Bike photos by Steve Magas, a race in Walnut Hills, a bike rack at Ride Cincinnati, A ghost bike dedication ceremony and a beautiful bike bell

Protecting The Rights Of Those Who Ride

Steve Magas is Ohio's Bike Lawyer. He has written about Ohio Bike Laws, bike crashes, bicycle advocacy and court cases for some 30 years. Soon we'll be adding a series of features about your favorite Ohio bike shops.

Women On BIKES? That’s… historical!

Women on Bikes!

March is Women’s History Month.

In 2011 Sue Macy wrote a book, “Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)
This book, published by National Geographic, tracks the impact of the BIKE on Women and how it changed women’s lives back in the 90s… the EIGHTEEN 90s…

The Foreword is written by Leah Missbach Day who, with her husband, founded WBR – World Bicycle Relief – after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In the next few years WBR put over 24,000 bicycles into the hands of folks in Sri Lanka who were trying to rebuild their lives after the devastating tsunami. Since 2006 WBR has worked out of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Ms. Day notes that while the book Wheels of Change is about the history of Bikes & Women, the bicycle TODAY continues to empower women. WBR has changed the lives of men and women simply by getting them this basic, efficient beautiful transportation. “Freedom comes in many forms… A bicycle can cultivate independence…” In 1896 Ellen Parkhurst said “A girl who rides a wheel is lifted out of herself and her surroundings” – That was true in 1896 and WBR continues to show that that is true today…

The bicycle – it can change the World!

You can read Wheels of Change here

This month I’ll be dropping some History Bombs on you from the Women’s Wing of the BikeLawyer’s Big Bike Book Library this month… Fun stuff [bloomers and Love and what not] and serious stuff [Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky’s trip around the world – Kitty Knox’s battles for admission into the L.A.W. as an African-American woman] – LOTS to talk about in March!

The bike, or as Louise Smith called it “The Devil’s Advance Agent” changed the world for women in the 1890s –

“To Men, the bicycle in the beginning was merely a new toy, another machine added to the long list of devices they knew in their work and play… to women, it was a steed upon which they rode into a new world…” – “Woman And The Wheel” – May 1896, Munsey’s Magazine…

History Bomb
Annie Kopchovsky was a Jewish immigrant living in Boston with her husband in 1894 when she heard about a bet that changed her life. Two wealthy Boston sugar merchants bet that a woman could not ride around the world on a bicycle as a man, Thomas Stevens, had done a few years earlier. Annie took that bet. The terms required her to start with no money – “only the clothes on my back” – and ride around the world- finishing with the staggering sum of $5,000 in her pockets.

She did it- rode her wheel around the world – and became probably the first female athlete in the world the earn endorsements and enter the world of sports marketing… so much so that in exchange for a sum she carried the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company placard on her bike… and changed her name to Annie Londonderry

She started the ride in Boston wearing typical Victorian-era garb while riding a 42 pound Columbia wheel… as she rode through Chicago she was given a Schwinn resistance exercise bike more suited to her travels. Peter Zheutlin tracked down the details of Annie’s ride… Annie was his great aunt… and wrote about it in an excellent book “Anni Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride: Around The World on Two Wheels” – we’ll take a ride through the book this month as we follow Annie around the world!

FINALLY… Charges in Trotwood

Way back on August 29, 2020, 21 year old Jillian Parker from Holland, Michigan, was out riding her bike on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. She was run down from behind by 40 yr old Melissa Hubley who was driving a 2017 Buick Encore.

The reason? “SMIDSY”

“SMIDSY” is a simple Australian explanation for why cars hit pedestrians & bicycle & motorcycle operators…

SMIDSY = “Sorry Mate – I Didn’t See You”

For Ms. Hubley, she told Police she was driving along on a sunny Saturday and she killed a young woman because “the sun was in her eyes…”

-> SMIDSY <-

Finally- yesterday – on 2/9/2021 – almost 6 months after the crash- Ms. Hubley was charged with Vehicular Manslaughter- a 2nd degree misdemeanor under Ohio law… the lowest level of “Oops, I killed a person with my car” crime we have.

Next event is arraignment on 3/3/21We’ll keep an eye on this case.

We have requested the FULL report – all crash data, photos, etc – but have been stymied by Trotwood police.

