Nebraska's 3-Foot Law and Why It Matters ...

On July 20, 2016, at around 6:00 am, Jeff was riding his bike on Highway 30 near Sidney, Nebraska.  An avid cyclist and racer, Jeff was familiar with this highway, and he rode it regularly.  He had a red, rear-facing blinky light on his bike.  Jeff is 49, married, and has two sons in their early 20s.  Jeff has been mountain biking since 1988, road cycling since 1999, and began road racing in 2002.  He grew up racing motocross and riding freestyle BMX.  Needless to say, Jeff can handle his bike, and he’s a savvy rider. 

Unbeknownst to Jeff, a semitrailer was approaching him from behind. Although Nebraska has a 3-foot law, the driver did not move over 3 feet, and instead, struck Jeff from behind. 

Local news covered the story (click HERE).  Note the use of the word "accident" and "clipped." This type of reporting is the kind that minimizes these collisions (which are avoidable) and the injuries sustained.  In a crit you "clip" a pedal. But a semi-truck hitting a cyclist?  That's a crash...But, I digress. 

Jeff recalls that moment:  “… I was exploded off of my bike and went rolling through the ditch - I remained conscious through the entire accident. As soon as I was hit, I knew I'd been hit by a vehicle but I did not know what type of vehicle had hit me. I vaguely remember a vehicle coming up behind me; however, I do know that I was riding very close to the white line when I was hit.

Jeff knew immediately his left arm was broken.  A witness stopped and assisted Jeff; the witness happened to be an EMT from Denver and was able to stabilize Jeff’s arm.  EMS arrived, as did the local sheriff’s office. 

The semi-driver, David McKnight, eventually walked over to Jeff.  Jeff recalls, “I remember him saying, "All I did was look down for a second. I'm so sorry."”  At the time, Jeff’s left cycling shoe was nowhere near him, nor was his bike. (His Strava data showed the bike was moved several feet in the ditch post-collision, which was odd).

Jeff was transported by ambulance to the ER in Sidney, and then transferred to the ER in Scottsbluff, NE.  His injuries included: 

•   Mid-shaft fracture of left humerus (upper arm)

•   Muscle atrophy of left long-head bicep

•   S.L.A.P. tear of labrum in left shoulder

•   Deep laceration above left elbow

•   Hairline fracture and sprained right ankle

•   Severe bruising of left hip/leg

•   Deeply bruised left calf/DVT (blood clot)

•   Abrasions on lower back

•   Cuts on head

Mr. McKnight, the semi-driver, works as a commercial driver.  At the time, he was driving for Cash Wa Distributing.  As part of our research and investigation in every case, we pull the at-fault driver’s DMV record.  Imagine our surprise to find this commercial driver, employed to DRIVE LARGE VEHICLES ON PUBLIC ROADWAYS, had an extensive driving violation history.  These infractions include: Improper Passing, Driving on Curb/Sidewalk/Shoulder, Driving during revocation, refusing alcohol test, driving under influence (1st), and driving during suspension (x2) between 1996 and 2016. 

In his traffic/criminal case, Mr. McKnight had to decide whether to plead guilty or not-guilty to the charges filed against him for hitting Jeff.  Mr. McKnight indicated that while he wanted to accept responsibility for his actions, he could not plead guilty because it might impact his employment as a commercial driver (!!).  He was permitted to enter a plea of no contest - in which he accepted the sentence but did not have to say “guilty” on the record.  

As you can see from Jeff’s statement at the hearing, this collision impacted his life and his body tremendously.  Although McKnight seemed remorseful, his actions did not align with his words.  He was charged with driving on shoulder and failure to give a cyclist 3-feet(and fined $25 for each of those charges-which his employer paid).  He also received probation for 12 months to pay restitution, and to take an attitudinal awareness driving course.  It would seem he got off with a slight slap on the wrist.  His restitution remained unpaid until his company’s commercial insurer ultimately paid it.  His company also paid his costs and fines associated with the traffic case. 

Cash Wa Distributing’s insurer, Cincinnati Insurance, the company with whom we reached a settlement on Jeff's behalf, attempted to insert a confidentiality clause in the release that Jeff signed as a condition of the settlement agreement we reached with them.  We refused- because we wanted to let the public know that Cash Wa keeps drivers like McKnight on their books, pays their traffic fines, costs, and their civil case settlements, and despite having extensive driving histories -- continues to employ drivers who hit cyclists on the roadways. 

