In a podcast a few years back, principal and founder of Rahman Law, Shaana Rahman, mentioned the fear she had when first riding in San Francisco. There were new ins and outs that she had to learn including how to cross railcar tracks safely (go straight across) and negotiate busy intersections. Urban riding can be dangerous, but we’ve pulled together some great tips for you to conquer your fear of cycling in the city.
If you live and/or work in an injury corridor, you may not be able to avoid all of the intersections known to be dangerous, but you will know to be extra alert when passing through. Awareness and planning can really help reduce the fear of cycling in the city.
Practice Outside of Rush Hour
If you’re planning a new route or riding for the first time in a while, it will help you conquer your fear by riding outside of the rush hours before and after work and at lunch. Try riding first thing Saturday morning when there is less traffic as you become familiar with your route. Or for an even more positive experience, try riding your route a few times with a friend. Remember to ride in line and not side-by-side.
When riding at night in California, a headlight is required plus a rear reflector or red light along with the standard side-facing reflectors on both sides of the bicycle. And while the lights and reflectors required by California law are a great start, the more visibility you can give yourself, the safer you’ll be. Invest in a reflective jacket you can wear over your work clothes if you plan on being a cycling commuter. You can also put lights on during daytime riding, especially in foggy San Francisco, for an extra layer of visibility. You can also add reflectors to your helmet if it doesn’t include them already.
You may not find wide bicycle lanes available throughout your planned route, though San Francisco has been increasing the visibility of these lanes where possible as part of the Vision Zero initiative. If you’ll be riding along lanes of parked cars, be prepared to use the vehicle travel lane by always giving yourself a safe escape window while riding. Parked cars can lead to open doors and opening doors can lead to injuries. You have the right to use the vehicle travel lane when needed.
Conquering any fear takes work. Taking the time to plan your route, practice it, and being familiar with traffic laws can all help you be more confident when you take to two wheels in the city. We also recommend having our phone number saved in your phone in case of a collision. Call 911 first if there are any injuries, gather as much information as you can on the scene, then give us a call if you need help reclaiming damages from a broken bicycle or injury. We’re personal injury lawyers and we’re here to help. Consultations are free.
Contact us at our San Francisco office at 415.956.9245, or our Paso Robles office at 805.619.3108.
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!
I can still remember my first ride on a two-wheeler. It was a hot, sticky summer day in New York and my brother and I were out in the front yard, my brother tooling around on his Evel Knievel big wheel and me riding in circles on my prized possession-my very first bicycle, a pink number, with training wheels, a sparkly banana seat and rainbow-colored ribbons coming out of the handlebars. For weeks, I had pestered my mom to take the training wheels off of my bike and it was on this summer day she finally capitulated and carefully unscrewed those little wheels. When the deed was done, I took hold of my new and improved bike, swung my leg over the seat and got ready to start racing the big kids on the block up and down our stretch of jutted sidewalk. Before I could put my feet on the pedals, my mom gently explained that this was like a new bike and I had to learn how to ride without training wheels. She suggested we practice riding with her holding onto the back of the seat to help me. I found this to be a ridiculous notion, and tried to tell her that I was big enough to do it by myself and didn’t need any help—that was for babies. She ignored my protests and wordlessly took hold of the back of my seat and told me I could start pedaling.
With the first stroke of the pedal, I felt something different than usual in my well-worn bicycle. It felt wobbly and unsteady. I wasn’t sure I liked this. I was used to a smooth, unadulterated ride. It was then that I started to feel afraid. Without those two extra little wheels, my world was unbalanced and I would have to learn on my own how to stay upright. I yelled to my mom that I wanted to stop, that I was going to fall, but my bike kept moving forward, and after a few seconds, the wobbling stopped and I was cruising along the sidewalk. The fear dissipated and all I could think about was how far I could go now. I yelled back at my mom that she could let go now, but I could no longer hear her behind me, or smell her perfume. When I realized she had already let go, there was a distinct moment of panic that was overcome by the newfound freedom that comes with navigating your own way.
And it was in that way that cycling always seemed to mimic the contours and challenges of life from childhood to the transition to adolescence and finally adulthood, and somehow the milestones of my own life transitions are marked by memories of biking.
