The Power of 3

Earlier this month, East Bay Attorney Bill Dullea of GJEL Accident Attorneys testified before the Assembly Transportation Committee in support of Senate Bill 1464. Senate Bill 1464, commonly known as the 3-Foot Passing Bill, clarifies the current, vague law requiring cars to give cyclists a ‘safe distance’ when passing. In his testimony Dullea argued that the ‘safe distance’ law unnecessarily endangers cyclists because not all drivers judge ‘a safe distance’ in the same way. Since 40% of cycling collisions occur when a cyclist is hit from behind by a vehicle, this proposed legislation is poised to make a large impact in the cycling community.

Dullea argued that the 3-Foot Passing Law would help make cyclists feel safer when they are  sharing the road with automobiles and would therefore encourage more cyclists. Ideally, this law would lead to safer streets for everyone. Like Rahman Law, GJEL represents many cyclists in their line of work. Dullea testified that in his experience it s clear that drivers don’t know how to judge a ‘safe distance’ mostly because most California drivers do not have to deal with cyclists very often in their day -to-day driving. This has obviously been changing in the last few years, especially in San Francisco and the Bay Area. A statistic that often creeps into these conversations and which is extremeley illuminating, is that in San Francisco in the last 5 years, cycling ridership has increased more than 70%.

With interactions between cyclists and vehicles constantly increasing it is important for drivers to know how they can best avoid collisions. The 3-Foot Passing Bill is designed to do just that. The California Bicycle Coalition and cycling advocates like Rahman Law and GJEL Accident Attorneys support SB 1464 because it protects cyclists and drivers and generally makes the roads, which we all share, a safer place.

The bill is currently waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.

For more information on how you can become involved in the California Bicycle Coalition’s Safe Passing Campaign visit their website at http://calbike.org/advocacy/safe-passing/

 

Sources:

http://www.sfgate.com/business/prweb/article/East-Bay-Attorney-Advocates-for-Bike-Safety-with-3688716.php

Scofflaw?

A google search of the term ‘scofflaw’ reveals an urban dictionary definition of “one who habitually flouts or violates the law, esp one who fails to pay debts or answer summonses”. Understanding this term is an important first step in understanding the debate raging about ‘the growing problem’ of scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco.

The SFBC’s report, What About Scofflaw?  also provides some valuable insight and context into the debate. As the numbers of cyclists have grown in San Francisco, 71% in the last five years, conflicts between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers have naturally increased. Indeed, recent stories involving careless and negligent cyclists have inflamed an already sensitive issue.

San Francisco has an oftentimes harrowing mix of pedestrian, cycling and automobile lanes. Negotiating the changes from street to street, the sharrows and the lack of marked lanes, can cause frustration and unease for even the most experienced cyclists and drivers. The fact is that in San Francisco, and indeed in any major urban center, there will be pedestrians, cyclists and drivers who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, break traffic laws. Unfortunately for the cycling community these few ‘scofflaw cyclists’ can have an extremely detrimental effect on the cycling community as a whole because public opinion is so split on the cycling issue in general. One rude or unsafe cyclist can mess things up for everyone else. The situation might not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

The best defense against the argument that there is a ‘growing problem’ with scofflaw cyclists in San Francisco, is to simply be aware of the rules of the road and to be polite and safe at all times. This is true for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers as well.

We have to share the roads. Please, let’s be safe and courteous while doing so.

The SFBC hosts regular Urban Bicycling Workshops as part of its drive to educate cyclists about the rules of the road.

 

Market Street Improvements

Market Street is at the heart of San Francisco’s history, tourism industry and daily transportation system. As a city hub, it is a meeting point for many different modes of transportation. Cyclists, Pedestrians and Drivers all share one heavily trafficked area. It may come as no surprise to many people who frequent the Market Street area that cycling is becoming an ever more dominant mode of transportation.  In fact, Better Market Street claims that at various time of the day bicycles outnumber vehicles.

As cyclists who frequent Market Street know, there are a number of areas where a collision between cyclists and autos or cyclists and pedestrians is intensified by poor urban design. One of the goals of the Better Market Street Project is to optimize the safety and efficiency of the traffic on Market Stteet. This is an area of San Francisco that needs improvement and the opportunity to create that change is here.

Better Market Street is currently in Phase 1. This phase includes the opportunity for public input. Join the San Francisco Bike Coalition at one of two community meetings to discuss potential improvements to the Market Street area.

Community Meeting | Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM | SFMTA (1 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor Atrium

Community Meeting | Saturday, July 21, 2012, 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM | SFMTA (1 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor Atrium)

The Blame Game

Recently, SF District Attorney George Gascón stated that the reason so few drivers are prosecuted in pedestrian collisions is that pedestrians are at fault “in the majority of cases”.