Enough of that...let’s talk about Jeff.  Jeff invested his time and energy in showing up to every hearing in this case.  He worked SO hard in PT and rehab to get back to being fit and race-ready.  Jeff preached positivity, gratitude and optimism the entire time, start to finish.  He consistently demonstrated grit and resolve. And let me tell you now, just how proud I am of Jeff and his involvement in the traffic case.   When he could easily have blown it off and not gotten involved, he stayed involved and remained involved until the case was fully finished.  I hope you are as inspired by his actions as I am.  I hope if you ever have occasion to show up in a situation, that you do-- because it matters. 

I asked Jeff, now that he can speak publicly about this ordeal, what he would share with other cyclists – what advice would he give, what words of wisdom would he share?  

“My advice to other cyclists is, don’t read my story and quit doing something you are passionate about. I could not wait to get back on my bicycle. It took countless hours of physical therapy, and I now cherish every moment I can be out on the road. Always think: safety first. See and be seen! I now ride with a rear facing red light that has a built in camera that records all of my rides. I wish I had the camera the morning I was hit as the footage would have provided evidence that could have sped up the criminal part of this case. If you are ever involved in a motor vehicle/bicycle crash, DO NOT talk to the driver’s insurance company if they call you. I was contacted two days after my crash while I was on major pain meds. The adjuster was kind and assured me that once I completed treatment, they would reimburse me for all my expenses. Months later, the adjuster twisted words that I had said and tried using them against me in settling property damages. They record those calls, and they are not on your side. You are not required to give them a statement. Do not try to navigate the insurance waters on your own as they are a turbulent nightmare. Hire an attorney like Megan Hottman who specializes in cycling-related cases and can take on that burden for you. That morning in July could have turned out worse...I could have been killed! But God was looking out for me, and He still has me here for a purpose, and I am so thankful for that.”

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A note of thanks to Cheyenne County District Attorney, Jonathon Stellar, who kept us involved and informed as the entire criminal case unfolded.  We greatly appreciate District Attorneys and City Attorneys who let us have meaningful roles in those cases and who give our clients a chance to speak their minds in Court at sentencing hearings.  It really, really matters.  

Jeff is now working with Nebraska law makers to assist them in spreading the message about why their 3-foot law matters, and needs more enforcement.  The law became effective in 2012.  See Nebraska Revised Statute 60-6,133.

Jeff mentions a rear-facing camera with red light in his comments above- I use the same, it's a Cycliq, and it recently captured footage just like this.  I recommend cyclists use them whenever possible: 

Riding with a Camera: ALWAYS a good Idea!

"Typically it's the drivers who hit a cyclist from behind that try to get away from the scene because the cyclist is often not in a position to ID the fleeing driver,” Hottman continues. “Also cars that hit cyclists from behind tend to be traveling at a faster speed, hence the increased need to capture backward-looking footage. Forward footage is good, too, but most cyclists don't have the cash or desire to run two cameras on every ride.”

Check out today's Bicycling Magazine article on this topic! 

http://www.bicycling.com/culture/how-cyclists-can-get-on-bike-video-footage-taken-seriously

 

"I wasn't hit, but I was {harassed/yelled at/honked at/buzzed/menaced/threatened/ ____}... what can I do!?"

The truth is, being harassed, buzzed (passed so closely from behind, that the hair stands up on your arm and neck), yelled at, incessantly honked at, had objects thrown at you (beer bottles and fireworks among the most common), or any other variety of these types of behaviors, is REALLY, REALLY SCARY to a cyclist out riding their bike.  Some days it feels like motorists see a cyclist as the "dog they want to kick" after a bad day - when they take out their life's frustrations and anger and unhappiness on us - as we sit there next to them in the bike lane, or to the right side of their car on the roadway, just trying to get to or from our home or office, just minding our own business ...we are vulnerable and often unaware until the venom is directed our way. And man, is it unsettling.

Does this outweigh our true love and enjoyment of cycling?  HELL NO!  But do we need to discuss this?  Yep!  