Long after I outgrew my wonderous banana seat bike, I began to covet my older cousin’s sleek, baby blue Schwinn 10-speed. By then, we had moved out of the city and into the suburbs on Long Island, with wide, flat, tree-lined streets, nature preserves, a bike route to the beach and of course, shopping malls. As a pre-teen (what we call “tweens” now), oh how I thought a 10-speed would change my life. With it I could travel great distances far and wide on this island we lived on, no more begging rides from my mom or failing that, the dreaded slow pace of walking to get to where I needed to go. And then one day, the unthinkable happened. My cousin came over to our house, gliding into the driveway, already swinging one leg off the bike of my dreams before it had come to a stop. She gave the kickstand a whack, so I could get the full view of the bike standing tall in all its splendor. She told me the bike was mine if I wanted it. Mind-blown, I couldn’t even stammer out a proper thank you before I climbed up on it and asked if I could take it for a spin. She started to explain to me how the brakes were different than on my bike—they were on the handlebars! And that this bike had gears. So much information, much of which was important, I would later learn, but I waved her off. I know, I know. I can do it myself. And with that I pedaled out of the driveway and down the street. I tried to remember how my cousin would hunch down low over the handlebars, gripping the curved bars, with fingers fluttering over the brakes, just in case. I adjusted my position, into something that seemed like what I had seen, and gave the brakes a little tap to make sure they worked, and then pedaled flat-out. The speed at which I travelled seemed faster than a car and it was glorious. This was the bike that I would ride with my friends down to the mall, to the beach, to school, to wherever we could go that was away from our parents to our own world. This was the bike that ushered me into my teenage years and allowed me the freedom to explore. I loved the simplicity of this freedom. Just grab your bike and go out into the world—no plans, no responsibilities, no limits on what you could do.
Many years later, after I moved to San Francisco and became a lawyer, I was bike-less and living in a concrete world, with hills like mountains and traffic that was unrelenting. It didn’t particularly seem like a hospitable place for riding but I saw bikes all over. When I decided to buy a new bike, I was certain that I would ride only within the safety of car-free trails, too afraid of the traffic congestion, but once I got on my new bike, (and put on a helmet, of course) it was like being transported to childhood—a few minutes of riding released my worries and made me feel free from the heaviness of my day-to-day obligations. I slowly started venturing out on short rides close to home, and then farther, plotting out my routes to take advantage of the growing number of bike lanes, and minimizing my interactions with the dreaded MUNI busses. It was a different kind of riding, one that was less care-free, but energizing, nonetheless. It was then that I got involved with the local bike coalitions, and began representing cyclists injured by drivers. The work felt important, as each case made small changes to the way the driving world viewed cyclists and the ways in which cities decided to prioritize traffic. 20 years after my first bike ride through San Francisco, the cycling infrastructure there is a pure amazement, connected bike routes, segregated bike lanes, and people ditching their cars for bike-only living.
After moving to Paso Robles, I had to readjust my riding once again. Riding through the rural areas of North County is serene, with horses, cows and farms replacing honking horns, truck exhausts, and angry bus drivers. I still get surprised when a grape harvester passes me by or when I have to slow down for my neighbor riding her horse in front of me. It reminds me of the peacefulness of my teenage riding days on Long Island. In town, here and there, I see the glimmers of bike advocacy creating change in the form of bike lanes, and marked share lanes, but we have a long way to go before catching up to the work that has been done in San Luis Obispo, with the help of Bike SLO County. I’m looking forward to someday being able to bike to my office in downtown Paso through a secure, connected network of bike lanes.
Summer is here and with the extra hours of sunshine comes
the heat! In San Francisco, a “hot” day
might be in the 80s, but this year it’s already been hotter than usual and at
our Paso Robles office and in other scenic riding locations on the Central Coast,
temperatures can easily surpass 100 degrees.
If you plan to go out in the heat for cycling or other activities, read
on for some of our favorite tips to combat the hot weather.
Hydration always sounds like an obvious first step in the
heat, but it isn’t just about hydrating during your summer activities, you’ll
want to hydrate before and after, too.