I guess I need to keep emphasizing this point: –> THE SUN IS NOT AN EXCUSE –> Sun Glare is NOT A DEFENSE… Driving Forward when you CAN’T SEE is illegal… it’s not a defense, it’s an ADMISSION OF GUILT


Typical response of a driver goes something like this:

” Yes officer I drove forward when I couldn’t see… despite having my eyes blindfolded I moved a two ton vehicle forward… Sure I ran over and killed bright young college student… I negligently destroyed her family … I stupidly, carelessly changed the lives of her grieving friends… but I couldn’t see… what else was I supposed to do???… I mean I’m sorry I killed her…but I couldn’t see… ”

DON’T DRIVE FORWARD IF YOU “CAN’T SEE” – Stop the Car – Wait – Pull Over


Unfortunately, the “Distracted” box on crash reports is rarely checked… I wonder why…

Officer:  “Were you distracted?”

Driver: “No”

Officer: “Well… OK then…”

Well, OK Then…

Gov. DeWine has established a new distracted driving campaign. ODPS and ODOT believe distracted driving is part of the reason for an increase in crashes in 2020 despite a DECREASE IN DRIVING…

Let’s keep our eyes open for an addition to the Ohio Transportation Budget Bill that will: A/Mandate HANDS FREE devices be used if a cell phone is used in a car and B/ Make Distracted Driving a “Primary Offense” in Ohio.

What does Primary Offense mean?

Currently an officer cannot pull you over for talking on your cell phone. If Distracted Driving via Cell Phone Use becomes primary offense then an officer who sees you with a phone in your ear can pull you over and issue a citation.

We’ll keep you posted!

THE LAST OHIO FATAL BIKE CRASH OF 2020 – More Questions Than Answers


By Steven M. Magas

On Monday December 28, 2020, 71 year old Terrence Michael Ryan was out for a bike ride. He was riding southbound on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights. At around 8:13 am he was hit by 2015 Nissan Rogue beind driven by 39 year old Elizabeth Bober.

            At the point of the crash Lee Road is two lanes – one in each direction. However, right at the point of the crash a left turn only lane initiates. The police report sketch appears to show Mr. Ryan riding along the right edge fo the roadway and then moving towards the left turn lane when he was struck by Ms. Bober’s Nissan. Ms. Bober was apparently attempting to pass Mr. Ryan.


 This is a heavily residential area. The crash happened between Coleridge and E. Scarborough Roads. The Google Map aerial view is shown below. Using the scale showing 100 feet, we glean that it is about 300 feet – a football field, from Coleridge to E. Scarborough. The crash occurred about where the left turn lane starts, so a little more than 100 feet from the Coleridge Road intersection.

            What happened in this crash?  Why did Terry Ryan die?

            The police blame the cyclist – 100%. 

            Ms. Bober told police that she was driving along and saw Mr. Ryan near the “curb.” She said she slowed to pass him when he “began wobbling” and “swerved into the center of the roadway” in front of her vehicle. She said she struck Mr. Ryan with the front of her SUV causing him to hit the ground. The officer states there is no identifiable damage to the car or the bike. Ms. Bober said her SUV was “practically stopped” when she ran into Mr. Ryan.

            After reading a brief news report we obtained the preliminary report. There appeared to be no witness statements and minimal investigation. As we do with EVERY fatal bike crash in Ohio, we dug deeper. We requested ALL data – the crash report – witness statements – measurements – crash reconstruction – Total Station data – phone forensics – toxicology data – “black box” data –  autopsy report.

            It didn’t help us understand the crash any further.

            No measurements were taken by police. 

A very brief statement was given by the motorist. There is no mention of any attempt to get her phone or determine if anything distracting was going on. In fact, there was nothing done forensically – no Total Station data – no crash reconstruction – no autopsy – no toxicology – no black box – no measurements.   

We obtained the “crash photos” – which were taken after everything was cleaned up. The scene photos reflect the snow covering everything except the lanes of travel. The “curb” is not visible at all. Mr. Ryan was clearly in the LANE.

Stepping back a little bit from the view in this photo we see the Sharrows painted on the road. “Sharrows” have no real legal meaning – but they are meant to imply that motorists should EXPECT cyclists to take up the full lane here, particularly on such a narrow road with many intersecting neighborhood roads.  Passing another vehicle over a double  yellow line in the short space between two intersecting roads, where there is a left turn lane starting for the second road, seems to ME to be extremely careless behavior by the motorist, Ms. Bober. She SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED to see bikes take the full lane in this area and should not have been passing the rider.