At least weekly, I receive a text, email or message, such as the 3 texts below, received from friends within the past few weeks:

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So - what can you do?  Many folks choose to vent their experiences on social media, and while it feels really good to get the support of your community in response, the reality is that these posts don't do anything to solve the actual problem.  Instead, here are my suggestions for actual conduct - actual response - actual behavior - which we hope can begin to curb these behaviors.  At the very least, they serve the purpose of tracking these motorists and notifying authorities, in the event this person ends up threatening or hitting or killing a cyclist in the future.  

Does it take time and effort to report these motorists?  Yes.  Is it time well spent if you felt threatened?  Yes.  Authorities cannot take action with social media posts/vents (and they won't). Save the information below in your phone for future use:

1) Call Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver hotline (or your state's equivalent).  Here, it's *277 (*CSP) on your phone.  The hotline has been approved for use by motorists to report drunk or erratic drivers, AND it's been approved for use by cyclists to report motorist aggression.  They will want license plate numbers, vehicle description, driver description - as much info as you can provide (video or cell phone photos are a bonus!).  

CSP claims that it collects this information and once a driver has been reported 3 times, will visit the driver AND issue a citation where appropriate.  This is something well worth your time.  

2) Call your local law enforcement authority (especially if this happens within a City).  You can simply call 911 if you don't know it, and ask the dispatch to connect you to the local jurisdiction NON-emergent line.  Take the time to give them your statement, all of the information you collected, and they may even ask you to remain on scene so they can come and take your statement in person.  I've seen some local authorities then contact the motorist, if still in the area, or attempt to locate them to have a discussion and/or issue a warning or ticket if they feel it is warranted.  

3) When you get home, visit the Close Call Database, and enter all information in that you can.  This is not a law enforcement website - it is privately run by a cool guy named Ernest, who is doing his best to collect this information, and if you sign up for it (free) via strava, you'll also get notifications when other riders update the database concerning incidents in your area.  The mission is also to gather information about repeat offenders in the hopes that information can then be provided in comprehensive form to law enforcement.  

4) If you do believe that sharing the photos of the vehicle/driver/license plates will serve your social media circles, feel free to post them as a general "heads up" to your friends.  I have seen these posts come full circle, where someone else knew the person in the photos and sometimes those ties result in good outcomes.  (For example the driver is mortified to learn that their boss' best friend saw a post about them harassing a cyclist on FB).  

Finally - you've heard me preach this before, but camera footage makes documenting these incidents even easier, and makes law enforcement's job easier as well, if the video clearly shows the license plates, vehicle, and driver... identification becomes less of an issue and videos don't lie.  Be Proactive.  Don't just vent online.  Make the calls above.  It matters! 

BLOG ADDITION (8/7/17): I sought some input from one of my most trusted law enforcement resources and he's given me permission to share his email here: 

I agree with you Megan. When a cyclist feels threatened, harassed, or endangered they should report it to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction. That itself can be a challenge – municipalities are pretty clear cut – but on roads in the unincorporated areas it could be the Colorado State Patrol or County Sheriff. Every situation is different and the outcome will vary depending on the facts. The more evidence you have the better result of the outcome. In other words if you have video clearly showing the location, vehicle description, license plate, driver, etc. it is much easier for the officer/deputy to take action – whether it be educating the driver, summons, etc. Even if you don’t have video it shouldn’t preclude you from calling – just remember it’s your word against theirs. Just be aware if we do write a summons there is the potential for you to be called as a witness in court. While it is our job to sort through the stories, it can be difficult and/or impossible, to determine the facts in some cases. I can’t promise every deputy or officer will respond in a manner that you want but I can tell you in Boulder County we are working hard to move the needle to reduce the tension (or maybe better said in a Boulder way – increase the harmony) between cyclists and motorists.

Megan mentions the Close Call Database and I encourage you to use it either when you don’t have enough information to file a report or even when you have a police report filed so the data can be collected there as well. Ernest is doing awesome work in this arena and we all need to support it. I’m also aware the City of Boulder has a similar database for reporting close calls. And while posting to social media feels good at the time it is usually not productive in educating the violators. Also key to remember everything you post is eternal.

