Lights Please!

Hey friends, happy fall! Hard to believe it's already November.  We have been so fortunate (unless you're hungry for ski season!) not to have a first freeze or snow just yet, so the leaves have been hanging in there and we have had the glorious opportunity to enjoy those colors even longer this year!  

The time changes this weekend, and with the "fall back," comes darker bike commutes!

On that note, let me address bike lights.  I have been regularly riding to a new local brewery here in Golden (literally- faster to ride than drive there!) and as I've parted ways with my friends in the evenings, they've all commented about my bright bike lights:  

"Oh, I didn't know that bike lights were required!" 

Short answer: Yes, bike lights are mandatory, from sunset to sunrise (Here in CO and in most other states, too).  Specifically, cyclists need a white light on the front and a red reflector (I recommend a light) on the back.  Cyclists also need to be reflective to the sides! (So check those high-viz options or add reflective tape if you are not visible from the sides).  

Here's why this matters:

1) You need to see where you are riding, and what you are riding over!  Riding in the dark, unable to see your path, is not good.  It's dangerous. 

2) Other road users need to see you!  Folks joke about "bike ninjas," as in, those cyclists wearing all dark colors with zero lights or reflective gear, but it's not funny at all.  Cars cannot be expected to avoid cyclists they cannot see.  The law requires cyclists to use lights because as a vehicle, you are expected to be visible at night just like cars are required to use their lights at night.  

*So -Will an officer ticket you if they observe you riding without lights?  Maybe.  The bigger issue is that if you are hit by a car while riding in the dark, and you don't have appropriate lights on your bike/person, you may be considered at fault or partially at fault, even if you were doing everything else right. Don't put yourself at risk! 

Be visible - don't be shy when you buy those bike lights; the money you spend is a very wise investment! I recently purchased a Light & Motion 800 lumen light for the front light -it is AMAZING.  It lights up the entire road- I can see so clearly, AND it is USB-rechargeable so you don't have to deal with batteries.  I also use a frogger (blinky) light on the front as an attention-getter to oncoming traffic.  On the back of my bike, I have a red light (steady mode) and a second one I sent to blinky mode.  My gear  typically has reflective piping on the sides, also.  

The applicable CO statute sections are as follows (most states use very similar language):

§ 42-4-221. Bicycle and personal mobility device equipment

… (2)

Every bicycle, … in use at the times described in section 42-4-204 (see below) shall be equipped with a lamp on the front emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front.

(3)

Every bicycle, … shall be equipped with a red reflector of a type approved by the department, which shall be visible for six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

(4)

Every bicycle, … when in use at the times described in section 42-4-204 shall be equipped with reflective material of sufficient size and reflectivity to be visible from both sides for six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle or, in lieu of such reflective material, with a lighted lamp visible from both sides from a distance of at least five hundred feet.

§ 42-4-204. When lighted lamps are required

(1) Every vehicle upon a highway within this state, between sunset and sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead, shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as required by this article for different classes of vehicles, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles…

Shown here: my front light with a full moon = absolutely the most magical night ride!

5280 - "The Joy of Cycling"

"The Centennial State may be bike-friendly, but Denver? More like bike-lukewarmish. In a state heralded for its cycling culture and recognized as one of the country’s best for bikers (Colorado hasn’t placed lower than seventh on the League of American Bicyclists’ annual rankings since 2011), it’d be logical to assume our largest city is also super bike-friendly. But when you focus the lens on Denver, things get a little wobbly." 

____________________________________________________

Three questions for Boulder [sic] cycling attorney and former World Cup racer Megan Hottman. —AHB

5280: What’s your key piece of advice for drivers? 

Megan Hottman: Give riders as much space as possible. The law requires three feet, but honestly, that’s the minimum. 

How should a cyclist handle a nasty confrontation, or worse, a collision with a motor vehicle?

Engaging with an angry motorist is never a good idea. Instead, call in the incident to local police and add it to the Close Call Database (closecalldatabase.com), a national site that tracks dangerous areas for cyclists as well as repeat offenders. You can also call the Colorado State Patrol aggressive driver hotline at *277. If there’s a collision, call 911. The cyclist needs to stay put where she landed to prevent potential further injury—unless, of course, she is in danger of being run over. Someone should take photos of everything and get the driver’s info and witness info. 

What kind of legal recourse does a cyclist have if she’s been hurt or her bike has been damaged in an accident?

A cyclist who is hit and injured by a motorist can pursue civil claims against the motorist for medical expenses and lost income, as well as broken bicycle equipment. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover the cyclist’s claims, the cyclist may file a UIM (underinsured motorist) claim with her own auto insurer.

Read more of the article HERE !! 

(Note: we corrected them at least three times about the "Boulder" mention - it should say Golden!)

Should Cyclists Ride With Cameras?

Outside Online interviewed Megan and others regarding the pros and cons of cyclists wearing POV cameras while riding.  

