National Bike Month is here and we want to celebrate! A lot of what we post relates to rules of the road, laws and ordinances, and safety, but today we’re going to talk about all the fun ways to celebrate National Bike Month with bike activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Plan a Ride with a Local Group
Ever city has cyclist riding groups, sometimes you just have to look for them. And most of them offer rides for varying degrees of skill. Some groups post their rides on the website and app Meetup (https://www.meetup.com) where you can find others to ride with for free. In San Francisco, there is the San Francisco Cycling Club (http://www.sfcyclingclub.org) and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (https://sfbike.org) that frequently post scheduled rides. You can also talk to the Coalition as they may know other groups with organized rides. In Paso Robles, there is a list of groups that ride at Cycle Central Coast (https://www.cyclecentralcoast.com/resources) including a group that goes out every Sunday from Templeton and they frequently have beginner rides. You can also talk to Bike SLO County (https://bikeslocounty.org) to find other organized rides and events.
Tune Up Your Bike
A lot of riders are “fair weather riders” and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you put your bike away for the winter, and even if you don’t, the spring is a great time to get a tune up on your bike. You can tune it up yourself if you’ve got experience, or take it into a local bike shop for some help. In San Francisco and San Luis Obispo, there is the Bike Kitchen (http://bikekitchen.org and https://bikeslocounty.org/programs/kitchen) available on select nights where you can bring your bike in and tune it up alongside other cyclists. This can be a great bike activity to make new friends and riding buddies.
Introduce Your Kids to Riding with Others
Many kids have a bike and ride around on their own street but don’t go much further. This month is a great time to introduce your kids to an organized ride. Talk to other parents and plan to have adults front, middle, and back of a few kids riding together in a quiet area. There are bike trails to keep them away from traffic completely, or you can make this a time to learn the rules of the road by finding a route with minimal traffic and wide bike lanes to give them room. Remember to ride single-file and obey traffic ordinances like red lights and stop signs. Both the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Bike SLO County organize riding events for kids, so be sure to check their calendars and see if there is an event you’d like to bring your kids to: https://sfbike.org and https://bikeslocounty.org.
Set Up an Obstacle Course
This bike activity can be fun for the whole family or you can arrange it for adults with a few modifications to the difficulty levels. Break out some sidewalk chalk on a street or set up cones (sometimes you can find small cones at the $5 and under stores or at sporting-goods stores). You can make it exciting with a few water balloons on the ground you have to ride over to pop or use a pool noodle to create a limbo pole. You can set up tight curves or even really thin lines to make a sort of on-the-ground balance beam to help work on precision riding.
Ride to Geocache Locations
Have you ever gone Geocaching? It can be a lot of fun and even a little bit addictive. There are even Geocaches in hard-to-reach places like bike trails that normal Geocachers can’t get to, which makes this an excellent activity for cyclists. What is it, you ask? It’s a game where you use GPS coordinates (and your phone) to guide you to hidden compartments that contain a log book for you to sign and sometimes an object for you to trade with. Always bring a pen with you to sign the log book as some compartments are too tiny to hold a pen. For objects to trade, think small: a friendship bracelet, charm, keychain, or small plastic toy can all be Geocache treasures to trade for what you find in the compartment, if it has something for you to trade with. Learn more here: https://www.geocaching.com/play.
Ride to Rewards
If Geocaching isn’t your idea of a treasure hunt, think of something worth riding for, like ice cream or a fancy doughnut. Call up some friends or grab your family and ride to a local boutique with your favorite treat. Afterall, it’s National Bike Month and that’s something worth celebrating with ice cream!
If you can believe it, one of our team members was behind a car getting on the freeway when one of the rear tires flew off of the car, narrowly missing another vehicle and causing a lot of mayhem on the onramp. Someone failed to put the tire back on the vehicle with proper care. This is negligence. And negligence is often a point of dispute in cycling injury cases.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is a term you may have not heard before if you haven’t been involved in a legal dispute. In California, negligence is defined as “the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. A person can be negligent by acting or by failing to act,” (CACI No. 401). This means when someone fails to take proper or reasonable care in doing something or doesn’t take steps or precautions necessary to proceed safely, and this failure to act or negligent act injures someone, the injured party can recover monetary damages from the negligent party.
What’s Considered Reasonable Care?
The argument for what’s “reasonable” as a step or procedure is often debated. “A person is negligent if that person does something that a reasonably careful person would not do in the same situation or fails to do something that a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation” (CACI No. 401). A “reasonable person” is also sometimes referred to a prudent or rational person. Often violating a California law, such as laws applying to drivers and cyclists found in the Vehicle Code is determined to be negligence.
What is Negligence in Cycling Injury Cases?
When cyclists are struck by cars, the most common types of a driver’s negligent behavior include distracted driving, like texting while driving, driving too fast for the surrounding conditions, and failing to obey traffic signs and signals.
A company, like bicycle manufacturer or bicycle repair shop, can also be found negligent if their product or repair is unsafe. We handle a lot of cycling injury cases as personal injury lawyers, but we also represent cyclists in product liability cases. If you were cycling and a weld suddenly broke loose on your bicycle causing an accident, the question would arise if there was any negligence on the part of the manufacturer or repair shop.
Insurance Companies Fight Liability to Avoid Paying Compensation
Remember that in all legal cases, gathering the evidence to establish another party’s negligence and liability can be a complicated process. Insurance companies fight very hard to try and show the injured person was negligent, not their driver. Things may not always be black and white, which is why it is so important to hire a cycling injury lawyer as soon as possible. We’re here to help fight for your rights and we bring years of experience in handling cycling injury cases, plus… we ride, too! We know what it’s like to cyclists out there. If you have been injured or had property damage to your bicycle, give us a call; consultations are free. You may also contact us online here.
