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.


BIKE INSURANCE” – is an interesting topic. I’m doing some research now. It’s a relatively new thing in the insurance world – a world in which things do not change very often… basically it’s a type of coverage to fill in for cyclists who don’t own cars.
Unfortunately the “Bike Insurance” policies I’ve seen do not begin to replace good Auto coverage. They don’t offer big enough policy limits. You can easily get $100,000 or $250,000 of Auto Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. You typically cannot coverage that high on Bike Insurance policies. But, this also depends on the type of insurance and the company you usually get it from – you can try this out if you wish to get the best insurance policies. 
Cyclists often don’t understand how their AUTO policy can help them if they get whacked by a motorist. There are 2 coverages that often come into play:
– “Medical Payments” coverage [“MedPay] and
– Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage [“UM/UIM”]

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AFRAP? IMPEDING TRAFFIC? How To Beat A Ticket & A New Approach

I initially wrote this piece in 2010. I tweaked it around 2013 but am giving it a big re-write today because AFRAP and “Impeding Traffic” continue to be topics of discussion and continue to be tossed about by Police Officers when dealing with cyclists on the road.

I got a call some years back from a fellow, Brent Nimmo, who is an AVID cyclist in the Columbus, Ohio… well… “avid” probably isn’t a strong enough adjective – passionate bordering on fanatical maybe?  Part of this piece tells the story of how this 54 year old diabetic talked his way out of an “impeding traffic” ticket by proclaiming “I AM Traffic,” and maybe, just maybe, educated an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper in the process.


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AFRAP – What does “PRACTICABLE” even mean? Void for Vagueness Much?

I initially wrote this piece in 2010. I tweaked it around 2013 but am giving it a big re-write today because AFRAP and “Impeding Traffic” continue to be topics of discussion and continue to be tossed about by Police Officers when dealing with cyclists on the road.

I got a call some years back from a fellow, Brent Nimmo, who is an AVID cyclist in the Columbus, Ohio… well… “avid” probably isn’t a strong enough adjective – passionate bordering on fanatical maybe?  Part of this piece tells the story of how this 54 year old diabetic talked his way out of an “impeding traffic” ticket by proclaiming “I AM Traffic,” and maybe, just maybe, educated an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper in the process.


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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.

It’s been a while now, so I thought I’d re-visit the BLS and make sure folks out there really Got It!

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? What if you die?


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?

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2019 – An UGLY Year on Ohio’s Roads

2019 was an ugly year on Ohio’s roads. We have documented some 23 fatal bicycle crashes…23 cyclists killed on the roadway. There was one in February- one in May – four in June – eight in July – three in August and six in September. The cyclists killed range in age from 12 year old Lynette Shirk, who was killed in Richland County on sunny Sunday morning in June just outside Mansfield as she rode her bike home from church, to 88 year-old Clyde Ernsberger, who may or may not have ridden through a red light on Morse Road in Columbus on a cloudy September afternoon.

Ohio’s 23 fatal crashes included riders riding at night with no lights or reflectors, riders inexplicably hit from behind, riders who ran stop signs, riders struck by motorists who ran stop signs, riders riding the wrong way at night, riders struck by hit & run criminals and a rider who was racing in an Ironman event.

Of the 23 riders killed, 20 were men. The average age was 48.6. In this regard Ohio is statistically in line with the rest of the country. The IIHS [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety]  reports that 85+% of cyclists killed nationally are male.

In 1975, the worst year for cycling fatalities, there were 1003 cyclists killed around the country. However, the demographics were completely different. In 1975 the majority of the bicyclists killed were… KIDS!  Folks under the age of 18. As as the kids of the 60s and 70s grew into adulthood they kept riding… they are STILL riding. The number of riders killed started to drop. In the 1980s the average number of cyclists killed each year was less than the 70s. The average killed in the 1990s was less than the 1980s and the average number of cyclists killed in the 2000’s was less than in the 1990s.