"Once camera prices dropped and the technology advanced, they began to make more sense for riders,” says Megan Hottman, an avid rider and racer who has competed professionally and whose Golden, Colorado–based law firm deals exclusively with cycling cases. “These days, you can come home from your ride and quickly download or erase the day’s footage in a couple minutes. It’s become affordable and painless, and that’s why we’re seeing more video footage introduced in cases.”

Ride on Atlanta with People for Bikes

What a rush, what a ride... 

I've just returned home from my second RIDE ON ___ event with People for Bikes:  

  • March 30: Asheville, NC to Charlotte, NC
  • March 31: Charlotte, NC to Greenville, SC
  • April 1: Greenville, SC to Athens, GA
  • April 2: Athens, GA to Atlanta, GA

I joined PFB in 2014 for the Ride on Chicago and this year we made our way into the south, riding from Asheville NC to Atlanta GA. We began as a group of relative strangers; all crazy-passionate about bikes of course - and 4 days and approx 450 miles later, we were one finely-tuned machine of friendship and laughs and 2x2 pacelines.  I mean -the number of inside jokes and bonds formed and laughs honestly grew exponentially day by day so that by the end, we were all asking for #onemoreday.  (Seriously).  Amazing what time on the bikes and eating and hanging out can do for a group of people.              

See e.g., Exhibit A: (photo credit @peopleforbikes @mcmahon_meg).

The purpose of this ride is to raise money, yes.  We are each asked to raise $5000 or so, to round out a nice $100,000 effort for the week.  This covers the ride overhead plus leaves People for Bikes with extra money to fund new bike projects, like bike lanes, gathering statistics, conducting studies or even making cool videos that inspire people to ride bikes.  But the other main purpose is to raise AWARENESS.  Rolling through these towns with our support crews behind us, we certainly turned heads and made people look up.  *LOOK HOW COOL BIKES CAN BE!*  Coming into ATL on the final day we were stopped at a red light and the woman in the car next to me rolled down her window and said "I wish I was on my bike right now and not stuck in this awful traffic!".  Yep.  Exactly. 

Not only that, but this year's ride featured several prominent folks which FURTHER elevated the promotion of the event and awareness all the more.  These folks included NASCAR greats Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, as well as Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff.  It was a top notch event from start to finish with many memorable moments (how about that deer that nearly took out Ted King? Or the hotel water main break/ flood that had us up at 3am?).  That Tim Johnson SURE does know how to throw an epic event together.  

I began my fundraising efforts by throwing down the first $1k and then asked my friends and people who love bikes to raise the next $3k.  I'm so close to the $4k mark and when I get there, I am throwing down the next $1k to round out at $5000.  My donation is made in honor of cyclist Glenda Taylor, who was killed in Kansas in 2015 while warming up for the state Time trial championships.  I donate in her honor and in honor of others killed senselessly by motorists -distracted or drunk or simply don't care enough to safely pass us.  I donate and ride in the hopes that someday those deaths will be a thing of the past, when roads have bike lanes / infrastructure, and cyclists aren't hit by cars and I'm out of a job and have to find something else to do (truly, nothing would make me happier).  We are slowly chipping away... making progress towards that end.  

So ... what am I asking you to do? 

First - I have until May 1 to raise as much cashola as I possibly can for PFB and would be grateful for any donation you can make: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/page/outreach/view/ride-on-atlanta-2016/Meghottman

Second - go here http://www.peopleforbikes.org/take-action and get involved with PeopleForBikes;

Third -ride your bike everywhere you can, spread the bike gospel, lead by example - take friends and coworkers out for leisurely rides and commutes and show them how it is easy to incorporate the bike into everyday life - the car can stay home sometimes; 

Fourth- please be a good steward and ambassador. Follow the laws when and where you ride.  

*********************

Huge thanks to my supporters Dirty Kanza and Vail Outlier Offroad festival and Champion System clothing, who donated prizes for me to raffle off to the folks who donated to my ride. 

Huge thanks to the folks that made our ride possible, including People for Bikes, Skratch Labs (fed us amazing and wholesome meals each day!), + SRAM and Mavic for on-the-road support.

I flew home late last night and this morning of course, commuted to work by bike.  I reflected on our week and on the roads and areas we traversed.  And I realized how lucky I am to have a commute to work that consists of bike lanes and wide shoulders; I feel safe everytime I do it.  So safe even, that my dog often joins me for the round trip:

This isn't the case in most towns across the US, and I can't help but wonder how many more people would #ridemoredriveless if they had such a safe route to ride.  

I hope in my lifetime I see the needle move drastically and we see a shift away from the auto-reliance we've grown so accustomed to, and we see moves towards bikes and bike love... 

Bike Lights During The Day?

I told the author of this Outside Online article that this issue is a double-edged sword and we want to be careful about imposing even more non-law-required "requirements" on cyclists. Is riding with a light during the day time a good idea and does it help if you are hit from behind in your case against the motorist's insurance company? Sure. But do we want this to work against cyclists who choose NOT to use day time lights? No, we do not. We don't ask motorists to drive their cars with daylights running, so let's be careful insisting that cyclists must.

The law requires us to ride with lights on the bike from 30min before dusk through 30min after sunrise. There is no law that requires daytime lights. This is up to the discretion of each individual rider.