California Assembly Bill Number 122 was introduced in December of 2020 but has undergone some amendments in March and May of 2021, as is typical in the lifecycle of an Assembly Bill. Here’s what you need to know about Assembly Bill 122 to limit bicycle accidents from a bicycle accident lawyer’s perspective.
First, it’s important to know that more than a dozen bicycle advocacy organizations support the Bill across the state of California, including MCBC (Marin County Bicycle Coalition, an organization focused on bicycle safety which we support). Also, other states already have similar vehicle codes in place, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Arkansas, and Delaware, which means AB 122 is not a new concept.
What does AB 122 Change?
If passed, California Assembly Bill Number 122 would change the vehicle code in California to allow bicyclists to treat Stop signs as they would a Yield sign. This increases bicycle rider safety and decreases bicycle accidents, which has been demonstrated in studies in Idaho (who was first to create the stop-as-yield law) and Delaware. In 2008, an investigation was conducted locally by the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, which has added to the data on this subject. In 2009, a study of Idaho conducted by J. Meggs at UC Berkeley showed a decrease of 14.5% in bicyclist injuries after the passage of the new law.
As bicycle accident lawyers, we support new systems which reduce the rate of bicyclist injuries.
What does AB 122 Not Change?
California Assembly Bill Number 122 is not a free license to blow through stop signs all the time or every time. Bicyclists will still obey red traffic lights and treat them as a full stop. Bicyclists will also still give the right-of-way to pedestrians who always have the right of way. And bicyclists will continue to stop at stop signs when there is traffic with the right-of-way.
Intersections are Dangerous for Cyclists
While according to the NHTSA, most bicyclist fatalities occur away from intersections in 45- and 55-mph zones, most bicyclist injuries occur in 25-mph zones where intersections and stop signs are most prevalent. Bicycle accidents do often happen at intersections and the UC Berkley study calls intersections the “most dangerous zone” for bicyclists. Reducing injury rates by 14.5 % would be a great step in the right direction.
No collision is a good one, but thankfully in many instances there is only property damage to your bicycle without any physical harm to you, the rider, and we’re always thankful to hear someone wasn’t hurt. However, this still leaves a nagging issue – how to recover property damage for a bicycle after a collision. We’re here to help!
Tip #1 – Don’t throw anything away or get it repaired
An important component of dealing with an insurance company is evidence. The insurance company may want to take a look at your damaged bicycle, helmet, and/or accessories.
Tip #2 – Take pictures of everything
If you can, take pictures at the scene of the collision, then take more pictures of your damaged bicycle and other items (if any) to show the damages in detail.
Tip #3 – Gather receipts
If you can find your original receipt for your bicycle, that’s great! You can also find listings online of your bicycle model for sale to show how much it would cost to replace everything. And when we say ‘everything’ we mean the frame, the tires, the rims, and all of your upgrades, if any, to the bicycle that were damaged in the collision. Make a list of everything on your bicycle that was damaged (including anything you were wearing like your helmet or riding shirt) and write down how much it would cost to replace and include the source of that price.
Tip #4 – Get repair estimates
Some damages might be repairable rather than needing to be replaced. If that’s the case, get a repair estimate from a cycling shop you trust. You may want to get a repair estimate even if the repairs would cost more than the price of the bike because showing that to the insurance company may prompt them to replace the bike rather than insist on repairing it.
Tip 5 – Compile everything into a demand for payment letter
Our property damage demand toolkit includes an editable demand letter that you can use as your template or starting point. It’s free to download and many cyclists have found it to be helpful at this step when trying to recover property damage for a bicycle. You’ll most likely open a claim with the insurance company over the phone first and then send this letter with your claim number written on it to outline your damages. From here, the insurance company will likely make you an unreasonable offer (one that might buy a kids’ bike at Walmart) or start using delay tactics. Stay strong and stick with it.
Tip 6 – Be ready to negotiate
Remember, it is the job of the insurance adjuster to pay you as little as possible. Your job is to get a fair settlement or take them to court (it might be a ‘Small Claims’ lawsuit). If you are struggling with this step, you are welcome to give us a call. We love talking to cyclists because we ride, too, and we know what it’s like to negotiate with an insurance company! Consultations are free and sometimes that’s all you’ll need to get the courage to negotiate with the insurance company. If negotiating isn’t working or you have damages that exceed a ‘small claim,’ we can talk with you about your options, too.
The vision we share with many is that no pedestrian or bicyclist will be fatally injured by a vehicle in San Francisco – ever. The City of San Francisco is behind Vision Zero with a mandate to bring traffic deaths to zero by 2024. This year has been looking on track at reducing pedestrian fatalities, but we have reversed our progress for bicyclists and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has already said it is unacceptable. As bicycle accident attorneys, we agree. On Thursday, September 13th 2018, the fourth bicyclist this year was fatally injured by a vehicle in San Francisco.
To put this number into perspective, since 2009, the two times San Francisco has seen as many bicyclist fatalities were in years with over 30 total traffic fatalities: 2013 and 2015*. 2013 in particular was the year with the most overall traffic fatalities since 2010. It’s only September and we have already reached this unfortunate target. Based on traffic collision statistics, it is impossible to say that there won’t be another bicyclist fatality in San Francisco this year. Data is still being compiled for this year, but last year was a record breaking year with low numbers and this year had been low as well. Unfortunately, it is turning out to be unacceptably high for bicyclist accidents and fatalities, especially compared to the ratio of overall traffic fatalities for 2018:
Why Are Bicycle Accidents on The Rise in San Francisco?
