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Another tragedy, another call for better streets

June 7, 2016, Alexei Baureis, a 14-year-old was hit and killed on his bicycle at the intersection of Spicewood Springs and Rustic Rock Drive. A large truck hit this child. After noting that the driver was not intoxicated and cooperative KXAN reports that police warn “with summer here, people on bikes should be certain to make sure they have their lights and reflectors in place, there is no mention that lights or reflectors were a factor. There is no warning to motorists to make sure their vehicles are operational, that they are not driving distracted or without lights.

A 14-year-old is dead. Looking at the intersection (see interactive street view below) where he died it is clear, there is no infrastructure for people on bikes. Had the motorist been looking and driving with lights on and seeing what there is to be seen and observing the vulnerable road user ordinance, would this young person still be with us? Had the City provided adequate street lighting and a bicycle lane would this young person still be with us?

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Bike Crashes and APD, “I don’t know man”

This is a transcript from a bike crash here in Austin, Texas. Our police are so ill trained and this transcript is evidence of the same. The point is to illustrate that APD officers are not trained and the three foot and six foot rule, well that must be one of those “their own gig” things. This is not just one officer who is completely unaware of any laws pertaining to people who ride bikes. This is a systemic problem with police officers, at least here in Austin. As you can see by the discussion, this is several officers. This also involves a corporal. This transcript is from a video dash camera provided from APD on April 3, 2015.