This is simply not true and it reflects the pro-auto attitude in a city with a cycling population that has increased 71% in the last 5 years. This tendency to favor automobiles is illustrated in the DA’s office history of persecuting only those fatalities and injuries which involve a DUI or a hit-and-run. Drivers, even those who are deemed at fault, often avoid any criminal prosecution. DA Gascón has broken this tradition by prosecuting three drivers and a cyclist with lethal negligence, a misdeamanor, in pedestrian fatalies. His recent statement, however, shows a dismissive attitude towards the safety and security of pedestrians and cyclists in San Francisco.

WalkSF is an organization fighting for pedestrian safety in San Francisco. Join them in their campaign to bring justice to pedestrians killed by negligent drivers. Email them at info@walksf.org and they will forward your email onto the DA’s office to let them know that the pedestrians-at-fault stance is not an acceptable attitude.

As WalkSF argues “the District Attorney and our police should be keeping us safe on the street and making it clear that injuring people has consequences. Instead, they’re blaming the victim.”

Sources: SfStreetsblog1 and SfStreetsblog2

Congress at the Wheel?

If you are anything like me, then the multitude of recent articles about the Transportation Bill currently making its way through Congress seem to illustrate one thing: Democrats and Republicans may never be able to agree on anything ever again. However, once you dredge through the partisan bickering and look at what the various versions of the bill propose, there are certain sections that will directly affect Bay Area Transportation.

Background of the Bill:

  • The current transportation bill was set to expire on March 31st, 2012. If this deadline had passed, then funding for transportation programs and workers would stop.
  • However, on March 29th, Congress passed a 3-month extension of the current bill (the latest of many), to give themselves more time to reach an agreement.
  • This extension expires June 30th, 2012.
  • These types of bills are designed to address funding through their deadline. Extensions are not taken into account when funding it allocated. In the case of the current extensions, the Highway Trust Fund has paid the price.  Another extension could bankrupt it and even the passage of the bill does not guarantee its solvency.
  •  There are two separate versions of the bill. The version proposed by the Senate and the changes proposed by the House.
  • Currently,  a committee is trying to reconcile the two bills so that a single bill can be put before the houses for a vote. This process is illustrated by the Transportation for America diagram below.

Now:

  • Yesterday 6/13/12- Committee Chairmen, John L. Mica, released a statement about the committee’s progress. It was not encouraging. He stated, “I remain hopeful that we can reach a bicameral compromise with the Senate. However, I am disappointed in the fact that Senate negotiators have yet to move significantly on key House reform proposals.”

The Issues: 

  •  The Bill proposed by the Senate is for a budget of $109 Billion, so job creation is a major concern.
  • The Keystone XL Pipeline and the coal ash amendment (controversial issues for another time)
  • The Cardin-Cochran Agreement 

The Cardin-Cochran Agreement:

  •  The current transportation agreement has 3 programs dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists: Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trail.
  • In the proposed Senate Bill these programs are combined under the Additional Activities section.
  • The ambiguous wording of the Additional Activities section creates the potential for funds to be used in ways detrimental to walking and biking. So, Senators Ben Cardin, a democrat, and Thad Cochran, a Republican, offered a bipartisan amendment to ensure that cities and counties have an opportunity to use Additional Activities funds for biking and walking projects, if they choose to do so. This became the Cardin-Cochran Agreement. To illustrate how the amendment works, I have found another fun diagram: 

  • The idea is that local communities are in the best position to utilize federal funds to make streets safer and more accessible for walking and biking.
  • The problem is that in the committee hearings to reconcile the House and Senate Bills, the House has proposed  a counteroffer which would allow states to “opt out” of Additional Activities funding completely, thus eliminating the Cardin-Cochran agreement and effectively eliminating local access to federal funds.

Negotiations are geared to continue right up until the June 30th deadline. Now, hopefully, we can decipher the daily articles on Congress’s progress and understand how their inability to reach an agreement affects us….

Sources: Congress Extends Current Transportation Bill, Boxer and Inhofe…Try to Avoid 10th Extension, Boxer Changes Her  Tone, Adopts a Fighting Stance, House of Representatives Aims to Eliminate Local Funds for Biking and Walking, House GOP Threatens to Wipe Out Local Control over Bike/Ped Funding

Shaana Rahman Featured in the American Association for Justice’s Trial Magazine

For their February 2012 edition entitled “Moving Violations”, the AAJ’s Trial Magazine chose to address motor vehicle and bike accidents and their place in the law. As such, I’m pleased to say that our very own Shaana Rahman was featured in Trial Magazine with her highly informative essay on what attorneys representing bicyclists should expect, and what they should be doing to protect your rights.