The increase in injuries and fatalities is on the rise in the state by some data. It is harder to be certain when looking at data for 2018 as so much of it is still being aggregated. The Govenors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) which reviews road safety in all states found that in 2016 and 2017 pedestrians are now the largest proportion of traffic fatalities nationwide than they have been in 33 years. More people outside of cars are dying; it is on the rise as a nation and as a state. Year after year California fluctuates at the top of the nation for the state with the highest number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed each year in traffic collisions. Usually, we’re first in total number of deaths, but sometimes we’re second. This means what San Francisco is trying to do with Vison Zero goes against the majority of the nation, state, and metro-area statistics. It will take education, engineering, and enforcement, but as bicycle accident attorneys and advocates for safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, we believe it is possible.
The most recent incident occurred outside of a Vision Zero high-injury corridor on the 1600 block on Howard Street near South Van Ness and 12th Streets (Hoodline). The cyclist was on his way to a bicycling rally to advocate for more protected bike lanes (SF Examiner). Studies have been showing bicyclists feel safer in these protected lanes and they are a part of Vision Zero. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is calling for quick action and asks that San Francisco do a better job to prevent more loss in their press release following this terrible tragedy.
What Can You Do To Prevent The Next Traffic Fatality?
Don’t touch your phone! Not for a call, text, or map. Never drive distracted. In 2015, 10% of traffic fatalities resulted from distracted driving (NHTSA). This is easy for you to avoid.
Never drive impaired by alcohol, drugs, or medications. Drivers who were impaired by drugs or alcohol in collisions resulting in a fatality has been dramatically increasing! In 2015 it was up to 42.6% (NHTSA). And the worst time for this is during the holidays… which is coming up.
Slow down. To put it simply: speed kills. Approximately 31% of traffic fatalities are a result of speeding as the main factor (NHTSA). And experts believe the increase in fatalities is due to more people speeding… Are you really in that big of a hurry?
Rahman Law PC is dedicated to making San Francisco’s streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists because we walk and ride these streets, too! As bicycle accident attorneys we regularly attend events and advocate for pedestrian and bicyclist rights. Four deaths in one year is a setback in the progress everyone has been working so hard for, but we will not give up. Even one death is one too many.
*Data from Vision Zero SF. Some data is still under investigation.
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School is back in session and just like you, your child is a commuter. You may drive your child to school and give them a quick tuck-and-roll drop-off, or they may ride the bus, but some still pedal their way among the throngs of cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Or, you may have children who only cycle at home afterschool and on weekends. In either case, we wanted to share with you 5 rules every parent should know when letting their child ride their bike in San Francisco. Children under 14 accounted for 37% of all fatal bicycle accidents in 2015 and San Francisco is still in the top 13 cities in the entire United States for bicycle fatalities with motor vehicle collisions. It is important for parents to be vigilant.
1: Urban Cycling Ends at 6:00pm
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis looks hard at fatal bicycle accidents and tries to find patterns. One that they have found to be consistently true is the spike in bicycle accidents resulting in fatalities between 6:00pm and 9:00pm during any season. If your child has extracurricular activities keeping them out, make sure they are home with their bicycle before 6:00pm. If they have come home and gone out for a ride, the same rule applies.
2: Ride with Traffic
Ride in the same direction as traffic in the bike lane. Use the travel lane (the vehicle lane) when needed to avoid obstacles and always signal your actions with your hands to tell the drivers and other cyclists what you are doing. Children under the age of 13 may ride on the sidewalk in San Francisco (CVC 21560, San Francisco Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12).
3: Always Wear an Approved Helmet
Cyclists and passengers under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet. Parents – set a good example, be safe, and wear one, too! Also be sure the helmet is properly fitted. Many children will wear their helmet too far back away from the brow. In addition to a helmet, adding extra reflective gear is beneficial. Elastic straps that go around the ankles with hook-and-eye closures can catch headlights and give extra visibility.
4: No Surround Sound
Headphones may not be in/cover both ears (CVC 27400). Many children like to listen to music while commuting, but they may not have both ears covered while operating a bicycle. A hands-free device is permitted in one ear, but this may cause further distractions if a child tries to answer a phone call while navigating an urban area.
5: Obey the Lights and Signs
Children who have not yet learned to drive often don’t know to stop or yield in the right locations for signs and crosswalks which can potentially lead to bicycle accidents or collisions. When on a bike, operators must obey the same rules as a car, which means they must stop at a stop sign and wait their turn. If your child is commuting on their bicycle, consider riding their route with them a few times to help explain the lights and signs to them. DMV booklets contain road rules and can be picked up free of charge.
Talk to Your Child to Prevent a Bicycle Accident
These are 5 rules we think every parent should know before letting their child ride their bike in San Francisco. In California, the law regarding riding on the sidewalk varies from city to city, but the other rules are beneficial for adults who ride and parents with children who ride throughout California. As bicycle accident attorneys in San Francisco with a second office in Paso Robles, we talk to a lot of parents with concerns after an accident or a close-call who are looking for what they can do to prevent a bicycle accident. In the urban landscape of San Francisco, children need extra help learning about bicycle safety and constant reminders to ride safe. We hope these 5 rules will help you talk to your child about bicycle safety.
It takes a long time for data to be compiled and released. In March of 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis released their data from 2015 with comparisons going back to 2006. By gathering data over the years, the statistical team has sought to find patterns: is there a most fatal time of day for bicycle accidents with motor vehicles, or perhaps a demographic most likely to be in a fatal bicycle accident?
There is a difference between causality and correlation: a demographic might be found in a pattern but that in no way points to an immediate cause. Something we talk about frequently is the immediate blame placed on pedestrians, pedalcyclists, and motorcyclists when an accident occurs; we blame the victim. When a bicycle accident is fatal, the victim has lost their ability to speak which is one of many important reasons why they should not be immediately placed in the wrong. All avenues must be explored. So when a demographic is found to correlate to fatal bicycle accidents, we must explore that, too.