Unfortunately, there is no follow up in the police file. No one checked to see if Mr. Ryan had a phone or was utilizing any sort of mapping device. Even when you are NOT using a “map app” the modern cell may well be creating a GPS file in your phone’s memory. 

If you utilize any sort of shopping app – say, the Auntie Anne’s Pretzel app –  your phone will use the GPS data to DING your phone if you get close to an Auntie Anne’s location. 

You may not realize that you are “using a GPS” but your phone is tracking you & creating a file in the memory that can be accessed. That file might tell someone where you had been, how fast you were going, what direction you were heading. In other words, if Mr. Ryan was carrying a cell phone, the police might learn some valuable information from that phone that could help them put together just what happened here.

Unfortunately, due to the very limited police investigation we do NOT know what happened here. Did they try to reach Mr. Ryan’s family? His home address is listed in the report as being on Queenston Road. Did they call anyone to see what he was doing?  Where had he been? Where was he going? What was his regular route?

When I googled the cyclist’s home address it was 4 minutes, by bike, from the crash scene. Making a left turn onto Scarborough from Lee Road would have taken Mr. Ryan towards his home.

There is no mention in the report of any effort by Police to figure out where Mr. Ryan had been or where he was going. Why was Ms. Bober trying to pass Mr. Ryan over the Sharrow marking and in between two close intersections? What was her hurry? Was there any distraction? Was she late? Was she simply too impatient to wait a few seconds? Why did she keep going once she saw the cyclist move right to left? She said she slowed and that she was “barely moving” when she hit Mr. Ryan… why not just STOP?

Oh…wait… she’s in a car… cars don’t stop… when I was kid we had a playground game we played at recess. Kids would link arms and march across the playground shouting “WE DON’T STOP FOR NOBODY.” Some folks drive their cars around more vulnerable road users like they’re still playing that game…you see it when “sun glare” makes it “impossible to see” but people keep going… and you see it in situations like this, where SOMETHING is clearly occurring in front of the car but the motorist just keeps on going…

Police did say: “It should be noted that Mr. Ryan did not have a helmet.”  

There is no helmet law in Ohio – for motorcyclists, car drivers or bicycle operators. There is no mention of whether Ms. Bober was wearing a helmet. There is no follow up on the death – no autopsy. Did he die from injuries? Did he have some sort of medical episode prior to the crash that led him to “wobble” as described by Ms. Bober. The investigating officer checked on Mr. Ryan and noted he was “breathing and moving” but was not conscious when he was transported to the E/R.

The police report does not fault Ms. Bober at all for her attempt to pass Mr. Ryan over the double yellow in the short space between the two intersections. In fact, the police assess her fault – her “contributing circumstances” – as “None” while assessing “99- Other Improper Action” for the cyclist, Mr. Ryan. 

The Police IGNORE the mandate of ORC Section 4511.30, which PROHIBITS passing “when approaching within 100 feet of or traversing” any intersection.

Ms. Bober attempted to pass Mr. Ryan between two intersections that were about 300 feet apart. Both Ms. Bober & Mr. Ryan were southbound on Lee. The southbound lane went from a single lane to adding a left turn lane directly at the point of impact. The northbound lane also went from a single lane to adding a left turn lane. The entire block is compressed into 300 feet or so. The snow coverage extends right up to the white line. Any attempt to pass another vehicle in this short, tight space was not only stupid, but it was improper and in arguably violation of 4511.30

Mr. Ryan had the most valuable right you can have under Ohio’s Traffic Law – he had the RIGHT OF WAY. In order to successfully take the right of way from someone a passing motorist has to pass “lawfully” – obeying the passing rules and the other rules of the road.

Here, the three foot rule applied. Ms. Bober had to pass at least three feet away.

Here, a double yellow line limited Ms. Bober’s legal right to pass. That can be overcome by a proper showing of facts, but none was attempted by police.

