again if he didn’t tighten up.
      Keep all this in mind next time you put on your helmet: “Do the tighten up” Like Archie Bell and the Dells of Houston Texas.  If it’s not tightened, it’s not going to work; it will move out of the way as you fall. If it doesn’t work, your brain is at risk. If your brain is at risk, your personality, your memories and the ability to keep yourself from defecating on yourself are at risk. Have a nice day!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ticket for "blowing" a stop sign? Whaaaaa?!?!?!?

I received the following question to me on the Florida Bicycle Law.com website from a rider in Sanibel Island:

"Dear J. Steele: I was given a ticket for running a stop sign.  On the ticket the officer noted that I had 'run four stop signs' and was giving me a 'warning' for running four previous stop signs.  At these stops most of the 'stop bars' [where the statute requires you to stop] were several feet from the intersecting road and the sign itself, and two of them are at blind turns where you can't even see the traffic at all if you stay at the stop bar.  The statute number I was charged with violating is 316.123(2)(a).  I was locked into the pedals on my bike, but I did stop, only briefly.  I was doing 'track stop.'[the technique called where rider just briefly stops without unlocking and putting my feet down].  At all five signs I stopped, but the nice beach cop wasn't impressed with my explanation.  If she has video, I am not sure it will show my momentary stops.  What do I do?"  Darrel in Sanibel”

My standard answer for most question like this is always "Stop at the stop sign."  It’s the law. We can’t expect cops to enforce the laws against cars  if we don’t obey the laws for bicycles.   And that’s the stop sign law.  However, if you have pedals like my pedals (which are reluctant to let go of my riding shoes resulting in a sore hip occasionally) you don't want to  unlock your shoe and put it down.   And that's the rub here.  The statute says a vehicle drive "shall stop" at the stop bar. 

Now, before we discuss this, keep in mind "stop" is to completely halt your forward movement.  However, the statute doesn't say how long you have to stop.   And there you have the advantage.  A momentary stop, called commonly a "track stop" (track bike's stop) is STILL a stop.

Let me discuss two other legal concepts that come into play.  They are “impeachment” and “opportunity to observe.”  Impeachment is when you attack a witness’ testimony (I saw him smash that car window before the alarm went off) by saying something which calls into question the witness’ ability to have seen the event (“Mr. Jones, this video tape shows you in a store two blocks away when the car alarm went off”).  A witness has to have an “opportunity to observe” to credibly talk about an event.  If the witness was too far away or there were a lot of objects in between, or the perspective or angle of view (“I was across the foot ball stadium and I saw him take her  watch”) a judge will not allow a witness to testify.   That’s the burden of the traffic cop.  They have to be close enough, at the right viewing angle and with no distractions between to testify about something like a traffic stop, especially with a small vehicle like a bicycle. 

How a police officer can credibly testify and overcome the lack of “opportunity to observe” in a motor vehicle stop case is with a visual cue that I call the "dip."   When a car/truck/motorcycle comes to a stop at a stop sign or light, the vehicle weight causes the front of the vehicle to “dip” down, then the shock absorbers or springs brings it back up.  It's this upward movement of the vehicle’s front the officers look for when they are not close enough to judge whether a motor vehicle stops.  While sitting waiting for my client’s turn in traffic hearings when I have represented injured clients during 25 years, I have heard lots of “creative” stories from motor vehicle drivers on the docket in front of me about "how I really did stop judge."  The dispositive question the judge asks the law enforcement to determine the “truth” is:   "Officer/Deputy did you see the vehicle's front go down and up?"  If the officer says "no" the driver is guilty.  Without that evidence and usually, the officer is too far away to really detect a stop. 

With  bicyclists law enforcement doesn't have that visual cue.  Help me here: what could the officer look for?  Your buttocks went forward and back?  I don't' think I'll be hearing that out of a cop.  The cyclist’s body shifted forward and back on the bicycle? Nope.   You don’t have shocks on your road bikes and don’t have the mass to make the front of your bike “dip.”  There's no visual cue. The police officers are grasping for some visual cues to overcome lack of “opportunity to observe” and convict the bicyclist for blowing the stop.  There really aren’t any...other than the ones you provide.

So how to avoid a ticket?....provide a visual cue.  Two suggestions: Keep a foot unlocked from the pedals.  When you come to a stop sign, slow down, put your foot out and touch the ground, just briefly at the stop sign.  Another visual cue is to put your hand down.  Yep, indicate you are stopping with the standard left hand/forearm down to your left side with open palm facing backwards. 