So, is your demographic most likely to be in a fatal bicycle accident?
Gender can rule out roughly half of the population. Men are more likely to be killed in a bicycle collision involving a motor vehicle than women and it’s a fairly significant difference (4.40% men v. 0.74% women). Men were also much more likely to be involved in a bicycle collision with a motor vehicle resulting in an injury without a fatality (229% men v. 54% women).
Both men and women shared their top-tier category for the age with the highest number of fatal bicycle accidents (ages 55-59, 92m/16w) while men had their second-tier follow in age (50-54, 87), women were not as significant in difference for their second-tier apart from their third-tier (65-69, 13; 50-54, 12; 20-24, 12). Women also have the most reported bicycle accidents with injuries (not fatal) at 20-24 years of age. Men in their 50s and women in their early 20s or late 50s are all in the demographic that appears to be significant for bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles.
As bicycle accident attorneys, we have offices in Paso Robles and San Francisco, California assisting with bicycle accident and personal injury cases. California was the first in the nation for pedestrian and bicycle fatalities for the longest time (as advocates to reduce those numbers, it felt like an eternity). Per the Traffic Safety Facts report, California is now second in the nation to Florida. It is a big win for our state as we have a larger population. In 2015, Florida had 150 pedalcyclist fatalities while California had 129. For other readers trying to determine if they are in an at-risk demographic, these are the only two states to have more than 100 fatalities in 2015. Texas is the third highest with 50 fatal bicycle accidents. Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Rhode Island, and Wyoming are the safest states for cyclists with none (and that is the list we really want California to be on!).
So why California, Florida, and Texas? The areas with the highest bicycle injury and fatality rates are the urban areas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has compiled city data and the cities with the highest resident populations are most often the ones with the highest total bicycle fatalities. The total fatal traffic accidents of San Francisco including fatal bicycle accidents and fatal motor vehicle collisions with pedestrian made up over 10% of the entire country’s traffic fatalities for the year. Other urban regions with dense populations and high cyclist fatality rates here in California include Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose. Los Angeles, CA was the city with the most fatal bicycle accidents in 2015; New York, NY, was second.
If you would like to read more about the demographics collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you can download their Bicyclists and Other Cyclists Traffic Safety Facts report here. But knowing that your demographic is more or less likely to be in a fatal bicycle accident is not the end of safety precautions when riding. We want you to ride safe each and every time you go out there and that means proper gear, visibility, and knowing the rules of the road.
When someone talks about holiday traffic and safety in California, they often focus on “the” holidays in November and December, but for bicyclists and pedestrians, the summer holidays like The 4th of July and Labor Day can be quite hazardous, possibly more so than the holidays at the end of the year because there is more cycling and walking to do in the summer when it’s so beautiful outside! We want to share three important things you should look out for this summer we’ve learned as bicycle accident attorneys working in San Francisco and Paso Robles where the summer is a great time to get outside and ride.
One: Summer Tourists Don’t Expect You
We do a lot as bicycle accident attorneys to advocate in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo County for safer conditions for cyclists. Some areas are beginning to have better lane markings and even separated bike lanes, which is great! But despite better conditions where available, at any time a tourist is unfamiliar with the road in a new place and doesn’t know to expect a bike lane or a bicyclist. They don’t know the road they are on is a local favorite for riding. They also may not have their eyes fully on the road as they look for their next turn, or at the beautiful scenery. Summer is here and so are the tourists. As a bicyclist or pedestrian, we must all be paying attention to the traffic around us at all times (and remember – we are all pedestrians at some point during our day!).
How much should we be paying attention? Not just to one car here are there, but to all of them! The San Francisco Travel Association said 25.5 million people visited San Francisco City in 2017. Not all tourists come with a car or rent one, but many do. And if you live or have been to San Francisco, you know there are many narrow and one-way streets to pay attention to. The 13% of roads in San Francisco where 75% of collisions with pedestrians are occurring are located in areas where tourists want to be (see the map and click on it to see the live version) bringing up concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists now that summer is here and has brought with it an influx of heavy tourism. This is not to say that tourism is bad – tourism is a good thing for local economies. But as bicycle accident attorneys we know first-hand the hazards cyclists face.
Two: Summer DUIs are Rising
A lot of bicycle accidents are caused by vehicle drivers who are under the influence. In California, DUIs are rising. Drivers in collisions resulting in a fatality who were impaired by drugs or alcohol rose from 26.2% to 42.6% between 2005 and 2015 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). In San Luis Obispo, bicycle collisions have been decreasing (down 11% from 2015 to 2016), but DUIs have been increasing and in August of 2017, a cyclist was killed in a hit-and-run collision. The alleged driver was 17-years-old and intoxicated. California State as a whole appears to have seen a decrease in annual DUIs, depending on which report you read; however, holiday DUIs always show a spike which is why we want to remind pedestrians and cyclists to be careful during the summer and especially during the holidays. The 4th of July holiday is the deadliest holiday due to collisions with the most fatalities over any other time period during the year (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). As the Thanksgiving holiday has the most traffic, alcohol and drugs have to be questioned with the 4th of July. DUI-related collisions can happen at any time, but statistically are more likely to be fatal starting after 8:00pm, peaking between midnight and 3:00am (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Remember to add extra lights to your bicycle if you plan to ride at night to give yourself as much visibility as possible. While tourists can possibly be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as they’ve been out partying, the locals can be to blame on this one, too. This is why we suggest keeping the phone number of a good bicycle accident attorney in your phone (hey – like us!), just in case something happens and you are unsure of what to do next.
