Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New York City Settles Case Brought By Critical Mass Riders Harassed By Police

New York City has settled a lawsuit brought by five bicyclists who were allegedly harassed by police officers during Critical Mass rides. The amount of the settlement was just shy of $100,000. This story was reported in yesterday's New York Times. Read the full story by clicking here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Illinois Senate Passes Red Light Camera Bill

Yesterday, the Active Transportation Alliance reported the following:

"Today, the IL State Senate passed Senate Bill 935. This bill allows local governments in the Chicago and St. Louis areas to use red light cameras to improve road safety.

The bill, once passed by the House and signed by the Governor, will require two independent verifications of a violation before a citation is issued. It will also give motorists the right to review video evidence and contest violations via a secure web-based portal."

A lot of folks won't like this, but I view it as a victory for the most vulnerable users of city streets, bicycles and pedestrians. Knowing that the the eye in the sky is watching, hopefully motorists will approach intersections, were accidents tend to happen, with added caution.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Elderly Man Crosses Center Line, Slamming Into Three Teens On Downstate Illinois Bicycle Trip

Three Chicago high school students were struck by an elderly man yesterday as they rode their bicycles in downstate Illinois as part of a spring break bike trip. One of the girls, Faith Dremmer, 17, was killed. The other two, Kaia Tammen, 18, and Julia Baird, 18, were seriously injured. All three girls were wearing helmets at the time. The incident was apparently caused by an 86 year old Enfield, Illinois man whose van crossed the center lane of traffic then slammed into the three girls, three friends who attended the University of Chicago Lab School. The incident occurred at around 2:00 p.m. at Shawneetown/New Haven Road and Ponds Settlement Road, north of Shawneetown. The source for this post is The Chicago Breaking News Center.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Recall of 3T Aerobars

The U.S. Product Safety Commission and 3T have announced the recall of Ventus Ltd™ and Ventus Team™ Bicycle Aerobars. There have been complaints that the rubber grips at the ends of the bars can slip off, causing a fall hazard. According to the Commission's recall notice, "Two incidents were reported to 3T involving adults with minor abrasions." Meh. Doesn't sound too scary, but if you spend $1,200 on a set of handlebars I suppose that sort of thing ought not happen. If you have these bars on your bike contact 3T for a fix kit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lifting the Veil On Carbon Fiber

It seems that for the last ten to fifteen years carbon fiber has been the sexy bicycle building material. It is light, stiff and expensive. It looks exotic. It is not a metal, and how cool is that, right? Well, sometimes not so much. It can fail in frightening ways. How much is really known about this material is a question recently asked by the folks at Last week they published a fascinating article on how carbon fiber bike frames and components are made and how and why they can fail. This is must read stuff for the attorney handling or considering a product liability action and for the consumer thinking about throwing down big bucks for a bike made of what the magazine calls "Black Magic." Here is a link to the full article. Here is a sampling:

Why carbon in the first place? For one, there's what engineers call the "black aluminum" analogy: A sheet of carbon composite would be just as stiff and strong as an identical sheet of aluminum, but a third lighter. Then there's "tunability." While metal frame shapes are by nature isotropic (they exhibit the same properties of strength and stiff ness on any axis), carbon fiber composites are anisotropic (those properties exist only along the axis of the fiber direction). So a skilled composites engineer can "tune" the way a tube responds to diff erent loads simply by orienting the carbon fibers in various directions. There are, of course, drawbacks. First, you need said skilled composites engineer. You cannot randomly orient fibers and expect a good result. The art lies not in merely alternating the ply orientation, but also the direction and number of plies—the layup schedule. Second, because manufacturing is incredibly labor-intensive, with almost everything done by hand, it must be obsessively controlled for quality.

* * * * *

At C-Tech, a programmed machine cuts giant rolls of three-foot-wide prepreg sheet into an array of smaller pieces needed to assemble a frame, from swaths of intermediate or high-modulus fiber large enough to cover an entire down tube to small, twoinch- square swatches of high-strength standard-modulus fiber that will be valuable reinforcement structures. It's an exacting process—each ply of carbon must be cut to size, and with the proper fiber orientation.

Once the plies are ready, they are shipped to the layup room. There, workers assemble a layup kit and follow the layup schedule to precisely assemble whatever part they're working on. A single frame built at C-Tech may have as many as 500 individual plies of carbon, of varying modulus, sizes, locations and fiber orientations. Because of this complexity and the level of human involvement, the layup room is both the nexus for quality control and where most of the headaches lie.