Used Motorcycle Review’s “Most Common Causes for Motorcycle Accidents”

Last Thursday’s Used Motorcycle Review’s blog posttouched upon the 4 Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents. These are the difficulties faced by motorcycle riders that might be helpful to keep in mind while riding safely.

1. Driver Negligence/Blind Spot
Many drivers have difficulty spotting or noticing motorcyclists on the road
“Approximately 70% of collisions are the result of the negligence of drivers.”

2. Poor Road Conditions
Many collisions occur “due to the presence of curbs, debris, potholes, bumps or even roadside barriers” when a rider tries to avoid an accident. These are the accidents that have caused severe lower body and spinal damage, and sometimes even brain damage.

3. Speed Disparities
Accidents don’t always occur because of speeding, but can also occur as a result of going too slowly, compared to traffic flow around the rider. These accidents manifest as rear-ending or being rear-ended.

4. Other Factors
– Climbing skill of the driver
– Drunk driving
– Undivided roads
– Aggressive driving/recklessness
– Old bikes or old bike parts

Shaana Rahman and S.F. StreetsBlog on Criminal Charges for Drivers Who Kill Pedestrians

In Tuesday’s StreetsBlog Post, “Will DA Gascón Reform the Double Standard for Drivers Who Kill?“, our very own Shaana Rahman was interviewed for her thoughts and experience on the matter of charging drivers and bicyclists who kill pedestrians as criminal offenders:

Shaana Rahman, a lawyer who represents victims of traffic crashes in civil court, explained that injuring or killing a pedestrian due to negligence has traditionally been categorized as a civil offense rather than a criminal offense, which requires “intent to harm.”
 
“What I have seen in my practice is unless there’s an issue where a driver or cyclist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or driving recklessly and willfully, such as drag racing or something of that nature, by and large there are no criminal charges filed against folks who injure other people in those situations,” she said. Regarding the criminal charges against Ang, she added, “In this situation, with this particular bicyclist where you don’t have those aggravating circumstances, it seemed unusual to me.”
This recent decision to charge bicyclist Randolph Ang for the death of pedestrian Dionette Cherney has been met with both support and criticism. Support for breaking from the established tradition of DA inaction against pedestrian deaths by drivers and criticism for beginning this tide change with this year’s one bicyclist-caused death betwixt 12 driver-caused deaths.
But the most important question to consider is the one raised by Streetsblog: “Is Gascón getting serious about driver recklessness and negligence?” As quoted in the article, Ms. Rahman believes this could indicate “a fundamental shift in the punishment aspect of drivers who, in all other circumstances, would be seen as negligent drivers.”

“Criminal charges are important to deter certain behavior,” she said, and with so many cases of negligent drivers who kill or injure other people, “he’s going to have his hands full.”

If you ever need a pedestrian accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.

Shaana Rahman & KGO Radio on Embarcadero Collision

For those who missed it, Shaana Rahman spoke to KGO this past Tuesday afternoon regarding the District Attorney’s decision on Monday to charge Randolph Ang, the cyclist involved in the fatal collision with pedestrian Dionette Cherney, with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. The collision occurred on July 15th, 2011 on Embarcadero and Mission and resulted in Ms. Cherney’s death after the 68-year-old tourist received “blunt force injuries to the head” from being knocked to the pavement. On Monday, Assistant D.A. Omid Talai announced that Mr. Ang would be arraigned on November 23rd to carry out his one-year sentence in county jail.*

Reactions to Mr. Ang’s sentence have ranged from cries of too little to too much. Fast forward to 43:52 to hear Ms. Rahman’s speak on this tragic accident. What are your thoughts?
Audio Clip Courtesy of KGO Radio

Berkeley Police Work to Improve Motorcycle Safety

A couple of weeks ago, officers of the Berkeley Police Department were stationed throughout the city on streets with the highest rate of motorcycle accidents.

This operation came out of the growing issue of motorcycle fatalities in California. A CBS San Francisco article said that data has shown the causes of these accidents to be mostly:
  • Speeding
  • Unsafe turning
  • Driving under the influence
  • Inexperienced riding
If these are the causes of accidents, it would seem that police vigilance is not going to be the cure-all to our problem. Instead, the best way to decrease dangerous riding might be to improve the manner in which all motorists are driving out on the road. For motorcyclists, rider training is readily available to refresh your memory of the rules of the road. Such training is offered through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program, which can be contacted by visiting www.CA-msp.org.
The police may be able to catch and charge unsafe drivers and motorcyclists, but they can only address half the issue at hand with tickets and fines. It’s the motorists that will need to take on the challenge of safely sharing the road.