Three: New Drivers and Teens on Summer Break
If you are the parent of a new driver, you may have heard of the “100 Deadliest Days,” but if you’re a cyclist or pedestrian and haven’t heard this term, you need to know about this. The 100 deadliest days for teen drivers fall between Memorial Day and Labor Day as these are the days when the most fatalities involving collisions and teen drivers occur. In 2016, there were about 10 people killed per day by a teen driver in this window, which was a 14% increase from 2015 (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety). Of these 100 days, there are 10 considered the most deadly (9 falling between May and August) and are believed to be so dangerous due to teenage drinking. With or without substance abuse, new drivers are out in full force during the summer. The risk for them is highest at night (considered after 9:00pm by AAA) and/or if they are speeding. If you have a new driver, be sure to talk to them about the added risks of substance abuse, speeding, and reduced visibility. If you are a cyclist or pedestrian, be extra alert during these summer months.
Need a Bicycle Accident Attorney?
We want you to be safe and have fun this summer, but if things don’t go as planned and you think you might need a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco or Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo, give us a call! We are happy to provide you with a free consultation. We also have two helpful free downloads you might want to save now for future use to keep in your phone, glovebox, or bike-bag:
THE PROPERTY DAMAGE DEMAND TOOLKIT: How to get the Insurance Company to Pay you for your Damaged Bike After a Crash
This podcast was recorded in December of 2017 with Martin Krieg from the national nonprofit National Bicycle Greenway and Shaana Rahman of Rahman Law PC.
It is part of the Mountain Movers Podcast Series. The series focuses on people who are taking giant steps for the betterment of cyclists and the planet itself. Mr. Krieg recorded from Indianapolis. Shaana Rahman of Rahman Law PC discusses her life riding bicycles, working as a bicycle accident attorney, advocating for bicyclist safety, riding in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Click below to visit the National Bicycle Greenway website with the original podcast, or listen here:
Martin: Welcome the national bicycle greenways mountain mover podcast series. Here you will get up close and personal with people who are taking giant steps for the betterment of cyclists and for the planet itself.
Martin: With gratitude to Shaana Rahman of Rahman law in San Francisco California for waiting for me to get set up here in Indianapolis. I was finally able to record our long-scheduled podcast. As such I can finally show you the rich genuine kind person I’ve had the chance to work with for these last couple of years. At long last I’m able to show you a woman who mixes professionalism with warmth in our important service to cyclists who have been compromised by motorists.
Martin: Hey how are you doing today Shaana?
Shaana: I’m doing great Martin, how are you?
Martin: I’m doing great thanks for asking and now we’re just going to jump right into because there’s so much about Shaana Rahman that I need for the guy that bicycles [01:08 inaudible] to be able to understand. So Shaana before we get into bikes in law, where’d you grow up at?
Shaana: I grew up in Long Island, New York.
Martin: Is there a city out there that you grew up in?
Shaana: Massapequa, Nassau County.
Martin: Massapequa, huh okay. Did you ride a bike there much?
Shaana: I did, I had my first about my first red Schwinn when I was a kid with some babysitting money I think. It wasn’t my first bike, the first bike I bought myself.
Martin: Really! Was it like a Schwinn varsity or something like that?
Shaana: It was a baby bike. So it wasn’t even a ten-speed. The Varsity was the second one. But it was like a thick Schwinn with no hand brakes.
Martin: So, it is a coaster brake? You step on the pedal.
Shaana: It was bright red.
Martin: Where’d you get the money for it? You say you bought it. Did you have a paper route?
Martin: Oh you did?
Shaana: Yeah, my brother and I did. I would help him, we’d split it. We were industrious kids because we grew up kinda poor. We’d do our jobs and make money.
Martin: Yeah wow it’s like I can’t tell you how many bikes and things I bought it with a paper on money. You know kids don’t have that luxury anymore. So, I guess probably I’m going to skip maybe a few years you were a kid in Long Island, there was a lot of riding around there? Do you ride much?
Shaana: Every day, yeah. It was a time when you’d just get on your bike, at like, you know 6/7/8, and our parents didn’t care, and we’d ride in a group. We’d go all through the neighborhood. You know, back then no helmets, no nothing – but big wide streets, and it was safe, and it was the thing that our parents would let us do.
Martin: Did you ever go on long rides in long island?
Shaana: Yeah, we used to do our long ride during summer. We used to ride out to jones beach.
Martin: Wow! Did ever make it up to port Jefferson?
Shaana: We couldn’t ride that far.
Martin: How long is long island anyway? Just curious about hundred miles.
Shaana: Probably at least a hundred miles.
Martin: Yeah that’d be right okay and so like you were riding your bike all the way through as a kid did you ride in high school too?
Shaana: Yeah. Yeah in high school. When I was in New York in high school, I used to ride my bike in, get to the bus take it to high school. That was my joined varsity.
Martin: That was in New York City then?
Shaana: No still in Long Island.
Martin: Okay in Long Island still okay. So, you used to ride your bike to school or ride your bike to school. Really? How cool is that? What was the name of your high school just for fun?
Shaana: Massapequa high school
Martin: Ah so okay. How about college? Where did you go to college at?
Shaana: I only moved out to California and I went to college at Santa Clara.
Martin: Yeah, your whole family moved out there?
Martin: And what did you lived in Santa Clara?
Shaana: We moved out to Santa Cruz and then [05:15 inaudible]
Martin: You are kidding me. So, you are in Santa Cruz in the early 90s possibly too?
Shaana: I moved out there [05:29 inaudible]
Martin: [05:28 inaudible] earth quake you were gone. So, you weren’t there that long?
Shaana: Yeah, I was there about 3 or 4 years. Then I [05:38 inaudible] first year college I lived in [05:45 inaudible] over the hill. Highway 17 was basically closed.