As I’ve written before, though, this changed around 2009 – the numbers are coming UP again. Ohio, for years, averaged around 16 cyclists killed annually. However, from 2015-2019 Ohio has averaged 21 cyclists killed by motorists… a significant jump. Nationally, while the fatality numbers are still down from 1970s and 1980s, they are UP 38% since 2010.

Meanwhile, motorists are killing each other at slightly LOWER rates. Data from FARS tells us that starting in 2009, the total number of traffic fatalities has been LOWER during the past 10 years than in previous decades, despite increases in the number of cyclists [and pedestrians] killed.

What ELSE came about in the 2008-2009 time frame that could be contributing the crashes killing cyclists and pedestrians but not motorists?

As I’ve said before, to ME the logical/obvious thing to look at is pretty simple – SMART/INTERNET PHONES + FASTER INTERNET SPEEDS + SOCIAL MEDIA = MORE DRIVERS NOT PAYING ATTENTION – 

I suspect that just about EVERYBODY thinks they are a “good driver” – certainly “better than average” – as Lake Woebegone Syndrome runs rampant. Everybody thinks they can handle their phone safely while driving. Phones/Internet/Social Media of Today didn’t exist in 2008. Phones were not that fast – they didn’t take great photos or video. In 2008 very few people were posting photos or video to the internet, or “following” people on Instagram or using any of the apps like SnapChat etc as they hadn’t been invented yet. Faster phones with better camera combined with 4G/5G internet speeds and very cool social media apps allowed folks to access EVERYTHING from the “safety & comfort” of their seat behind the wheel of their moving vehicle.

In fact, people looking at their cell phones may even slow down a bit,  making them less of a fatal risk to other road users who are encased in 2 tons of steel.  However, when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists, a “speed” that KILLS is much lower … A 45 mph car/car crash may not kill anyone in the cars, but a 45 mph car/bike or car/pedestrian crash is likely to be unsurvivable. A motorist who spends 5 seconds reading a text or looking at a cute kitten video travels 330 feet – 110 yards – more than a FOOTBALL FIELD at 45 mph. They are basically driving with a paper bag over their heads- incredibly UNSAFE behavior that is likely to result in the death or maiming of any pedestrian or cyclist in their path.

Each of Ohio’s 23 fatal bike crashes in 2019 was unique – each left a family shattered – each is a tragedy, regardless of fault. We owe it to our cycling community to figure out WHY the numbers are going up… and to do something about it…

One step that is being taken in Ohio is the recent introduction of House Bill 468 which would alter current Ohio law and make texting while driving a PRIMARY offense. This means that if an officer sees you checking out your phone you can be pulled over. Whether this is a good idea or not may be debated in the Ohio legislature if the bill works its way to the floor. Right now, it is in the very first stage- it is introduced. You’ll be hearing more about it as time goes on.

Let’s be careful out there!


What Makes a City “Dangerous” for Cycling?

I read this article about how San Antonio was added to a list of “The Most Deadly Cities for Cyclists.” These stories always grab my attention, mostly because I want to see how they made the list… what criteria did they use? This article then mentions Dayton, Ohio as being on the list. As one who tracks EVERY fatal bike crash in Ohio I know that Ohio … by and large… is very safe compared to, say, Florida or other deadly cycling hotspots. So I dug a bit deeper.

OH… I see… San Antonio, and Dayton, were both on a list developed “according to an analysis of federal data by the insurance-shopping site”

Something tells me that “” has motives that may be inconsistent with riding a bicycle, but hey, who knows…

The CarInsurance story starts off with a very real key stat – after several decades of declining numbers, Cycling Fatalities are UP in the past decade.