Here, Ms. Bober ignored the movements of the cyclist going right to left. The law generally requires turn signals but O.R.C. Sec 4511.39 (Turn Signals) states:

“…A bicycle or electric bicycle operator is not required to make a signal if the bicycle or electric bicycle is in a designated turn lane, and a signal shall not be given when the operator’s hands are needed for the safe operation of the bicycle or electric bicycle.”

Mr. Ryan was moving towards, or was “in,” the designated turn lane when he was struck. The police drawing indicates that is where his body ended up.

From reviewing the police report, it would appear that the word “swerve” carried the day – that the police believed the cyclist did the old Suicide Death Swerve into the path of a passing vehicle and simply failed to analyze a fatal crash appropriately.

The crash occurred on December 28, 2020. Mr. Ryan passed away on December 31 as a result of his injuries. According to his obituary, Terry Ryan was a beloved by his family and friends – a retired house painter living in Cleveland Heights. There is a GoFundMe set up to help defray the burial costs. You can help the family here: 


            Perhaps Mr. Ryan was at fault here, but I do not think so. I believe Ms. Bober should have  been expecting to see a cyclist and should NOT have attempted to pass the cyclist as he was moving right to left towards the left turn lane in a narrow space between two intersections. I suspect Mr. Ryan was just trying to get home on a cold winter morning…

Regardless, we should demand a complete and THOROUGH investigation into the facts from our police departments.

[1] Steve Magas is an Ohio trial lawyer with 38+ years of experience in courts throughout Ohio. Known as The Bike Lawyer for handling more than 450 “bike” crash cases, Steve is one of the founders of the Bicycle Crash Research Center. He has written extensively about bicycles & the law for many years.

Sentencing Criminals Who Kill Cyclists –


By Steven M. Magas, The Bike Lawyer

What a difference a state makes – or so it seems.


In California, Dr. Christopher Thompson was convicted in a well reported “road rage” incident.  Testimony in the case included stories from several cyclists who were involved in road rage incidents with Dr. Thompson – the key event was not his only reported transgression!   It took a couple before the prosecution decided to go after him.

The paper trail of prior reports was helpful in getting the prosecutor, and the court, to believe that an Emergency Room physician could actually be so cold-hearted towards human life.  The testimony from those on the scene that Dr. Thompson said he “wanted to teach them a lesson” was chilling.

Dr. Thompson was crying in court during the sentencing and was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs  after learning that the judge gave him a FIVE YEAR sentence for causing the road rage incident. If only justice worked as well in every case.


On December 17, 2009, “justice” was handed down in the Kenneth Bain case out of Texas.  Mr. Bain had allegedly been driving home in his Lincoln Navigator from a bachelor party at 8:15 am, after ingesting both alcohol and pot, when he ran into, and killed, two cyclists.

The two cyclists, Meredith Hatch and Mike Alfaro, were members of a local cycling group and were training for an event when they were struck from behind and killed.  The photo of the huge Lincoln Navigator, from a local television station, shows the damage to the front of vehicle.

Mr. Bain was sentenced on December 17.  His sentence was TWO years in prison with an additional 10 years of probation.

The families of the two cyclists, and local cycling advocates, were shocked and outraged.

How do you get such different results?  A guy in a road rage case who hurts, but does not kill, two cyclists gets five years.  A guy who ingested pot and alcohol at a party and then kills two cyclists by striking them from behind gets two years?

I wish I had an answer.  There are usually personal, legal or political factors that come into play in these cases, unfortunately.

In the the Texas case there were reports that the BAC for the driver was not over the limit and that there was some reluctance of the family of one victim to put the children on the witness stand.  There were additional reports speculating that Mr. Bain’s lawyer, a sitting Texas State Senator, or Mr. Bain’s family/money may have played a role.  Perhaps the prosecution was worried about some factual or legal issues and didn’t want to take a chance of this one getting away.  We’ll never know.

In the California case, you had clear evidence that the doc was actually INTENDING to do some harm.  There was testimony that the doc said he wanted to “teach them a lesson.”

In the Texas case, the driver was stupid, careless and maybe feeling the effects of a long night of partying, but there was no evidence of ill intent.  There was no evidence that he intended to hit the riders.  That would have led to murder charges.

That distinction – what the judge or jury believe is inside the MIND of the wrongdoer – is a typical dividing line for sentencing.  Intentional and malicious actions are usually punished more severely than careless or stupid actions.