The CDC and Cal/OSHA recommend 1 cup of water for every 15 minutes of
physical activity in the heat and consuming electrolytes (sports drinks/fruit
juice) before and after to replenish the salt we use for sweating. They also warn that alcohol can reduce the
body’s ability to regulate temperatures and should be avoided before your
planned cycling day or any other activity in the heat. And just a reminder, CA Vehicle Code 21200.5
does not provide a specific blood-alcohol threshold to be considered riding a
bicycle under the influence, but cycling impaired is unlawful and a violation
fine can be up to $250.
Keep Your Core Cool
There are a variety of products out there to help keep your core temperature down in hot weather like specialty towels and jerseys. For motorcyclists, there are suits and jackets with mesh ventilation flaps. But there are also some very easy ways to keep your core cool without needing a gear upgrade. A favorite of many cyclists is freezing your water bottle when half full to create an ice block. A fun alternative from wine country is to freeze grapes and use them as ice cubes; they’ll cool your water and provide a tasty snack later. Want more? Here’s a DIY tutorial on how to make your own neck cooler here.
Watch for Signs of Heat Stroke
While you may have taken all of the steps to beat the heat, others with you may not have properly prepared. Symptoms of over-heating include headache, nausea, dizziness, and weakness. At the point of heat exhaustion, the affected person may sweat more profusely than usual and have a rapid pulse. If heat exhaustion goes untreated, the person may stop sweating altogether and/or become confused; the warning signs of heat stroke, a serious medical condition. If you believe someone is in danger of over-heating, get them into a cool area immediately. If there are concerns of heat stroke, call 911. For more information, visit the CDC’s website here.
Add Rahman Law to Your Phone Contacts
No one ever expects to be involved in a collision. If you plan to be out cycling, riding a motorcycle, or driving this summer, be sure to add us to your contacts in your phone. That way, you can call us immediately if you ever need us. We also have free toolkits and guidebooks on our website here. Have a great summer!
Before we talk about numbers, it’s important to know that there are differences between riding in urban and rural areas when talking about bicycle safety. Urban areas see 60%-71% of bicyclist fatalities across the nation and California is still in the top three states for cyclist fatalities. California’s ranking for cyclists fatalities might have something to do with having the largest population of any state and 87% of those nearly 40-million people living in urban areas (Stanford).
Then speed limit
where most bicycle fatalities occur in rural areas is 55 mph.
This speed is the zone with the second most bicyclist
fatalities overall; however, for urban riders, 55 mph is only the sixth-ranked
speed zone for fatalities. The approximately
29% of total rural cycling crashes with fatalities occurring in a 55 mph zone
The speed limit where
most bicyclist fatalities occur in urban areas is 45 mph followed closely by 35
Because most bicyclist fatalities occur in urban areas, the
data gathered shows urban cyclist collision fatalities can occur in most speed
zones from 25 mph to 75 mph with the majority falling between 35 mph and 45
mph. Interestingly, the same speed zones
show the most urban pedestrian fatalities, too.
Speed Limits Are
Different Than Speeding
The information we just presented comes from speed limits, not speed travelled. Reports vary on the percentage of bicyclist fatalities resulting directly from speeding because being the leading cause is different than being one of several causes and can be difficult to separate. A 2010-2015 report found only 8.6% of bicyclist fatalities resulted directly from speeding (NHTSA, FARS, & ARF). But don’t think speeding isn’t a problem – in San Francisco, speeding is the leading cause of traffic collision deaths (SFPD 2010-2014) and is a leading contributor to traffic collision fatalities nationwide.
This report also found most fatalities for cyclists were
occurring in non-intersections. This
makes sense when the speed limit with the most fatalities for riders in urban
and rural locations combined is 45 mph followed by 55 mph; these speed zones
will have fewer intersections and crosswalks than zones with lower speeds.
Bicycle Safety Starts
Knowing what factors can lead to or increase the chances of a cyclist fatality can help riders and drivers be more aware of their surroundings. The bicycle accident attorneys at Rahman Law support Vision Zero for San Francisco and we look forward to the day when no cyclist or pedestrian will become a fatality statistic.
Most cyclist fatalities in urban and rural areas occur in 45
mph zones (link to other blog on fatalities); however, the likelihood of
sustaining a survivable injury as a pedestrian or cyclist in a 45 mph zone is
not the same.
What is the same is
the speed limit where the most injuries occur: 25 mph.