Martin: Yeah, I rode my bike on that one. It was very, very surreal experience. It was crazy crazy. Wow so you’re a Santa Cruz kid kind of sort. Wow! Wow! That’s amazing. You went to Santa Clara, went to school of the Jesuits.
Shaana: I did. They had the best bar. No one knows it. The Jesuits resident had the most elaborate, most impressive bar [06:23 inaudible]
Martin: You are kidding me, on campus?
Shaana: On campus. [06:27 inaudible]
Martin: So, what do you mean? It was like a bar that the drinking for alcohol?
Shaana: It was like a parlor room. Like a [06:46 inaudible] parlor room with [06:50 inaudible]
Martin: Anybody can use it huh?
Shaana: Not exactly. You have to be invited by the Jesuits.
Martin: So, it wasn’t just any student at Santa Clara could go to the Jesuits bar. You have to be invited by the priests, gotcha. Wow! And then you went from a catholic Santa Clara, catholic school to a catholic law school correct?
Shaana: I did. [07:25 inaudible]
Martin: Okay wow so you went from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara to San Francisco all the way up to peninsula and ended up stuck in San Francisco and we spoke the other day you were doing personal injury law. So, you start doing personal injury law for the longshoremen back pretty much when they ran San Francisco. You were saying that you came on board with them when they were starting to shut the ports down, is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Shaana: That’s right. Put myself [08:03 inaudible] longshoremen and when they got hurt at work. So, it’s more like workers comp former longshoremen and it was at a time [08:16 inaudible] of longshoremen. It was when they were starting to close the ports. So those jobs were getting a little bit scarcer. So, these were almost all men, but some women, these folks really really really wanted to work and so even when they were hurt, really bad things, bad things would happen at longshoremen. You know they would get in a hole and covered with product and they’d have pallets on them, they would have [08:47 inaudible] ripped off.
Martin: Tell us about the path you took before you started fighting for the rights of cyclists. When did you become a bike commuter, how did that all kind of evolved?
Shaana: It’s hard to say you know when I was, so I grew up riding a bike obviously and then when I lived in Santa Clara through college, it was great bike riding in Santa Clara you know to and from school and around. Because big flat wide streets and back then not a lot of traffic there and then you know after I had moved up to San Francisco, I didn’t ride for a while. Because it was kind of terrifying to me so and I didn’t have a lot of time. Because I was in law school and starting my first law job. So, I was working probably 60,70,80, 90 hours a week you know and then when I got my first plaintiffs job working for a firm representing injured people, I started doing a lot of bicycle and motorcycle cases. So, representing the rights of cyclists and motorcyclists and that’s when I started getting back into getting back on the bike in San Francisco.
Martin: Okay great and were you member of the SFBC back then?
Shaana: I became a member of the SFBC when I opened my firm about ten years ago.
Martin: Okay that would have been 2004 or so.
Shaana: 2007 yeah.
Martin: Okay great. Were you active with the SFBC?
Shaana: I have been active with them for the last ten years. I’ve had pleasure of sponsoring a number of their programs over the years and attending all their great events and the most recent thing I’ve been doing with them is sponsoring a fairly new program, it’s their Women who Ride program and it’s basically for the social and educational program for women riders. So, they do good rides and they also put on presentations about things that might be relevant to riders.
Martin: Wow! So how do you feel about riding in San Francisco now? Have you gotten over your fear?
Shaana: I have gotten over my fear. It took some time, but I would force myself to you know eight, nine, years ago ride up and down Market Street and that’s the way back then to get over your fear. Now it is actually almost pleasurable, not totally but there’s been some great improvement. But it took a lot. But SFBC was really helpful there. Because it gives gave me a community of people who could share stories and know tell you what the best route is, or you know gives you that kind of help I think. So, city riding was very different from what I’ve been used to. It’s not big wide-open streets with very few cars. It’s the very opposite of that. So, it was really learning how to navigate urban riding.
Martin: As well as the railroad tracks.
Shaana: Right, 90 degrees.
Martin: I’ve seen so many people go down on those things you know. Its hysterical and funny and even sometimes I’ve seen seasoned cyclists go down. Because they’ve let their guard down, they’ve kind of you got to hit perfectly 90 degrees what you say. Okay now in terms of your service Shaana, it’s free. But of course, that’s if you choose to take on someone’s case. How does one get that ball rolling? You do a couple of interviews. One on the phone, one face-to-face. Tell us about those.
Shaana: Sure, I’ll clarify a little bit. My service is not actually free. There is no upfront cost. I’m a contingency fee lawyer. Like all personal injury lawyers, we take a percentage of recovery. So how people get to me, people come to me. Most of my cases are referred through former clients, friends and also, I get a lot of cases referred to me from defense attorneys. The folks I argue against in cases. So that’s how I get my cases and people come to me and they call, or they send an email through our website and then some people are we then call people back who have seemed like they might have a viable case and there’s a phone process where we take a little bit of information. If they come in through the website, the website has a number of standard questions that help us better evaluate. So that’s an easier process and then if either through the website intake process over the phone intake process, it looks like it might be a case that I can take on. I have folks come in and we meet in person.
Martin: Okay so what kinds of factors come into play in you are determining whether a case is worth representing?
Shaana: There are a lot of different factors. Probably the biggest one is I want to make sure if the case meets all the criteria. You know there was a collision or there was an injury and there are certain parameters met. I want to make sure that my involvement is going to add value to that client right and so for the bike community, I get a lot of calls from cyclists who were in some sort of collision. But thankfully either were not injured or just had property damage damaged their bikes and they call really because they don’t know what their rights are or what should happen and so for those folks I will just take them through the process and if it’s a very minor injury, I’ll take them through the process of how to do it themselves. Because that’s not the case where I would add value for that. Yeah so, it’s something, not every case you don’t need a lawyer for every case. Because there’s insurance on the other side, you can sometimes work it out with the insurance company although the insurance companies do not play fair. If you at least are armed with sort of the basic information about how these things work, it can help you just resolve your issue on your own.