Remarkably, fails to see the connection between how people are driving cars and why more people NOT in cars are getting killed. then makes the silly statement that “Increases in cyclist fatalities have occurred alongside increases in bike share programs and the number of cyclists commuting to work. In 2017, there were nearly 800,000 commuters nationwide who rode their bicycles to work, representing 0.5 percent of all commuters. While the share of bike commuters has remained steady in recent years, the fatality rate per 100,000 bike commuters is at a ten-year high.”

So… the number of commuters has gone up and deaths are going up and bike share programs are increasing and… VOILA… “Therefore” … Ta Da… what? There’s some magical connection between the numbers?

No… that’s not how this works…that’s not how ANY of this works…



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Supreme Court Ruling on Dangerous Dogs


I love Dogs… But… they can be a REAL nuisance to cyclists & pedestrians… To the cyclist they present a couple of problems… first, you could get bit by a dog. However, I’ve done over 50 “dog/bike” cases and in only a few was the cyclist actually bitten. Rather, dogs like to chase cyclists… sometimes they simply run into them …. or in front of them… I had one case where some German Shepherds came onto the road and split up a group of riders, cornering the last one. She tried to stop but fell over and suffered an ulnar nerve injury treated by doctors and her hand… the dogs ran back to the porch.  I’ve had cases involving bicycle crashes caused by huge dogs and cases with puppies – cases with vicious dogs that attack and cases with big old friendly dogs that walk up and lick your hand after they caused you to crash!

In each case the cyclist got hurt – sometimes very badly. In each of those situations the dog owner is liable to the cyclist for typical “personal injury” damages. This includes paying all medical bills, wage loss and other out of pockets as well as covering any future treatment, permanent injuries and “pain and suffering.” Since many jurors find dog attacks very scary, the risk to the dog owner is that a jury will award a bigger verdict.  In each case reflected above we successfully recovered money from the dog owner -typically through the homeowner’s policy.

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NY’s Torturro Case – New York City PAYS for its Failure to Consider Basic Traffic Calming – Vision Zero measures

In 2017 New York’s highest court upheld, in a 6-1 decision, a judgment against NYC in a case in which a young cyclist was struck and killed by a criminal motorist. The case was crystal clear against the driver. The motorist had a long, ugly history of bad driving – speeding -driving without a license. But the family’s attorney took another approach- an extraordinary argument. He sued the city …claiming the city’s failure to apply some traffic calming measures to a street KNOWN to be horribly dangerous was a contributing factor to the crash… The Jury agreed, assigning 50% liability to NYC, 40% to the motorist and 10% to the young boy who was killed while riding at night.
The case – Torturro v. City of New York – was a 6-1 decision from NY’s highest court. It held, in essence, that NY cities faced possible tort liability to victims of crashes.
Greg Shill wrote a short summary of the case here  –
Anyone arguing in favor of a “Vision Zero” policy should know this case backwards and forwards as it presents a road map for imposing significant liability on a city, in the right case, for failing to implement some “Vision Zero” ideas …

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COMING SOON…ish… A Book… YouTube Videos… Podcasts… All the COOL KID stuff!


For the past few years I have been presenting a “talk” to bike clubs and groups, which has morphed into a “Continuing Legal Education” class for lawyers & Judges. I call it …well… I call it a lot of things… but mostly I call it BIKELAW 101.

I delve into the History of the BIKE- it is a very VISUAL Powerpoint that starts on Day 1, with Karl Von Draise’s two-wheeled “hobby horse” invention and moves through the BoneShaker and the Penny Farthing and MANY other colorful and unique wheeled mobility devices before settling on The Safety.

I talk about how the BIKE CHANGED THE WORLD. How the Bike impacted Culture… Society… the Law… How the Bike fueled the Women’s Movement back in the 80s… um.. that’d be the EIGHTEEN EIGHTIES…

I use all of that to try to help folks understand the PASSION we bring to Cycling today… not just racing … or touring… or doing…whatever it is …hipsters on fixies do… no… I try to get to the fundamental question… the basic core of the DNA that drives us to ride… Here it is…

Are you ready…

The suspense is killing me…

OK…OK… Here is Cycling’s little secret…

Cycling Is FUN!