"“Anytime a cyclist can say they were doing everything right, such as riding in a bike lane, wearing bright colored clothing, bright helmet, reflective gear, it decreases the chances of blame or fault being apportioned to the rider,” says Megan Hottman, a Golden, Colorado-based attorney specializing in cyclists’ rights through her company TheCyclist-Lawyer.com. “So the addition of blinking lights in the daytime helps bolster the case for the cyclist.” Hottman cautions that daytime lights won’t determine the outcome of any case, but they could help. "

Complete article here.

Glitch In The System

I posted this to our law firm FB page yesterday (2/23/16) and already, it's received 1,562 views and numerous comments.  I will keep sharing information like this so that people (advocacy groups, policy makers, law enforcement, district/city attorneys, judges, to name a few) understand that once we get Law enforcement citing drivers appropriately (as was done here) we need City and District Attorneys to stick to those charges rather than pleading them down to worthless nothing-ness AND we need judges to render adequate sentences on those charges.  

This is another concerning instance in which the collision was dismissively treated as "just an unfortunate accident."  The driver suffered one driving point and a $174 fine.  

******************************************************************************************************

Broomfield residents/cyclists take note - this is the official position of The Broomfield City and County Attorney-- in response to my complaint that when my cyclist/client was struck by a motorist -and the motorist was appropriately cited with careless driving causing injury by Broomfield Police Department - at the court hearing, the City Attorney decided to give the driver a reduced charge of "defective headlamp" (a 1 point violation with minor fine) and deprived my client of the chance to speak/be present at sentencing AND deprived her of any shot at restitution (often needed if the driver's insurance isn't enough)...

I understand charges and their associated points and penalties was a topic of discussion at the Bicycle Colorado Colorado Bike Summit this year and my commentary remains the same - if DAs and CAs are going to plead down a 4 point to a meaningless 1 point violation, it DOES NOT MATTER what the legislature does to the careless driving causing injury statute.

MORAL OF THE STORY BELOW: so long as the driver has a clean record and stays at the scene and shows remorse, and so long as they have insurance (whether it pays or pays adequately being irrelevant, apparently) then the driver deserves to get off with a puny fine and 1 point violation.

Cyclist: she is a US Veteran - and yes, she suffered severe injury in this collision.

**************************

"Dear Ms. Hottman,

Mr. Frundt forwarded to me your email concerning our office’s disposition of Broomfield Municipal Court case 15T804679 People vs. Mr. ____. Cases are evaluated and pleas determined on an individual basis. Like all prosecutors, lawyers in the City and County Attorney’s Office are invested with prosecutorial discretion as to how a case should be handled.

In review of case 15T804679 the following facts were considered:

- The age and driving record of the individual cited. Mr. ____ is 79 years old and has not had a traffic ticket in 11 years.

- The circumstances contributing to the accident. This was a collision which occurred at a four way stop sign after all parties had made a complete stop. The estimated speed of the vehicle at impact was 5-10 mph. Mr. ____ entered the intersection headed west at approximately 4:15pm on November 2, 2015. Ms. ___ (cyclist) was crossing the intersection on her bicycle from the south to the north. The accident report indicated the weather was clear. Sunset on November 2, 2015 occurred at 4:57pm indicating the sun was likely a contributing factor. 

- The behavior of the parties immediately following the accident. All reports indicate Mr. ____ immediately stopped to assist Ms. ____ and was cooperative in the investigation.

- The availability of liability insurance for the motorist. Mr. _____ had valid insurance at the time of the accident with Twin City Fire expiring on 3/14/2016.

- The injuries to the parties. My understanding is that Ms. _____ broke her leg as a result of the accident.

Although these factors can be weighed differently, I have spoken with Mr. Frundt and believe that appropriate thought and consideration was given to all of the facts and circumstances when the plea disposition was determined.

In motor vehicle accident cases where the cited driver has valid liability insurance, Broomfield’s practice is not to notify the other parties unless the matter is set for trial. As you have correctly stated, careless driving resulting in bodily injury is not a victim’s right case and the law does not require the prosecuting attorney to notify other parties. I believe that our current practices strike an appropriate balance between providing individual attention to the criminal component of each case while maintaining the efficiencies necessary for a court that handles over 5000 cases a year.

With respect to restitution, while you may disagree with the decision, the prosecutor did not seek restitution because there was a policy of insurance in place to compensate the victim. If you and your client felt that the insurance company was not adequately compensating your client for her damages, the civil courts are available to resolve that disagreement. I have evaluated and considered the information you provided, but at this time our office is not inclined to reopen the case. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention.

Sincerely,

Bill Tuthill

City and County Attorney"

btuthill@broomfield.org

Podcast: FattyCast and The Cyclist-Lawyer

Enjoyed very much speaking with Elden Nelson, otherwise known as Fat Cyclist, about bikes, crashes, laws and more.  Click the story link above to give it a listen! 

 

Also - the podcast references a blog post I wrote a few years back about insurance needs for cyclists... You can access that article here: http://303cycling.com/what-cyclists-should-know-about-insurance