Now, It sounds like I’m pro-cyclist and you should call on every aggressive motorists right? Well I am a road cyclist but also a motorist. I give the same speech to the motorists about cyclists who violate the law. We are supposed to share the road – so it’s a two way street. I tell motorists to call and report unsafe or illegal cyclists as well. I encourage you to self-police your fellow cyclists when you see them break a law. This weekend I was riding up to Carter and a cyclist blew through the one-way section against a red light. Bad enough, right – but he literally rode past 6 or 7 motorists patiently waiting for the light to turn green. I yelled at him as he went by at 25 mph. What I should have done is follow my own advice, blown off my ride, turn around and catch up to him, and educate him on the damage he just did to our sport.

Thank you for reading.

— Commander Lance Enholm, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office

Cheryl's Story: Conquering fears and inspiring others!

We first met Cheryl in 2012. She was hit by a car while riding her bike, and she hired our firm to represent her.  Following the close of her case, she joined our cycling team, and began racing road races and criteriums.  Unfortunately, she suffered a bad crash last season during a race, and her injuries prompted surgery and a lengthy recovery.

Cheryl is the consummate ambassador, teammate, friend, and source of inspiration.  She reminds us that we can let setbacks keep us down, or we can fight back and turn them into sources of motivation and fuel for our fire- in whatever endeavor we pursue.  Please - enjoy her story!

*With huge thanks to Cheryl, Justin Balog, and the Dirty Kanza! (Click on the image below to enjoy the video!).

Cheryl was hit by a car and injured. Then she healed, tackled bike races, and was injured again. Dirty Kanza provided her the perfect come-back story and goal- watch this, and be inspired.

10 Things I wish I Knew: a Guest Post

10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Cycling

Guest Blog by Tim McAndrew

1.     A good bike fit is worth every penny. Having the wrong set up, even if it’s only off by a few millimeters, can make riding a misery, particularly on longer rides, and can lead to chronic injury and pain. So do yourself a favor: spend the $150-200 to get a proper bike fitting from a reputable bike shop -- your body will thank you later.

2.     Unclip early. Until you master unclipping from your pedals thoughtlessly, a tip that will serve you well is to unclip a foot before you even apply the brakes. This simple exercise will train your brain appropriately and will hopefully keep you from falling straight over at a crowded intersection (and bruising both your body and your dignity).

3.     Bonking sucks. If you’re heading out for a 1-2 hour ride, typically you won’t need to bring any food -- a 16-20oz bottle of water will do you right. However, go out for any longer and you’re going to need to bring along some fuel. This is a lesson you don’t want to learn the hard way because bonking sucks! A good rule for new riders is 100 calories for each 20 mins on the bike. And get into the habit of always bringing a little more than you think you’ll need -- sometimes your body just demands a little more fuel than normal. Worst case is you’ll be the Eagle Scout of your group ride and be able to feed the one dude who forgot to pack enough fuel that day. 

4.     Speaking of Eagle Scouts. Unless you live in a climate where any type/amount of rain will bring utter joy and relief, pack yourself a rain jacket or vest. This is especially true if you’re riding in the mountains or in a damp environment like the UK or the Northwest US. Being able to cover your chest when the rain/temperature falls will protect you from losing critically valuable heat and energy. It will also make the ride significantly less stressful and more enjoyable.

5.     Spend $40 on a chain every 1500 miles. The last thing you want to hear your local wrench say is: “dude, you're gonna need a new chain ring and cassette.” Typically this happens because you’ve ridden with the same chain for so long that it’s stretched and carved shark teeth into those components. By swapping out your chain every 1500 miles or so, you’ll extend the life of your drivetrain by years, save yourself a lot of money, and save a lot of unnecessary time your bike needs to spend in the shop.

6.     Rinse. Lube. Repeat. Like looking after your drivetrain, get in the habit of always wiping down your bike, and especially your chain, after a ride -- it will extend the life of your bike and its parts. For your chain, wipe it down with a lint-free cloth, apply fresh lube, and then wipe off the excess. This will keep your chain shifting smoothly and keep you from being the annoying squeaky wheel on your next group ride.

7.     Group ride etiquette part I: Steady as she goes. When you’re out for a ride with more than yourself, there are some generally accepted group riding rules to follow. The first of these (you can read more here) is that everyone is expected to take a turn at the front, even if it's for a short "pull." When it is your turn, fight back the urge to show everyone how strong you are. Instead, do your best to ride at the same tempo / speed you were riding when you were in the pack. This is especially true if your turn at the front starts at the base of a climb – dropping your friends like this will put you in the doghouse. So, pay attention to your speedometer while you're in the pack and then try to hold that speed steady when it's your turn at the front. Master this skill and you’ll be looked at as a seasoned rider and avoid the bitter scorn and curses of your riding buddies.

