Editor’s note: We are pleased to reintroduce “Legally Speaking,” a column penned by lawyer Bob Mionske. Have a question about the law and how it relates to cyclists? Email him, and it may be answered in this column.
Good to be back as a contributor for VeloNews. It has been six years since I last was able to reach out to VeloNews readers, and I definitely have a warm spot in my heart for competitive cycling, racers, and all roadies.
That is why I am particularly glad to be writing for VeloNews about cycling and legal issues. I will cover everything you need to know about staying safe, defending your rights, and making plans to protect yourself. No preaching here — although I may try to convince you not to be a right-of-way thief and extol some other virtues of good riding practice, and perhaps, even get a few more of you involved in cycling advocacy.
“Bicycle law” is a phrase I needed to made up at the end of the last century in order to explain my other creation, the profession of a “bicycle attorney.” Bicycle law refers to a niche of law practice that contemplates a cross-section of laws, rules, and regulations that affect cyclists. And now, it is likely that you personally know a bike attorney. That is a good thing for all of us, and I am enlivened that I played a part in that development, however small.
Nuts and bolts
Bicycle law subject matter includes the rights, laws, contracts, and rules that referee our wheeled world. From the agreement you sign when flying with your bike on the airlines to your right to travel freely upon the commons, and everything in between.
This column will also cover the nuts and bolts of the legal landscape facing bikers, including: harassment of cyclists, calls for licensing, ride liability, need for identification, distracted driving, tickets, road rage, bike bans, insurance issues, race liability, and collision advice, as well as whatever you, the reader, want to know about legal issues.
Of course, collisions (not accidents!) with motor vehicles are a grave concern for us all, and I will cover the best ways to avoid such demolishments as well as what to do in the aftermath.
Justice and advocacy
For me, bicycle law is also about justice for cyclists — equal and fair use of the roadways, to be free of harassment, and to have your rights upheld by police and the court system. I find it very interesting that you won’t get too far in a discussion about fair play and equity for people on bikes without the predictable interjection from someone who feels they need to remind you that riders have responsibilities too.
This is, of course, is factual, but that it comes as an interjection is telling. Our right to the road is, to some, conditional, at best.
Advocacy in cycling takes many forms but at its most basic, it is a group of like-minded people who believe in cycling and put their time, effort, and resources behind educating the public, police, politicians, and the media — as well as cyclists themselves — about bicycling. It is also about encouraging bike culture and helping bicycling to continue to grow. The League of American Bicyclists and PeopleForBikes are at the forefront of these efforts.
A quick glance at a bike advocacy group meeting and you’ll see all kinds of biking tribes represented with one noticeable exception — racers, specifically, and roadies, in general. I get that. You are living your life. Trying to fit in training and racing is hard enough as it is. But racers represent the apex of cycling. This is where the union of machine and human crests — the summit, so to speak. Racers are the fittest, fastest, and most proficient of the biker species. They are real fighters
And that is why cycling advocacy needs you! Former and current racers doing their part to advocate for our right to the road include Dave Zabriskie at Yield To Life, Tim Johnson working with PeopleForBikes (more about Tim and his efforts in a future column), Kenji Sugahara of OBRA, Karen Bliss with the Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board, and Nicole Freedman, Director of Boston Bikes. We still need more of you to get involved, and I hope I can convince some of you to step up and join the effort in any way you can.
As this column will discuss controversial subjects and my opinion, you may not always agree with what I am writing, but that is okay. Let me know your thoughts. Send me your questions and comments, and let’s start a discussion.
Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic Games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc.).
Mionske is also the author of “Bicycling and the Law,” designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem. If you have a cycling-related legal question please send it to Bob, and he will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
The information provided in the “Legally Speaking” column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public website is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this website. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the website without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.