That’s it… you get on the bike and it’s FUN… it’s fun to move about … it’s fun to coast… there’s nothing un-fun about it…

The great actor/comedian Robin Williams was quite the cycling fanatic… he said:



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One of My First “Big” Bike Cases – Litigating Against Cannondale

A thread on a Facebook cycling page about Klein bikes reminded me of one of the early “big” bike cases I worked on … a 1980’s products liability case against Cannondale in Florida.
My client was an MD/neurologist. He and his wife, a PhD neuropsychologist, were huge cycling fans and would get the “first” of everything that came out in the bike world. They lived in a gorgeous home on the intercostal waterway near Fort Lauderdale, FL and had something like 28 bikes hanging on the walls of their home like sculpture.
She ordered him an aluminum frame bike from Cannondale right after they heard Cannondale was making them. She called the factory directly to place the order. He was a tall guy and the frame was … well…  a very large frame. This was before Cannondale figured out that they needed “fat” tubes- the big frame tubing was the same diameter as steel tubing of the day…
The bike was ridden a bit and spent a lot of time up on the wall. One day the doc took it down and took a ride. He got chased by a little red car around one of Florida’s traffic island/roundabouts. He saw an opening an ducked into it to try to get away from the car. Unfortunately, he hit a curb – and the head tube sheared off completely from the bike frame… The doc did a face plant into the pavement and suffered a brain injury which prevented him from practicing medicine.
I got a call here in Ohio from the doc’s wife down in Florida  on a Friday night and hopped a flight to FL Saturday morning. I brought two excellent FL product liability lawyers into the case and we worked it… and worked it… for several years. They did the heavy lifting, by far… I got to travel to CT & take the depositions of the Cannondale people. We retained a crash expert who analyzed what happened and a PhD metallurgist who examined a bit of the frame under an electron microscope & told us that the aluminum frame was improperly heat treated, causing weak spots right where the head tube snapped off. We heard that the defense spent $250K+ in experts. Our team spent well over $100K as well.
During the course of our case Cannondale issued a shop bulletin warning to all bike shops to be on the lookout for cracks in their frames… right in the area where our bike failed… so we figured we were clearly on the right track!
As the case moved along towards trial in FL we were able to fight off the defense attacks pretty effectively. However, they really seemed bent on taking the case to trial Then… our expert found a key video- from a completely different case – which really swayed the case towards settlement.
One theory of the defense was that when the doc hit the curb he was probably going to crash anyway, regardless of any defect in the bike frame – and he was likely suffer a head injury. In fact, the main crash reconstruction expert for the defense even developed a little video, showing a “stick man” on a “stick” bike… very primitive but hey it was 1980s technology…

However, our expert remembered that the main defense expert had been an expert in a Quick Release case some years earlier. In THAT case his job was defend the QR company in a case in which the QR came apart  or failed when a bike hit… a curb. To help do that the expert produced a video- in Super Slow Motion – which showed him riding a bike into a curb at different speeds…in each video the front fork flexes and the wheel hops up the curb… i.e., the QR didn’t “fail.”

In our case the expert had opined that it was “too dangerous” to have a human ride a bike into a curb [since their theory was that the crash/head injury was unavoidable.  Our expert was also in that old QR case –  for the other side –  and had the SloMo video buried in his files …one he found it we were able use that video to show that the defense theory of “oh he was going to crash anyway” was just BS… That video put the entire defense on the defensive as the credibility of their main expert was washed away…
Eventually we settled on the day of trial – literally on the Courthouse steps. Sadly, the doc passed away some years later as complications from his injuries caught up to him…
Part of my research in that case involved learning about aluminum and heat treatment processes. To that end I enjoyed having a long conversation with Gary Klein one afternoon as he had developed a process, and ended up in litigation with Cannondale over it…