8.     Group ride etiquette part II: Point out the shit. Another responsibility when you’re on the front is to point out the hazards in the road to those behind you. This includes rocks, potholes, sticks, debris, gravel, etc.  The way to be a pro at this is by concentrating on what’s ahead of you so you see it early, can gracefully maneuver your bike away from it, and simultaneously use the hand that’s closest to the obstacle to point it out. If you ride alone a lot and only do group rides occasionally you’re going to have to concentrate to remember your role here. And remember, if someone ahead points something out, you too should repeat the gesture so those behind you can avoid the obstacle.

9.     Know Thine Categories. Even if you don't race, understanding the very basics of racing categories helps understanding when others are talking about racing. Someone who races Men's Cat5 or Women's Cat4 is a beginner. This is where ALL racers start. Typically you cannot race at any higher category, regardless of how talented or gifted you are as a racer, without having earned your stripes in the beginner's ranks. Here’s where you learn how to ride in very close proximity to others, get a feel for how a group ebbs and flows, learn the importance of holding a line, and hopefully how to avoid the inevitable crashes that occur. Once you’ve done your time and/or start crushing the field, you’ll be upgrade to Cat4 (Cat3 for women). And from there you begin the march up the ranks until you reach your maximum potential. Who knows, maybe you’re a Cat1 Pro and you don't even know it.

10.  Turn off the Computer. Bike computers are great. They're very useful tools for gauging speed, distance, output, etc. But it's easy to get sucked into becoming a slave to the output from your bike computer, especially with apps like Strava and Training Peaks egging you on. Do yourself a favor, and occasionally turn off the computer and just get on your bike and go for a ride. This can be harder than it sounds when you’ve become a “slave to the device” but when you make the effort to do it, you’ll be rewarded with the joys of why you probably started riding a bike in the first place. So soak it up. Enjoy the scenery. Stop and take a picture. Do whatever it is that makes you one with the bike and revel in it!

... Speaking of pictures, here are some shots of our Century + Triple Bypass (replacement) Ride last Saturday - seriously, you CANNOT argue with the scenery, fun, friendship and memories that long rides with friends provide! (Photo Credit: Megan Hottman, Austin Sholly, Tim McAndrew).

"Love Your Helmet!" - A Guest Post About Denver Commuting

Guest post by Tim McAndrew: One awesome human, cyclist and commuter! 

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"Love your helmet!"

I LOVE hearing those words as I'm commuting by bicycle from Arvada to Denver and back. God knows we cyclists usually hear a lot worse. But not only is it great affirmation that I have a badass looking helmet -- that flashes and signals turns, by the way… -- it's even better knowing that I can be seen. That's my #1 goal when commuting -- being totally visible to motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians.

One could say I look a bit like a Christmas tree when riding my bike. But for the 16 - 27 mile routes that I take, I wouldn't have it any other way. I sport flashing white and red lights attached to the frame. And then I have the lights on my helmet (I ride with them in flashing mode), plus another flashing red on my backpack (when I’m carrying it). And that’s in summer months! In darker months, I add one 1500 lumen light mounted to the handlebars plus another affixed to my helmet. And then for flair, I will sometimes run a spoke light in the front! So yeah, it’d be really hard not to see me wheeling down the street.

I used to be a summertime-only, Bike-to-Work-Day kind of commuter. This was mainly due to the fact that there are no shower facilities at my office and schlepping a backpack back and forth in 95 heat sucked. But I slowly started figuring out how to overcome these minor obstacles. For instance, I’ve become a master at the 5-minute, I’m-taking-over-the-restroom kind of clean up – it’s amazing what some hot water and tea tree oil can do to get you feeling refreshed and smelling good!

But the real key for me in transitioning to a multi-day commuter was actually even simpler: just planning ahead. I found that if I keep towel, washcloth, and toiletries in a spare filing cabinet, and used a small portion of a storage closet to serve as my private armoire and clothes line, I could commute several days in a row! So I just store a couple pairs of slacks, a few shirts, a couple pair of shoes in there, and rotate through them as needed. Then I just shuffle stuff back and forth on days when I drive to/from work. Pretty simple!