Part of the reason most injuries occur for cyclists and
pedestrians in 25 mph zones is the survivability factor. The likelihood of sustaining a serious or
fatal injury in a collision with a vehicle as a pedestrian or cyclist goes up
dramatically from 18% at 20 mph to 77% at 40 mph (AAA Foundation). Another reason for more cyclist and
pedestrian injuries at lower speeds is the increased exposure as there are
likely going to be more pedestrians in a 25 mph zone than a 75 mph zone.
The speed limits where the most cyclist and pedestrian
injuries occur according to the NHTSA are 25 mph, 35 mph, and 30 mph (in that
order). This data is combined for urban
and rural areas. Keep in mind that the
data for injuries comes from serious injuries which are reported. There may be more injuries occurring than
what are reported and would likely be in lower speed zones because of the lack
for the need of medical care.
Speeding is Also
Responsible for Cyclist and Pedestrian Injuries
The information gathered by the NHTSA, NCSA, FARS, and ARF between 2010 and 2015 relied on speed limits to assume speed for much of their data. Speeding (going over the speed limit) factors into approximately 30% of all motor vehicle fatalities in the United States and is the leading cause of about 8% of pedestrian fatalities. The most common speed limit zone for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities to occur as a result of speeding is 35 mph. Specifics on the number of cyclist and pedestrian injuries that were a direct result of speeding was not published; however, 35 mph is the zone with the second-most injuries for both pedestrians and bicyclists, making it likely that there are a portion of injuries occurring as a direct result of speeding. The unfortunate reality is that speed kills.
The California Legislature enacted the Pedestrian Safety Act in 2000 which includes new requirements for driver education on pedestrian safety among other items. California Vehicle Code sections 21950-21954 provide legal measures for pedestrian safety and protection, including that drivers have a higher duty of care than pedestrians. And in San Francisco, pedestrian safety is going even further with Vision Zero to bring the number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities to zero. These measures are looking to increase pedestrian safety through more awareness and enforcement in California, including speed-related pedestrian safety issues.
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.
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.
Last week Governor Brown released his budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year and one of the programs getting cut is California’s Safe Routes to School.
A Little Background on ‘Safe Routes to School’:
California’ Safe Routes to School program began in 1999 and has since become a model for the Federal Prgram and for State-Wide initiatives across the country. The program targets the crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes in school zones. Its goal is to make these areas safer for the children who frequent them, to increase the number of children who bike and walk to school. In its more than 10 years of implementation the program has proven to be a success. “During a time of rising childhood obesity nationwide, obesity rates have started to reverse in California, and children in California are walking at ten percent higher rates than they did in 2001. Safe Routes to School is helping kids across California stay safe and get healthy on their way to school.”
How YOU Can Help:
Cutting the program will stop the progress that has been made. Schools will not receive the funding they desperately need to make their streets safer and traffic safety education in these schools will also decrease substantially. Protecting our children as they travel to and from school is one of the most important initiatives the state can fund. Do not let it fall between the cracks now.
1) Call the Governor’s Office: (916) 445-2841
Ask to speak to a representative
When someone answers, state your name and the city or town where you live, then tell the Governor’s aide that you urge Governor Brown to support dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School to ensure that kids can get safely to school on foot or by bicycle.
State your name and the city or town where you live, then tell the Governor’s aide that you urge Governor Brown to support dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School to ensure that kids can get safely to school on foot or by bicycle.
The stoplight at 12th Street and Market has become more of guideline than a rule for many cyclists because the timing of the light is just so inconvenient. The wait often prompts cyclists to cross early when they do not have the right of way. This preemptive crossing results in heavy fines when the cyclists are caught and is dangerous to pedestrians when they are not.
In order to tackle the problems at this intersection, Bert Hill, chairman of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee citizen oversight group, is recommending the implementation of a separate cyclist-crossing light. This light would speed up the timing for cyclists, cueing up a green light for cyclists when it is activated. The trade-off, argues local disability advocate Bob Planthold, is that disabled pedestrians will have less time to safely cross the street. His proposed solution is separate sensors for pedestrians and cyclists. Although this would be more expensive, it would better accommodate all interested parties.
Although no plan has been approved yet, committees are working on finding a solution that is acceptable to everyone.