Indeed, in Indiana a few years ago FIVE motorcyclists were killed [and many suffered life changing injuries] in 3 separate accidents on the same day, all occurring within an hour of so of each other in broad daylight.  In each case a relatively young motorist did something stupid and careless to cause the crash.  None of the motorists were drunk or high – just careless.  None of the motorcycle operators did anything wrong.  The prosecutor, in each case, refused to press criminal charges saying “We don’t prosecute negligence in Indiana.”

When alcohol or drugs are involved, though, many states crank up the sentencing, even for “careless” and non-intentional actions.  In the Texas case, while there was evidence of both, there may not have been enough evidence to show “impairment.”  Compare these two cases to the two Ohio cases discussed below…


In Ohio, we’ve had similar ups and downs.  In Pike County, Sarah Bender, the lady who ran over and killed Dr. Crowley during TOSRV in 2008, was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to 60 days in jail.  However, in Cincinnati, Anthony Gerike is still serving his 16 year sentence for killing two popular local cyclists – Amy Gehring and Terry Walker.

These two cases also show the contrasts that develop in the legal system.  In Pike County, the defendant, Sara Bender, was seemingly a “nice” lady who was well known in her community and church.  The prosecution charged her with a felony leaving the scene, but the jury convicted on a lesser charge.

I obtained and extensively reviewed the 83-page police report in this case, as well as the dozens of photos of the scene and Sara Bender’s SUV taken by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  Her story about what happened, of course, made no sense.

She told officers that she never saw Dr. Crowley.  Some reports say that she told police she thought she hit a “sign” or “something.”  That she struck Dr. Crowley and drove off was shocking, to say the least.  However, she wasn’t drunk or high or driving on a suspended license and did otherwise present as a “bad” person.

From the look of the front windshield of her car, though, her story about thinking that she might have hit “something” is more than a bit suspicious when you consider that Dr. Crowley was a big guy riding a pink Schwinn Paramount…

Here’s a quote from the Columbus Dispatch about her testimony:

“…Bender testified that she thought something had hit her windshield in the rain and fog and that water was coming through, so she turned around and drove about 10 miles south back to her Scioto County home, where she parked the SUV in the garage and took another vehicle to drive to work…”  She then drove by the scene of the crash again and stopped when she saw the EMT’s & State Troopers.

Take a look at the front of that SUV and tell me if THAT makes any sense…

Anthoy Gerike, on the other hand, was drunk and high and driving on a suspended license when he killed Amy and Terry.  He was driving on the wrong side of the road.  He had taken out a mailbox before running through the group of riders.   He was portrayed, quite correctly, as a “bad guy” by prosecutors.

I helped track the Gerike case through the courts, and published regular updates.  Many cyclists attended the trial.  When he was convicted and the judge asked for input on sentencing, the local cycling community submitted dozens of letters to the court offering up opinions.  Many of us attended the sentencing hearing.


The Gerike case presents a good model for cycling clubs wishing to become involved in a criminal case.  We followed the case from Day 1, attended and reported on the hearings, communicated with the Prosecutor, spoke out in the media, and when the time was ripe for our involvement, we flooded the judge with our letters describing the impact of Gerike’s actions on the cycling community.  The letters clearly had an impact as the judge read from many letters at the sentencing hearing.

According to the “Inmate Locator” website for Ohio’s prison system, Mr. Gerike remains incarcerated at Noble Correctional Institution.  His stated term expires on June 20, 2022.  While I believe the “ghost bikes” have been removed, the stone memorial to Amy and Terry remains, as far as I know, at the place where he killed them.


This just in – literally.   Dateline January 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm.  In Toledo, Ohio, Jose Garcia was sentenced to TEN years for killing Flemming Williamson in East Toledo.  Mr. Williamson was riding his bicycle to a convenience store last January when he was struck by Mr. Garcia’s vehicle and left for dead. Mr. Garcia then fled the scene.  Police say, according to news reports, that Mr. Garcia was intoxicated at the time he killed Mr. Williamson.Mr. Garcia pled no contest to aggravated vehicular homicide.

Finally, THIS just in – January 18, 2009!