That said, in fall, winter and spring, I still usually carry a backpack. Fortunately it’s fairly empty on the way in. But on the way home I usually fill it with the extra gear (heavier gloves, jacket, tights, etc.) I needed to fight off the morning chill/cold. I also stash in there the clear sunglass lenses I use to ride when it’s dark -- I swap to darker lenses for the ride home.

Which brings me to commuting times. I’m lucky enough to have a little flexibility in my schedule so I use that to my full advantage. My normal hours are 8:00-5:00, but on commuting days I work 7:00-4:00. This means leaving the house between 5:30-6:00a, which for all but the months of June and July means I’m usually riding in the dark for at least part of the way.

For me, riding in a little darkness is a great trade off versus riding later with a lot more vehicles on the road. This is definitely more the case in the morning where traffic is almost completely negligible. But it’s true in the afternoon as well. I estimate for each 15 mins I leave after 4:00p, the volume of vehicular traffic increases by 25%. So, yeah, I’ll take the early/dark option every time and twice on Sundays.

One thing that can wreak havoc on a bike commute is the weather. This is especially true here in Colorado where the weather changes lightning fast. So my best friend for commuting is my Weather Underground app. I use WU to check current temps and wind direction/speed of my planned route, and adjust both my route and gear accordingly. For example, there was one day where the temp at the house was 52 and when I hit the low point of my ride along Clear Creek, the temp was 28. So I able to dress appropriately and even altered my route so as not to ride through that low point.

I also use WU to track storm cells and their movements. As anyone who’s lived on the front range knows, once a cell crosses the foothills there’s no telling which direction it will go. But seeing them develop on radar, seeing how they are tracking, and then just looking out the window usually gives me enough info to determine which route I’m gonna take home. There have been days when a cell was right in my planned path, so I’d just adjust my route to skirt around it. But there have also been days when I’ve had no choice and to just grin and bear it. If it’s an exceptionally bad/wide storm, I’ll hang around the office and wait it out. Then make my way home after things have settled. Worst case, I’ll call the cavalry for a ride or even uber it home and leave the bike at work.

Bike commuting can seem daunting. And it’s true there are a lot of things to factor in and consider. But with a little bit of planning and a little bit of experience, it can be easy as pie. And it sure beats the heck out of commuting by car these days. You feel great and energized when you arrive at work, and even better when you get home. So much so, that rewarding yourself with that cold beer on the deck is both refreshing and totally guiltless!

Here’s to your bike commute…cheers!!

#ridemoredriveless

 

Ride on for Red Nose Day: east coast recap

Better late than never, I always say ;)  A few weeks after the west coast trip, we embarked on round two: Boston to NYC (the long way).  The days were a bit bigger in terms of mileage on this trip, and we encountered some rain and chilly temps on day 2.  But it was gorgeous out on the east coast, and we had the honor of closing NASDAQ and celebrating with the folks at Red Nose Day/ Comic Relief/ NBC as Red Nose Day was celebrated nationwide on May 25th!  

Read here to learn more about the impact of Red Nose Day ...  it's powerful, and compelling.  

Riding bikes to raise money for these efforts was REALLY meaningful and fulfilling for all of us.  

Once again - I defer to the incredible videos produced during our ride, as well as the images taken by Meg McMahon, to tell the best story: 

NASDAQ featured our appearance on their TWITTER feed-  so awesome! 

The Bike of Belgium

A guest post, by Justin Balog

I arrived in Ghent Belgium with my bike packed in its travel case, and grabbed a taxi at the train station. While making small talk with the driver, I learned that the local government recently voted to keep the interior of the town free of cars, making the historic cobbled streets of Ghent only accessible to pedestrians and bikes.  

It is a town where commuting is a necessary way of life. After chatting with locals and talking to them about their bikes, I found it is not only necessary, but commuting is the preferred way of life.

Most Belgians have had their commuter bikes for years. Heck, Eddy (72) who I met over a beer, said he's been riding the same bike for 43 years.

Needless to say, then, I spent much of my time wandering the ancient streets of this historic city, documenting these fabled machines.