Officer 2; John Conner Jr. AP7766:
Officer 2: (indistinguishable)…I’m just trying to get it off the road.
Officer 1: Ok. What-uh, what happened?
Officer 2: He was heading east bound on Barton Springs, he was in the bike lane and she turned right and he went…
Officer 1: (interrupting) He hit her?
Officer 2: …he went straight…(unintelligible)…but he’s in the bike lane and she’s in the right lane…
Officer 1: So did she hit him or did he hit her?
Officer 2: Well she turned in front of him and he hit her.
Officer 1: I have no idea man, to be honest. I’m thinking-I’m going to go with the car; I’m thinking the bike has to yield to the cars.
Officer 2: I don’t think I know-I don’t know anything about it-I don’t know, I wanted to ask-but it doesn’t seem like something that if your driving…
Officer 1: Let me call corporal. (Speaks with dispatch)
Officer 2: (speaking to unidentified person) yeah she was turning and he was going straight…
Officer 1: (On phone) Hey Corporal-quick question for you; so a person’s in a car, outside lane, going straight, and there’s a bicyclist in the bike lane right next to that car. The car goes to make a right turn and then the bicyclist goes against the car. Who’s at fault?
(pause)
Yeah.
(pause)
They both have a green but the car was turning and the bicyclist went against the car.
(long pause)
Ok. Really? (pause) Right, right. (pause) I’m not, I’m not seeing any signs so I’m going to go with no citation on this one, but yeah-I was just wondering because I’ve never actually had to deal with that and I-I figured that the bicyclist had to yield to the cars but I guess this is Austin.
(pause)
Corporal: Right? Bicyclist got their own (gig?) man, they got their own…(unintelligible)
Officer 1: No, no, no. I think he might’ve scraped himself up a little bit. (pause, listening) No, no, it was a normal intersection, right by Dawson and Barton Springs and she was in, you know-she was in her turn lane and she just went and made a right and the bicyclist just hit her so I guess-she like-if you will-she just cut him off, or he didn’t yield to her turning. Um, it was just like-one of those weird situations. (pause, listening) Um. Nah, I don’t think so-I haven’t actually spoken to anyone, uh- Conner was asking and I couldn’t give him an answer so I decided to call you. (pause, listening) Ok, sounds good. (pause) Alright, thank you. I appreciate it. Bye. (ends call)
Ok-um. There’s… Corporal doesn’t know either. Hopefully this won’t take long, being new. Apparently there’s some intersection where there’s a sign that says yield to pediest-yield to bicyclists. There’s no sign here. I don’t see it. I’m not-I’m gonna go with..
Officer 2: Like a bike team?
Officer 1: I can imagine-I would imagine the bike would be (liable? Plausible?) here.
Officer 2: …..and I’m going to fill out, um… and they’re going to take him over to the hospital when I’m done…
Officer 1: So they are transporting him?
Officer 2: Yes.
Officer 1: Do you know where?
Officer 2: Brack.
Officer 1: Did you already put in on the air or no?
Officer 2: No I didn’t.
Officer 1: I’ll put it on there. So…
Officer 2: (speaking unintelligibly) getting information..
Officer 1: Ok. No, let’s go with no. Um, but I want to know for myself too maybe because that’s-
Officer 2: This is the second, it happened yesterday..
Officer 1: Here?
Officer 2: No, but I mean, another bike lane-right turn…
Officer 1: (interrupting) See-in my opinion, in my opinion, my opinion-I think that the bicyclists should yield to the–
Officer 2: I do too.
Officer 1: to the traffic because,
Officer 2: What if you’re in the turn lane and they’re going straight and you cut a party off-
Officer 1: What do you mean?
Officer 2: What if you’re in the bike lane with your car…(unintelligible)
Officer 1: That’s true.
Officer 2: It’s hard, it’s like a hard….
(Briefly interrupted by passerby)
Officer 1: Maybe they should put like stop signs at every intersection for bicycles or something, you know? Because that’s-you know-you’re in a car, you’re not paying attention to the bicyclists. You’re gonna turn, exactly.
Officer 2: It’s a lot to ask, I think.
Officer 1: Well absolutely. So not only are you looking at traffic-oncoming traffic and everything, now you gotta look for bicyclist’s too? No. So yeah, I don’t-I don’t know. And I mean, this is a tight turn too-
Officer 2: Yeah.
Officer 1: -so she had to have stopped her car to turn you know, or started to slow down tremendously.
Officer 2: Yeah,… (unintelligible)
Officer 1: No, no. Hey man, I mean, at this point-
Officer 2: If She took it too fast, she took it too fast..
Officer 1: There’s no-there’s no criminal offense on this.
Officer 2: If that’s safe enough for you to negotiate the turn…
Officer 1: Exactly.
Officer 2: There’s no requirement for you to stop at a green light-
Officer 1: (interrupting) By law. There’s no—there’s no, uh, criminal offense on this.
Hey uh, John-go ahead and let them know what we’re talking about-go ahead and let them know that we’re not issuing any citations because technically they both have the right of way, um, that’s what you’re insurance company’s for-if they want, they can argue it. Just let him know that, I’m going to talk to her about that.
Officer 1 addressing driver; Car Driver: Ma’am? Hi, good day, I’m officer ____, from the police department. So normally what we would do in these situations is, we would issue a citation, ok, somebody would be getting a ticket, either you, or him. Um, it’s in our policy that we have to issue somebody a citation when it comes to traffic accidents, uh, as long as we know who’s at fault or it’s plain obvious who was at fault. Uh, we don’t know–because technically, there haven’t been any laws or anything at this point to distinguish who has the right of way in the bike lane, or if-if the vehicle has the right of way, so—it’s kind of a– weird situation so we’re not issuing anybody a ticket, ok? So, so, I had my partner, uh, he’s telling the bicyclist now, so at this point you guys have insurance companies, they can talk it out-figure it out, ok-that’s what they’re there for anyway. Um, but we can’t really determine who’s at fault because technically, you had the green light to turn, you can turn. You know, and technically, he had the green light to go, he can go. You know? I personally think that he should be yielding to you because he’s on a bicycle. Ok, if a car’s turning—or you see that a car’s starting to slow down or whatever the case may be, you need to wait, you know? That’s the way I look at it.