Carlos Bertonatti, a Sony recording artist, was arrested after a short police chase. Bertonatti is suspected of driving his Volkswagen into cyclist Christopher Lecanne, and killing him in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Police Officers claim Bertonatti was driving while intoxicated or impaired when he slammed into Lecanne and  then sped away with Lecanne’s bike lodged under his front fender.  He left the cyclist bleeding to death on the side of the road. Intoxication is bad and there are places like the inpatient rehab fort laudrdale that can help. You can also check out alcohol rehab centers and get help from them.

Here’s what police are saying:

Just before 8:10 a.m., Lecanne was riding his bicycle in the eastbound bike lane on Bear Cut Bridge, the last link on the Rickenbacker Causeway before Key Biscayne. Bertonatti was driving eastbound as well when he swerved into the bike lane and slammed into Lecanne.  After clobbering Lecanne, Bertonatti kept speeding east with Lecanne’s bike lodged under his car, according to a  spokeswoman for the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Finally, the singer stopped on the 600 block of Grapetree Drive, near the posh apartment where he’s listed as a resident. Police arrested him on the spot.

In addition to the DUI, cyclists are upset about the response time of fire and rescue personnel.  There are claims that it took as long as 30 minutes for someone to arrive – claims which are disputed by police and fire departments. .UPDATE 2: A cyclist who claims to have witnessed the accident has written a first-hand account about what he saw on a bike forum. You can read the whole passage here.

Another sad case… justice was done, but the damage and pain are lifelong….

Steve Magas

The Bike Lawyer

7 Year Old Cyclist Killed – Manslaughter Charges Filed In Hudson, Ohio

On Saturday, November 7,  7 year old Vincent Baran was riding his bicycle in the quaint northeast Ohio town of Hudson, Ohio.  It was around 3:30pm. No weather issues. No visibility issues… just a great day to take a bike ride. Unfortunately, Vincent Baran didn’t make it home… as he was riding along on the sidewalk a 60 year old motorist, Denise Ahlstrom, was pulling out of a driveway.  Ms. Ahlstrom struck Vince with her car, killing him. 

As we do in EVERY fatal crash in which a cyclist is killed in Ohio we have ordered the entire public file… the crash report, witness statements, photos/video, measurements, “Total Station” data, BodyCam & CruiserCam, any Forensic Reports, any Toxicology data, any crash reconstruction data, and any autopsy report.  Eventually, we’ll report on what happened and why…

For now, though, we grieve with the family and friends of Vincent Baran. Writing an obituary for a child is something no parent should ever have to do…here, Vincent’s story is briefly told …



















Read the rest of this entry »

A New Non-Profit for Bicycle Research & Safety

2019 was a lousy year for car/bike crashes in Ohio. WAY too many cyclists killed on the roads… You can read what I wrote about 2019 here – we had 23 cyclists killed in Ohio.
The last fatal crash of 2020 in Ohio occurred on September 27… a drunk driver slammed into the back of a cyclist – Peter Paul Brown – in Columbus and then kept going. The motorist, Dashawn Finroy, drove along and slammed into two more vehicles before getting out & trying to run off. He was captured by police & charged with Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, among other things.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ohio’s Latest Cycling Fatality Hits Home

It was really cold on Sunday November 1, 2020. It was the first morning of the new “clock” as we had set our clocks back an hour. So it was light an hour earlier than Saturday. Local trial attorney & Ironman Steve Adams decided to take an early bike ride that day. He was killed around 6:30 am by a hit & run driver.

I didn’t know Steve personally but I knew of him. Pretty much anyone in the courthouse loop did. He was a former assistant county prosecutor who had left for private practice. He was well known as a “DUI Guy”  because he was always caught up with lawyers and criminal defense lawyer. I understand that he was a swimmer in college who got into the Triathlon lane and was a 4x Ironman. His site was “” and he had a book for sale there called “Practice Law Like An Ironman” –

Read the rest of this entry »


Some years ago I wrote a piece about The BLS – The Boring Legal Shiiii…er… Stuff – that regular road cyclists ought to think about. Adventure Cycling picked up it… One day I got a call  someone at the Wall Street Journal to talk about it! What a thing.

I updated this piece in early 2020, but … stuff happened in 2020 – in fact, I spent much of 2020 in litigation with insurance companies, talking with UtilitySavingExpert, over the terms of insurance policies… and I spent a considerable amount of time reading the longe run-on sentences that you find in insurance policies and trying to figure out how to make insurance polices apply to crashes involving cyclists…

sooo… since I had to suffer… [er…no… that’s the wrong approach …]

In light of my 2020 Experience in the exciting new adventure series Alice in Insurance Land, I think it’s actually a pretty good time to update this piece again. So let’s re-visit the BLS and make sure folks really GET It – or at least Get how freaking COMPLICATED and troublesome this can be!