Using these two visual cues, you indicate you are stopping and you  obtain advantage in the argument of "opportunity to observe."  If the officer has video going, who gets to see? The judge or traffic court magistrate.  What does she see?   The video of you, sticking your foot out and indicating you are stopping,  just like the front of your bicycle went down and up.  What does the judge hear from you? “Judge, there’s my foot went out to balance myself judge ...when I stopped..... there’s my hand indicating a stop.”  Just like the front of the motor vehicle dipping and coming up at the stop, you gave a visual indiction you stopped.  There's your visual cue, for the cop and the judge. When it’s your time and the judge/magistrate asks you “did you stop?” Your answer? “Yes, I stopped judge.”  [for extra effect add: “I am a vulnerable user of the roadways and don’t have the protection of a car surrounding me. I always stop.”]  The judge’s ruling?   Bang goes the gavel.  “Not guilty.”  Case dismissed.  (Or at least that’s what should happen.)

Be safe out there.

If you have a question about your legal rights, write me on FloridaBicycleLaw.com. I'll be happy to answer your questions.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is it me or are the local papers noticing the bicyclist blood in the streets too?

As you know I rail monthly in the FloridaBicycleLaw.com newsletter about bicycle crashes and the senseless slaughter of the best of our communities by distracted drivers and those who ignore the laws requiring distance from bicycles.  However recentlyt there have been several editorials on "watch out for bicycles.   On July 2, 2011, Dr. Kurt Lang Frankel, 33 years old,  of Atlanta, Ga.,  a Georgia Tech  professor was eastbound on his $4,000 bright WHITE Scott bicycle wearing a helmet on the shoulder of the highway when he was stuck in the rear and thrown forward off his bicycle by Alexandra Elise Alford, 19 years old, and Ole Miss University student from Miramar Beach, driving her Mercedes.  In response to that a local resident, John Cork, who is a film maker and avid cyclist wrote a wonderful editorial in the local paper.  http://www.thedestinlog.com/news/column-18392-wreckage-reminder.html.  He reflects on the tragedy which is a distracted driver killing a bicyclist.  

Four days later across the state, literally, in St. Augustine a thoughtful editorial by the editorial board of the St. Augustine Record points out how vulnerable bicyclists are, especially visiting bicyclist unfamiliar with the local roads peculiar to a town which is more than 400 years old.
http://staugustine.com/opinions/2011-07-05/our-view-watch-out-those-two-wheelers#.Ti2qjoLcx8E

I am almost not cynical with these two small community papers realizing the treacherous nature of Florida roads and the deadly consequences distracted drivers pose to us bicyclists.    A heart-warming turn.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another example of the misunderstood bicyclist. Recently DOT wanted to spend some money on a bicycle safety campaign. GREAT IDEA! Let's make driver's stop driving distracted. When I got news of it from Alan Snel of SWFBUD, the West Central Florida bicycle advocate, I was pleased there was a move in that direction by the governmental agencies. However, the money appeared to have been given to an ad agency with no bicyclists in it. And weirdly, the agency had been told "Seventy-five percent of all crashes are the fault of cyclists."  I hit the roof when I heard that.  Whaaaaaa?!?!?!?   What stinking orifice did that come out of?  I mean, that's just nuttier than squirrel poo.   

I have been doing this "awhile" and let me tell you, I've talked to lots of riders, read lot's of Traffic Crash Reports and taken hundreds of motorists depositions.  Let's leave it law enforcement doesn't always get the full story. 

Based on this erroneous info, I'll just say the first campaign had a picture of a tank with a cyclists. The caption was... um..... well..... um..... I am really trying to be fair........ un repeatable. Okay, so anyway Alan Snel made voice the concerns of the members of SWFBUD (I am one) and the campaign was changed. To this:

Well....... at least it's focusing on the motorists. I like that! I won't tell you the original caption. At least it tells the motorists cars kill. Wait... everyone knows that.                    
Well, at least motorists know that cars are tanks...Wait, that's silly, the message is missed.
Well, at least it tells motorists that bicyclists can be hurt by cars.... Wait.... that's obvious.
Well,  AT LEAST IT'S A COOL IMAGE. Which is all that can be really said about this
.
Well anyway, I wrote a five (5) page letter to the DOT in no uncertain terms and told them the basis of their first campaign was dead wrong.  For you folks interested, the letter is below and here: DOT ltr 050911

The St. Petersburg Times picked up the "firestorm."  http://www.tampabay.com/news/humaninterest/cyclists-feel-singled-out-in-draft-of-florida-safety-campaign/1175012

We could use the awareness, but sheesh. Talk to a bicyclist about what is going on the road... the motorists are too distracted by radio, CD, DVD, iPad, iPhone, Android, Pre, and kids screaming in the back. 

What do you think?