Martin: Okay you were saying also that you kind of look at the client then see if they are able to, express themselves appropriately and if it’s something to do with like if they’re just trying to do this out of an ego type spite thing, talk about that just a little bit.
Shaana: So, you always want, because the personal injury in the civil lawsuit system is it’s pretty narrow and what I can do. So essentially what we could do is get monetary recoveries for people who are injured right and that’s money and so if someone comes to me and they want something other than that, you know they want to be vindicated or they want to be right or that motivation is difficult. Because it’s not the thing that the system allows me to do for them. So, I look at that, I also I always meet with clients. Because I think it’s real important I spent a lot of time with my clients and I want to make sure we gel right that I like them, and they like me and because it’s an important relationship like any other relationship, you’re in a position where you both are sharing sensitive and important information you need to trust each other. So, I think that the client meeting is really important to that process to sort of assess how someone is going to be whether or not they can withstand the kind of rigors of litigation if that’s necessary. Because having a lawsuit and having a claim, no it’s not a fun process for people. You know myself and my staff we try to make it as painless as possible. But there’s still an element of having to participate and reliving the horrible thing that happened to you right and so there are some people who I feel at going through that process is actually going to be worse for them.
Martin: Okay I got it. Okay so once you choose to take on a case, pretty big mechanism gets set into place. It becomes far more than Shaana Rahman. Tell us about your staff.
Shaana: Sure, I have three wonderful women who work with me. I have Christina Guido, she’s my director of client services and she is sort of she’s me when I can’t be available. In terms of being able to be responsive to the clients, she gets information from them, gives them information about what’s going to happen next or give some documents to review and kind of also handles the initial process between potential clients and what’s become new clients and Christina is a fabulous woman. She is, I’ll give you a little bit of her background – well I’ll tell you one personal thing about her. She’s a phenomenal gospel and choir singer in her personal life. So, she is a very interesting woman. Then I have Jaylen, who is my case manager and so Jaylen runs, she runs also the office functionality and make sure we have the things we need to do our jobs. But also keeps track of the status of cases, make sure they’re moving along and coordinates scheduling with the opposing parties and so basically it keeps us on track and then I also have Anja who’s a paralegal. But also, a lawyer by training. Who graduated from Boalt and she works with me on the nitty-gritty legal issues sometimes and gets documents together and we work on preparing discovery, the litigation aspects of the case once cases filed.
Martin: Wow! Impressive-o. So, you are going beyond that you told me a kind of young-ish clientele. The people come before you tend to be younger folks, millennials as it were possible and they’re more comfortable with a paperless legal trail. Can you provide paper documents to those who need them?
Shaana: Of course. You know my clientele has just changed over the years. So, there’s a mix. But yeah so, we try to, we’ve adopted some technology in the last couple of years to be more efficient internally and also make the process easier for clients and that is largely a paperless system. But I always adapt my processes to my clients. So, if I have clients who don’t use emails. So, we don’t use email, just call and that’s fine and I have clients who only be contacted by text messages. It is easy that too and then I have clients you want old-fashioned you know they want documents in the mail and I’m happy this and you know happy to send them whatever it is. Because at the end of the day you want them to feel comfortable. So, whatever that’s going to make them comfortable, whatever is going to make them engaged in their process in their case I want to do.
Martin: Okay you got a web portal you were talking about, your clients that are comfortable with tech, they could stay in real time by… It’s a kind of niche web portal. You had a lot of a success. Tell us about the web portal.
Shaana: Sure, that was [22:13 inaudible] technology or software I guess that has been kind of important I think changing a lot of efficiency and client communication. The portal is essentially clients get a login and a password and it’s also the cloud-based program and also a phone app if you want that and you log in to basically to your case file and so there we could message each other and have [22:44 inaudible] messages, but I can upload documents for them to see or hearings that are going to be set and they can upload documents they want me to see and we can communicate that way. First of all, tremendously more secure than email and because a lot of the information we’re sharing, medical records you know paycheck stubs, things that are personally identifiable information. So sensitive, the portal gives us that extra security measure and also for ease of use, you know we’re just in one place and so we can have basically a conversation that is that we can both refer back to versus email, email becomes very difficult. Because there’s a tremendous back-and-forth and it sits there. In the portals the messages don’t sit there, you’re alerted. So, you know it’s a client who’s important like for me my inbox is not just was not just client, it was you know a thousand other people who are not on it and so it became hard you know so the clients are the most important. So, to call them from all these people sending the email was difficult. Missed me, this gives me my priority folks my clients in one place and clients whether to, I guess they don’t have to scan it, they don’t have to email a bunch of things one at a time, they can just upload documents and its pretty sequence.
Martin: Wow are other law firms using this portal?
Shaana: Yeah, they must be, product [24:20 inaudible] lawyer. So otherwise they’d be out of business.
Martin: But is our popular I’ve never heard of this before. Is it a popular system?
Shaana: I don’t know and none of my colleagues are using it, so I don’t know. I think folks are a little bit reluctant from the lawyers stand point you use it because it’s different. People are very comfortable with email.
Martin: Right so it is kind of cutting edge pretty much. Would that be correct to say?
Shaana: But it’s been around for a long time. You know a lot of lawyers are stuck in thinking about how we owe and done things. Which have been very paper driven, paper intensive and so you have to kind of reassess and kind of evaluate your processes.