Car Driver: (unintelligible) ….I did put my blinker on…
Officer 1: I don’t know either, I haven’t spoken to him- I’m just letting you know that I feel that you should have the right-of-way, but I don’t know, I don’t know what the situation is ma’am, I don’t know-um, I know there hasn’t been any clear cut laws. I know that some intersections have signs that say “Yield to bicyclists”, but that’s a different situation.
Car Driver: Like yield on green, or something like that…
Officer 1: Right, but the thing is, is that there’s no signs on this intersection for that. If there was then that would be a little bit of a different story but there aren’t any here, so I’m not going to give you a ticket and I’m not going to give him a ticket. I mean, technically you both had the right-of-way, and you both took it. So, ok?
Car Driver: I really didn’t see him until he was like, cracking into my window.
Officer 1: Were you making a left turn?
Car Driver: Yeah.
Officer 1: Wait—so you were on this road (Dawson) and you were making a left turn?
Car Driver: No, I was coming Barton Springs and making a left on Dawson.
Officer 1: Turning right onto Dawson?
Car Driver: Left.
Officer 1: Oh, ok, you were coming this way.
Car Driver: I was coming from that direction…
Officer 1: Ok. So you weren’t coming this way.
Car Driver: No.
Officer 1: Ok. Allright, gimme a second. (To Officer 2): Uhhh…which way was she coming?
Officer 2: She was coming from over there.
Officer 1: She told me she was coming the other way.
Officer 2: Oohh.
Officer 1: Because that changes everything. She said she was making a left, she was going towards MOPAC, she was making a left turn onto Dawson.
Officer 2: That’s a citation.
Officer 1: That’s a citation, yeah exactly. Yeah-I have no idea. Do you have her license?
Officer 2: No I gave her her license back but I ran her already and I saved it in the car.
Officer 1: Ok, I’m going to explain to her that I’m going to have to give her a citation and I’ll just do it over the e-ticket, it may be quicker.
Officer 2: All right, I’m going to run down and start him. I’m going to kind of verify this whole story-
Officer 1: Ok, yeah-find out—and uh–
Officer 2: –because from my understanding…
Officer 1: –because that’s what she’s telling me—ok?
Officer 1 addressing driver; Car Driver: Ok, ma’am? Can you step out of your vehicle please? I’m just trying to figure this out here. Ok—so which way were you going?
Car Driver: I was coming from over there turning this direction.
Officer 1: So you were driving this way-to the other side of the road to where that car’s going right now.
Car Driver: Yeah.
Officer 1: Ok. And you were in the turn lane—
Car Driver: Yes sir.
Officer 1: and you had a green light—
Car Driver: Yes.
Officer 1: …and you were going to make a left turn to come up Dawson this way.
Car Driver: Yes sir.
Officer 1: Ok. And how did he hit you?
Car Driver: He….I was—I was already in the turn-like I’m in the middle of turning and he ran right into my passenger door and all the glass got me—I was already turning.
Officer 1: So he hit your passenger door?
Car Driver: Yes.
Officer 1: So what happened over here?
Car Driver: Previous damage.
Officer 1: Oh. Ok. I’m like—did he fly through the car…?
Car Driver: No, no. (both chuckling)
Officer 1: Or what happened–I was confused..
Car Driver: He was like—I had already, like I was already in the turn and he just slammed right into my passenger… door.
Officer 1: Ok. Alright—at that point ma’am, I am going to have to issue you a citation, ok? We were under the impression that you were going this way for some reason, that’s what-that’s what we heard, that’s what the story was. So we were under the impression that you were coming this way…
Car Driver: Oh…
Officer 1: …and you turned and he came and hit you.
Car Driver: …pays to be honest.
Officer 1: Uh-ma’am, at that point, we um…
Car Driver: (begins crying)
Officer 1: Ma’am? I understand. And this is-this is an issue that we’re having here in Austin because these bicyclists are so hard to see. When you’re on the road you’re so used to paying attention to traffic not bicyclists, I understand. Um, however though—when you are making a left turn, then you have to actually—the law, Texas law states you have to have, without a shadow of a doubt, basically that you can make that turn and make it clear without having any kind of obstruction.
Car Driver: I-I mean, I saw him so far in the distance. I mean, like nothing—and then all the sudden when I was in the middle of the turn, I mean, I…
Officer 1: Right. Alright ma’am, do you have your license ma’am?
Car Driver: (crying) Thank you for being honest.
Officer 1: Ok ma’am, I appreciate it-and like I told you earlier, this is nothing against you, ok? This is something that we have to do by the powers that speak, that we have to give a ticket when there’s been an accident, ok?
Car Driver: (crying, speaks unintelligibly)
Officer 1: Just give me a sec, ok?
Officer 1 addressing Officer 2: She’s crying now.
Officer 2: She’s upset right?
Officer 1: Yeah, she said “that’s what I get for being honest”, I’m like, I have to give you a ticket. What did he (cyclist) say he was doing?
16.42
Officer 2: He didn’t know what happened; he said he thought that she wasn’t going then she turned right in front of him. There’s a couple ……who say that it happened abruptly. There was a couple sitting here when I first got here who said “well, we saw everything and we’ll tell you whatever you need to know” and I’m like, ok—I gotta move this car first then I’ll come find you. I’m gonna go over and grab her and ask her which way she (driver) was going.
Officer 1: Ok, sounds good.
Officer 2: Yeah, they’re saying she was heading west…
Officer 1: She was heading west? Do you have paper copies, man?
Officer 2: Sorry?
Officer 1: Do you have paper copies?
Officer 2: Uh, CR3?
Officer 1: No, uh…
Officer 2: Tickets? Yeah. Yeah.
Officer 1: We should get them workin.
Officer 2: It’s just failure to yield right of way left turn, right?
Officer 1: Yes.
Officer 2: Ok. I’ll get ‘em, I’ll do it. It’ll take like two seconds.
19.35