"You can do everything right and have a great engineer and design and materials, and if the layup guy had a bender the night before and forgets a part of the frame, it's toast," says Tomac general manager Joel Smith, who moves his entire family to Taichung, Taiwan, for three months during the prime manufacturing timeframe to ensure quality at Tomac's partner factory, A-Pro.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Illinois Senate Bill Would Strengthen Anti-Buzzing Law

The buzz out of Springfield is that Illinois' anti-buzzing statute is about to get a whole lot tougher. Yesterday, the state senate passed a bill amending a statute which already prohibits motor vehicles from passing less than three feet from a bicyclist on a roadway. The bill, introduced in January by Sen. Ira I. Silverstein, makes it a crime for a motorist to pass "unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist." A driver may be charged with a felony where violation of the law results in "great bodily harm" or permanent injury. The bill also makes it a crime to throw objects at bicyclists.

The bill has been sent to the Illinois House where it is expected to pass.

Will the passage of this law make cycling on Illinois roads safer? Probably not. But it adds an arrow in the quiver of civil practice attorneys and criminal law enforcement officers when going after drivers who injure bicyclists. Bravo.

Police Looking For Driver Who Killed McHenry Bicyclist

I have learned from the Active Transportation Alliance that a McHenry County bicyclist has been killed by a hit a run motorist. The following details are being reported:

"Police are looking for the driver of a pickup who killed a cyclist in McHenry County and then fled the scene. Authorities are looking for the driver of the truck, described as a dark-colored, full-size, newer-model pickup, possibly a Chevrolet, with a single exhaust pipe. Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff's crash investigation office at 815-338-2144 or Crime Stoppers at 800-762-7867."

Recall of Kids' Bicycle Bell

On Thursday the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Do It Best Corp., of Fort Wayne, Indiana announced the recall of certain kids' bicycle bells. The bells, sold for a buck, apparently contain dangerous amounts of lead. Here is a link to the recall notice.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

See New Bike-Ped Blog From CMAP

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) recently announced a new bike and pedestrian planning blog – Soles and Spokes. The Agency's official announcement described the new blog:
[We will ] be posting the latest news, planning resources, and opportunities for funding and training related to travel by foot and bicycle. Soles and Spokes will have a regional focus, but will keep you up to date on state, national, and international developments and news, too. The blog will cover all topics related to non-motorized transportation, including design and operations, education and encouragement programs, safety, policy guidance, funding programs, and the relation of biking and walking to personal health and to healthy communities.
Check it out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Morning On The Streets Of America?

If you are looking for evidence that the bicycle as viable transportation vehicle, rather than mere plaything, is a concept that is taking hold then consider the two big stories of the past week: First, Google added bicycle directions to its popular Maps application. Now, in addition to being able to use Google Maps to find the best walking, driving or public transit options to get from point A to point B, users in the U.S. can see routes and paths best suited for bike traffic along with distance and travel time. This is important for those of us traveling via bicycle in the city who enjoy riding along the most bicycle friendly route, not necessarily the fastest route between destinations. I know Chicago's streets pretty well, but I still find myself thinking -- as I'm being buzzed by vehicles on a shoulderless, narrow street I stupidly chose to travel on -- why did I go this way. Now I have a tool to help me bike smarter. Google's effort could be better, and I presume soon will be. The "go by bike" option is not yet available for smart phones with the Google Maps mobile app. It would be nice to be able to plot the right course while actually out riding. Anyway, Google's effort is appreciated and one has to believe the a mobile app will follow soon.

The second big story, is the "sea change" proclaimed by the U.S. Department of Transportation with regard to transportation planning. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced "the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized." Yesterday, at the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C., he announced, "We are integrating the needs of bicyclists in federally-funded road projects. We are discouraging transportation investments that negatively affect cyclists and pedestrians. And we are encouraging investments that go beyond the minimum requirements and provide facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities." Very nice indeed! Can this really mean that the days of hearing, "Hey asshole, get on the sidewalk!" are soon to end? Perhaps it is morning on the streets of America.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On Vacation. . .