What is the BLS? The BLS is the Boring Legal Stuff you need to think about BEFORE you hop on the bike and ride. Basically boring stuff like INSURANCE and even Estate Planning. In  this piece we’ll talk about … YAWWWWWWNNNNN…. INSURANCE.

What happens if you crash? What if someone runs you over? What if YOU clobber a pedestrian and get sued –  or more likely – what if you crash with a car or motorcycle & they blame YOU for causing the crash while  you think the other driver was at fault??

When you are loading your panniers and lubing your chain in preparation for your multi-state tour what data should you take with you?   The failure to think about the BLS NOW can end up costing you time, money, safety and peace of mind.

So what insurance do you have in place?

Do you even know what your policy limits are?

What SHOULD you have in place to protect YOU if you get WHACKED?

Let’s do a Deep Dive into The BLS!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Emotional Costs of a Claim/Case Can Be High, Too…

After taking notes from Orange County attorneys for personal injury law, I always tell clients that while your case or injury claim may have legal fees, court costs, deposition expenses, travel costs, and other expenses there is also an “emotional cost” to carrying a case, a claim, some litigation in your head, around your neck or on your shoulders. It can take a huge toll on folks- people always tend to stress significantly over their “case.”
When you are involved in a particularly aggressive, nasty bit of litigation your credibility is challenged, a snarky defense lawyer from challenges everything you say, they call you a liar or sometimes it seems that the other party just makes stuff up. The defense tactics may seem extreme, and they are – they are calculated to make you uncomfortable- to make you regret your involvement in the claim. The tactic may be to beat you down – to take a quick, cheap settlement and go away quietly. Sometimes you feel that while you are the victim of someone else’s negligence or attack it seems like YOU are the one being attacked. The insurance company and or defense counsel can pile on the paper & add hoops for us to jump over that nobody saw coming…  The Judge issues rulings that seem to make no sense.  In such a case the emotional cost of litigation that you are carrying is not even measurable until the case is over.


My job as your trial lawyer, your counselor, your attorney is to guide you through this process, to protect you and to make sure we put your claim or case in the best possible position for the best possible result. Do you need a lawyer too? Festus area personal injury attorneys are the most recommended for the job.

When you get a case like that RESOLVED- as we did recently – it is particularly rewarding … especially when you feel like you had a good case but one with some risks you identified immediately -a case in which you fought hard – a case in which you put the case into the best possible position for a successful/cost effective resolution – and a case in which you were able to bring a recalcitrant party/insurer to the negotiating table and get the thing done.

We made that happen in my recent case.

–> MANY THANKS to my co-counsel Chris Carville for carrying the ball on some of the more recent aggressive defense motions and tactics! Chris did a tremendous job researching the complex coverage issues, preparing extensive briefs, and working with me in the Mediation.

During the month of March alone each party filed Motions for Summary Judgment, then responded to each other’s MSJs and filed replies. Following that flurry of filings in March, I think the parties filed an ADDITIONAL 1000+ pages or so of additional motions, depositions, case law and such for the Court to review…

With no trial date in sight due to Covid, we received a court ruling in our favor a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the afternoon before the Mediation the Judge granted a defense request and added the “magic words” of Ohio Civil Rule 54(B) to the decision… which made the decision immediately appealable.  While we were happy for the victory, this last minute change could have had the case tied up in the court of appeals for 12-18 months. Accordingly, we were VERY happy to get the case resolved fairly in Mediation the next day.

Some cases are easy… there’s a crash- the cyclist gets hurt – they call us &  we get involved right away – we investigate the crash- we notify the insurer- we monitor the rider’s recovery – we get the factual case together – we get the medical case together – we negotiate a successful ending without ever even filing a lawsuit.