Some thoughts on road rage

Closeup photo of angry driver honking in trafficRoad rage is no laughing matter. Austin cyclist E. Scott recently found this out the hard way when dentist Jerry Milner became angry that Scott was riding in a traffic lane (the bike lane was overgrown with vegetation). After yelling at Scott, Milner allegedly pulled in front of Scott and slammed on his brakes. This caused Scott to fly into the back of Milner’s truck. Scott suffered damage to his knees, arms, and elbows. Milner simply drove away.

Luckily in this case Scott was able to remember the truck’s license plate number, and the police were able to track down and arrest Milner. Milner’s bumper was dented and still had the imprint of a bicycle rider’s fingerless glove.

Sadly this case highlights an ongoing problem that cyclists face when it comes to road rage. The part of the road on which Scott was riding does not have a lot of traffic, and there was another lane. It would have been very easy for a driver to simply and safely pass any cyclist on the road. But yet we constantly hear about cases in which drivers get angry that they have to slow down for a bit and share the road with cyclists. When angry drivers lash out, this leads to needless injury and death.

The worst part is that many of these injuries are entirely preventable. Yet drivers still continue to get angry and act in ways that defy not only logic and safety, but the law. Just look at the recent death of cyclist Jimmie Sines in Dallas. Rather than stop after hitting Sines, the driver continued on for half a mile with the victim still lodged in his windshield before finally dumping Sines in an alley and driving away. Luckily witnesses saw him driving and reported him to the police, but driving away after an accident is never an appropriate response, especially under such egregious circumstances.

We applaud the Austin Police Department for their quick work in the Milner case, but road rage is not an isolated issue, and it’s not going to go away on its own. So let’s continue working together. Educate yourself and others about the dangers of road rage. If someone makes you mad while you’re driving, take a deep breath and try to relax so that you will not make a bad decision in a moment of anger. If you see someone else getting angry and driving in an unsafe way, take note and report them. Let’s learn to share the road and put an end to road rage, one good decision at a time.

A Whole New World for Cyclist Injured by Disney Heiress

A settlement in the case of Diane Disney Miller, deceased child of Walt Disney, versus a bicyclist has been reached, and we at Shefman Law are celebrating a victory for our client.

Diane Disney Miller crashed her car, a Lexus sedan, into a bicyclist in Marin County, California, in July 2012. She turned from the highway into a car wash without signaling and without looking – a dangerous combination of negligent choices. After being hit by Disney Miller’s vehicle, the victim suffered numerous injuries including a post concussive syndrome, cervical spine fractures, a broken tooth, torn meniscus, road rash, and multiple deep lacerations. The victim, an athlete and ultra-distance bicyclist, has spent over two years recovering from these injuries and is expected to require future surgery for the torn meniscus.
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Celebrating Bike to Work Month: A New Map Making It Safer For Austin Cyclists

Austin Bike to Work Month

May is Bike to Work Month, an event that everyone at Shefman Law is fully in support of. Not only does Bike to Work Month encourage a practice that is both good for your health as well as the health of your community, it also provides a great opportunity to shed some light on different important aspects of bicycle activism. As Austin bicycle accident injury attorneys, we appreciate the opportunity Bike to Work Month provides for highlighting the need for safer conditions for Austin’s bicycle community.

Lucky for us, MIT has recently introduced a new initiative that is working toward producing safer conditions for cyclists throughout the U.S. In honor of Bike to Work Month, here’s an introduction to this new program, deemed You Are Here, as well as a few reasons why this app could prove life-saving for Austin’s cyclist community.

What is You Are Here?

You Are Here, developed by the Social Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab, is an interactive map service developed to showcase all kinds of information, from locations of coffee shops to the density of concert venues in a unique urban environment. Most importantly for bicycle activists, You Are Here has been developed to show an evolving map of bicycle crashes within a certain city’s limits. If you click here, you’ll be taken to a scatter map showing where every recent bicycle accident and injury has occurred, with more frequent locations  being highlighted by larger location markings. Using data provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, You Are Here has plotted 1,430 bicycle accidents that have occurred since 2009. As bicycle activists and lawyers, it’s easy for everyone at Shefman Law to see just how important this kind of information can be for the cycling community.

How Can You Are Here Benefit Bike Riders in Austin?

Aside from being an amazing visual sight, You Are Here has some major practical applications. For one, it allows for expert route planning. Seeing as though it’s Bike to Work Month, it’s hard to imagine a better resource for safely navigating your way around town. It is a sad fact that there are certain locations throughout Austin that are far more dangerous for cyclists, such as the intersection at 6th and Brazos.  Whether due to high-density, poor maintenance or difficult conditions, some intersections in Austin are just flat out more treacherous than others, and You Are Here is a stunning tool for cyclists looking to avoid such debilitating areas. As bicycle accident and injury lawyers, we love You Are Here’s addition to the public safety of Austin cyclists.

As important as evolving tools are for bicycle safety, getting the word out that cyclists are currently forced to live with the possibility of getting injured is equally as important. If nothing else, You Are Here highlights the growing need for more effective legislation and public services for the bicycling community while simultaneously demonstrating just how dangerous it can be for cyclists out on the road. At Shefman Law, we’re not just personal injury attorneys, we’re cyclists just like you. If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident and have sustained injuries, contact us today for a thorough consultation.

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