Martin: Okay now you also have an office in Paso Robles. Why?
Shaana: A few years ago, I decided because I lived in San Francisco for 25 years, I decided that I was going to buy a farm, small farm down in Paso Robles and have another office down there. Because it’s a nice respite from the city and also great biking community down here and it was just something that I wanted to do. I wanted to have, I guess an alternative to urban life.
Martin: So, are you living on a farm?
Shaana: And I split my time between the two places and yeah I have a small place and a piece of land.
Martin: Wow how cool that. So, we are talking to a farming lawyer huh. How far is that from San Francisco?
Shaana: About 200 miles.
Martin: 200 miles.
Martin: Okay so its little bit more treble in terms of time. So, do you find that that while your team does this work in the busyness of San Francisco, then you get a better big-picture view of what your clients need back in the city by going for a drive to your office down south?
Shaana: Well the way that we work now is so different. Because you can work from anywhere and because my practice has always required a certain amount of travel. You know I’ve done cases all throughout California right so northern and southern California up north. So it allows me to have the office in that midway point it, gives me more flexibility in the kind of places in the location of cases I can take and having good people who work with me, manage, the day-to-day and keep things running of course it allows me to do you know do the legal work and do the thing that I’m good at.
Martin: Oh, so you expand your reach?
Shaana: Well I didn’t really expand my reach except that I now have a midway point to do that from. So, it’s been encouraging me more to take cases you know from the end of the peninsula down to LA down to Santa Barbara that I might not otherwise have taken because of the distance.
Martin: So, are you doing anything in SoCal at all?
Shaana: Yes, yeah, I got a couple cases down there going now and mostly San Francisco, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo County.
Martin: Jiminy Christmas. So, you’ve also, you told me the other day that most of your work is in San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin county. Is that not correct?
Shaana: That has been historically what it’s been until I moved- I opened… well my younger years it was a wider swath. So, the last few times I focused on those areas because those are the cases that I was, those are the circles of cases I was getting and then expanding down to San Luis Obispo, that’s opened up the scope of areas, like cases of what I do.
Martin: So, are you doing anything in San Luis? A college town.
Shaana: Yes, my office here is fully functional.
Martin: When I said San Luis I meant San Luis Obispo County. Paso Robles is a city in San Luis, SLO County, isn’t it?
Martin: Okay and then there’s the actual city of San Luis Obispo and what college is that? Do you do work there as well?
Martin: Oh you do, great, awesome. With regard to San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin County, tell us about the bike organizations you support there besides the SFBC.
Shaana: I’ve supported Bike East Bay for a number of years and I’ve also the Marin County Bike Coalition who I’ve had a pretty special long-standing relationship with. Marin County especially I’ve done a lot of different sponsorships with them over the years. Obviously Bike to Work Day we get to be on the Bridge, on the Golden Gate Bridge on Bike to Work Day with the great folks from MCBC at 5:30 in the morning when it starts it’s freakin’ cold on the Bridge that’s the highlight of the year. Totally fun. Which was awesome on my birthday for that last year.
Shaana: MCBS does a lot of great educational things, too. And so I was fortunate. They do a bicycle citation sort-of forgiveness training. If you will. If you’re on a bicycle in Marin County and get cited for an infraction you can go to this education class like an hour or two hours and get it written off. SO I was able to sponsor their program for a number of years.
Martin: Great! How awesome is that. You were saying there were a number of different programs you were active with right now with the Marin County folks. There is the citation one. There is something else you were talking about. Something to do with women? No?
Shaana: That was the SFBC that we talked about, yeah.
Martin: Awesome, wow. That’s so cool. We’ve covered a lot of ground now. Is there anything I’ve missed?
Shaana: No, thank you Martin for taking this time.
Martin: I’m happy to show the important service for those of us on bikes should we have a need for it, God forbid, that you’re out there. I’m very fired up to show the listenership out that there that Shaana Rahman is who she is and why I’ve always liked working with her and why I think she is an amazing peep. And so that’s it. See ya later Shaana, thank you for your time.
You don’t have to look very far on the Internet to find a case in California where a driver was distracted by their cell phone, usually texting, and hit a bicyclist or pedestrian and either killed them or catastrophically injured them. The California DMV has an FAQ page devoted to the Wireless Communications Device Law and Wireless Telephone Law. A surprising truth: these began in 2009 and 2008, respectively. As bicycle accident attorneys in San Francisco and Paso Robles, these laws are just a few of the things we stay up-to-date on for our clients because, sadly, distracted drivers are a contributor to collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists.
According to the most recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is increasing rapidly. They estimate 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving per day (nationally) which caused 3,477 deaths in 2015. Are you one of these distracted drivers?
Think about this for a second – we are all pedestrians every day. We walk to and from our cars at the very least, and walk more in urban areas like San Francisco, which puts you at risk from someone driving while distracted. And if you ride a bicycle like we do (remember, we’re the attorneys who ride, too!), you’re at risk from someone veering off the road, even for a second or only by a couple of feet, but at the wrong second and colliding into you on your bike, right? Each year, San Francisco averages about four fatalities on bicycles each year due to vehicle collisions. Is that text message worth knowing you, a cyclist, hit or even killed another cyclist on the road for? Not likely.
So if you are a pedestrian (which you are) or if you are a cyclist, then why would you ever be part of the problem and risk creating a pedestrian or bicycle accident that might kill someone? Don’t be a distracted driver. We don’t ever want to see an electronic device in your hand while you’re driving (unless you’re dialing 911 because calling an emergency service is currently allowed without a “hands-free” device). And if you do see others driving distracted, it may be hard, but please don’t create an accident by trying to correct them. As bicycle accident attorneys, we want you to be safe!