My recent case was NOT that… at all…  Rather, it involved a VERY aggressive factual situation and a defendant who, we felt, was lying about what happened… it involved a cyclist with  severe injuries – many complex legal questions – a detailed lawsuit – aggressive litigation tactics – a 2nd lawsuit filed by the motorist’s insurance carrier arguing there was no coverage – & extensive motion practice in both cases…

As someone who has tried many cases to verdict in big and small counties all over Ohio, I enjoy the litigation process… In more recent times, though, I’ve come to view litigation as a last resort – it’s usually too risky, too expensive, too time consuming and extremely unsatisfying.

In some areas of law, you HAVE to litigate… every time… malpractice cases are like that – you almost NEVER settle one without extensive litigation. Likewise, sometimes in the cases I take on you HAVE to litigate…such as when the other side says our client was to blame and refuses to negotiate fairly. Sometimes you get the the sense that the insurer on the other side isn’t being straight with you… that happened in a “dog v. motorcycle” case once where we were told that the policy limits were $50,000.00 on a homeowner’s policy… that seemed odd. We sued & found out that yes, the policy on the “house” were $50,000.00 but… the policy limits on the surrounding “farmland” [where the dog escaped from] were $500,000.00!  Sometimes the injuries do not resolve and the client is still being treated as the Statute of Limitations approaches so we have to file suit to protect the Statute…

Typically, though, despite my long history as a “trial” lawyer, in most cases I advise the client, the injured victim, that they are better off with a fair settlement than with 2+ years of litigation, $1000s in mostly unrecoverable litigation expenses and the “emotional costs” of litigation.

Thankfully, in my practice I am able to get 80+% of the cases I take in resolved without litigation. The other 20% that end up in litigation tend to resolve during the process. Sometimes, like yesterday, that process involves 1000s of pages of motions and filings… but usually not.

To some…OK maybe a BIG… degree I think my success in getting cases resolved is because I am MUCH better at “picking the winners on Day 1” than I was a young, inexperienced lawyer. After 38 years of practice I’ve now handled 1000s of injury and death cases, and some 450+ “bike cases!” I’ve handled them from start to finish – from 1st phone call all the way through to settlement- trial – Verdict – appeal!

Having had experience managing 100s of cases in a “back-of-the-Yellow Pages” law firm as well as handling 100s of cases as in-house trial counsel for an insurance company I think I bring a unique skill set and background to the table. I can provide a very real view into both worlds for my client. As a result, I’m also very blunt with clients about what I think about their case where, as a I young lawyer, I was probably less so.

I also find that cyclists make EXCELLENT clients – my clients tend to be highly motivated folks who work hard to GET BETTER… they WANT to get better – they EXPECT to get out and ride again! As a group they do MUCH better than the average injured person in recovery if from even severe injuries!

So, bottom line- we were successful recently in getting a very difficult case resolved in a satisfactory way. Hopefully, getting to a satisfactory result should bring an end to the emotional cost the clients have been carrying for the years since the crash.

Sometimes, though, those emotional costs are never released… they are carried forever…

The day of my Mediation – September 17 – was also the anniversary of the death of Matt Billings. I thought about Matt and his family a lot as we worked through our Mediation.

Matt was one of the 5 riders involved in an absolutely horrific crash in Brecksville, Ohio five years ago – 9/17/2015. He was the lead rider of the group and died at the scene when he was struck by huge front end of the driver’s F-350 pickup. He died on his wife’s birthday and a month or so before his young daughter’s first birthday…

I represented Matt’s family in the civil litigation. As you can see from the photo, the driver “cut the corner” on the turn. He made the illegal left turn directly into the path of the oncoming group of riders. He said he “couldn’t see” the riders because he was blinded by the sun.

Having gotten involved in that case very early, we lived with the family’s pain and grief almost from Day 1 … We spent a week in Cleveland watching the criminal trial, and sharing the family’s shock and grief when the jury returned a Not Guilty verdict after 5 days of devastating testimony. I worked on the civil case for next few years – getting the astounding revelation from the motorist during his deposition that he had lied to the police about his use of alcohol. We finally reached a financial resolution to end the case, but money is never the right answer in a case like that.

Matt’s family will carry the scars and the pain and the grief of September 17, 2015 for the rest of their lives. Every year, the anniversary of his death will fall on his widow’s birthday with the birthday of his daughter following shortly thereafter. The best we can do as lawyers in a case like that is get the best possible result for the family… but we will always carry some of that grief with us as well -sometimes the emotional costs just never leave you…

Stay Safe My Friends!