I will be on vacation from March 9 - 15. I do not anticipate writing any new posts until I get back. I will, however, respond to emails regarding new cases at Be safe.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thule Responds To Alleged Problems With T2 Bike Rack

Anne over at the Chainlink inquired with Thule USA about alleged problems with its T2 hitch mounted bike rack. Here is Thule's response:

We have heard of a few instances regarding the issues that have been described with the T2. Our quality testing team has been unable to replicate this scenario in our lab or on our road tests. As always, this testing is carried out with correctly assembled and installed products. Thule is committed to making products which have the highest safety and quality. Even though we were unable to duplicate the problem, as a precaution, we started installing a bolt on the underside of the T2 last year. This bolt helps to keep the T2 trays on the rack even if the tray bolts were not secured correctly during the installation.

The Thule T2 uses a similar 4-bolt design as a bicycle stem. As with a stem, each of the four bolts needs to be tightened down evenly with a tool that can provide adequate torque. Although we have not yet inspected this rack first hand, the tool used in the video appears to be a common multi-tool which is good to use for emergencies, but doesn’t provide enough leverage to fully tighten the lock-tight coated bolts on a T2.

We have been in contact with this user to learn more about his experience with this rack. Repeated efforts by Thule to obtain a police report, make contact with witnesses or potentially injured individuals, gather any insurance claims or obtain the name of the trucking company that hit his bike have not been successful. Finally, our quality department has not received his T2 which is a must have for our internal analysis. Until we receive this information and rack we cannot determine what happened.

As with all Thule products, the T2 comes with a lifetime warranty and we stand behind the product 100%. If anyone has an issue with any of our products, they can call our customer service 800-238-2388. As soon as we do receive the rack in question back and figure out the cause for the failure we will let you and your readers know.

Hitch Mounted Bicycle Rack May Pose Serious Hazard

Serious design flaws with the Thule T2 hitch-mounted bicycle rack have been documented. Though neither Thule nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have announced a recall, there is increasing buzz in the biking community about the danger posed by these racks. Check out the video below for a concise demonstration of a problem which -- if it has not already -- could cost someone their life. (As of this morning this product is still being sold by various retailers.)

Thule T2 Bike Rack malfunctions on interstate causing injuries and destroyed mountain bike from Angie Hyndman on Vimeo.

Thanks to Attorney Mimy Bailey of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan & Coluccio in Seattle for making me aware of this video.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Unseeing Eyes Of Motorists

Motorist need to get something straight: I didn't see Mr. or Ms. bicyclist, is not a defense. It is an indictment. This week we will file a lawsuit against a motorist that struck a bicyclist on West Montrose Avenue, near Homer Park, in Chicago in October, 2009. I am anticipating a justification I've heard before, the old "unseeing eye" defense. It is often raised in intersection cases and it goes little something like this: The motorist asserts that he or she entered the intersection while carefully looking in all directions before beginning to turn. No bicyclists were seen. As the motorist executes his or her turn, however, the bicyclist materialized, seemingly out of nowhere. The defense asserts that the collision itself notwithstanding, the motorist was careful, not negligent and, therefore, should not be held responsible for the bicyclist's injuries. This was just one of those things. . .

In our client's case, he was approaching a T-intersection created by Montrose and a driveway at Homer Park when he was struck by a motorist turning left into the park from the opposite side of Montrose. Section 9-16-020(e) of Chicago's municipal code gives the bicyclist the right-of-way over a left turning vehicle coming from the opposite direction. Yet, the putative defendant has been incredulous at the notion that she is responsible. She apparently told a witness at the scene that she never saw our client. She stated to the bicyclist in a subsequent voice mail message, "I'm sorry, but I don't believe I'm at fault... Best advice I can give you is 'be more careful'." Evidently, she is of the opinion that since she never saw our client on his bicycle -- she looked but did not see -- she should not be held responsible for the damage she caused. Nonsense.

Long ago, Illinois courts recognized the impotence of claiming to have looked but not seen. In 1965, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, stated,
"It is well settled that one may not look with an unseeing eye and be absolved of the charge of negligence by asserting that he maintained a continuous lookout, yet failed to see that which he clearly should have seen."
Payne v. Kingsley, 59 Ill.App.2d 245 (2nd Dist. 1965)

Often in my experience the reason offered by the motorist for having not seen the bicyclist is no justification. Traffic was blocking my vision. The sun was in my eyes. My van's support beam obscured my vision. Lame, and of no legal consequence. Folks, when you are operating a motor vehicle you must be able to see where you are going. You must be able to visualize all potential areas from which bikes, cars, pedestrians, motorcycles, etc. may emerge. If you cannot, then you may not proceed.

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