Bike Law Legal Clinic

Posted by Heather Haylett on May 24, 2019 in Bicycle Safety

Charlie Thomas from Bike Law Louisiana hosted a legal clinic to talk about rights for people on bike.

This Tuesday, Bike Easy and Charlie Thomas of Bike Law hosted a legal clinic at the St. Roch Tavern focused on teaching the rights we have as people on bicycles, as well as what to do if we’re harassed or involved in a crash. Bike Law is a national organization that makes bicycling more fun, safe, and easy through protecting bicyclists’ rights through the legal channels.

“The goal of Bike Law is to put ourselves out of business”, said Charlie, referencing his hope that by continuing to educate and represent people on bikes, they will no longer have to put up this fight to protect the rights of people on bikes. He advised us to always follow up if we’re witness to an incident – “If you’re ever seeing an injustice, it doesn’t mean there’s going to be follow through”.

Girl in a jacket

Listed below are several key takeaway points from the presentation to keep in mind while you’re out riding on the streets:

Probable Cause to Stop a Bicyclist

Louisiana Supreme Court allows officers to detain a defendant after observing a misdemeanor offense
State v. Butler, 2012-2359 (La. 5/17/13), 117 So. 3d 87

Louisiana law considers bicycles to be roadway vehicles

Riders have the same rights
Riders have the same duties
(La. R.S. 32:194)

People on bikes have a duty to ride:

  • In the same direction as traffic, and
  • As far to the right as practicable, which does not mean possible. Equates to safe.
    (La. R.S. 32:197)

Exceptions:

  • Overtaking/passing another bicycle or vehicle
  • Preparing for a left turn
  • To avoid unsafe conditions on the roadway, including a lane that is too narrow for a bike and motor vehicle to safely share

People on bikes cannot ride on the sidewalk in Orleans Parish unless you are 14 or younger

People on bikes have a duty to ride with lights at night

  • Front light
  • Rear light/reflector
    (La. R.S. 32:329.1 and Muni Code 154-1422)
  • Make sure red light is on the back! You can’t be the police or fire vehicle.

People on bikes have a duty to ride with a brake that allows the bike to skid on dry, level, clean pavement
(La. R.S. 32:346)

People on bikes have a duty to ride with a bell or noise making device able to be heard from 100’ away
(Muni Code 154-1422)

People on bikes have a duty to ride with at least one hand on the handlebars
(La. R.S. 32:195 and Muni Code 154-1414)

No duty to ride with a helmet, if over the age of 12
(La. R.S. 32:199)

Can you legally ride a bicycle while impaired in Louisiana?

  • Yes!
  • Applies to “motor vehicles”
    State v. Carr, 761 So.2d 1271 (2000)

The #1 reason crashes happen is bicyclists riding the wrong way (14% of all crashes reported between motorists and people biking)

Steps to Take after a Crash
1. Seek medical attention.
2. Call the police and file a report.
3. Take as many pictures as possible at the scene.
4. Get the contact info of any witnesses.
5. Don’t negotiate with the other person at fault – simply exchange contact and insurance information.
6. Don’t post anything specific on social media (generalize “I’m alive…”).
7. Don’t make committal statements to anyone without talking with an attorney first.
8. Have your bike fully inspected by a shop.
9. Have a medical power of attorney in place.

Terminology matters

  • Use the term “Crash” not “Accident”
  • Use Person Riding/Driving not Rider/Driver
  • Use “hit by a person driving” not “hit by a car”

People on bikes have a right to:

  • Be safely passed (32:76.1)
  • Not be harassed (32:201)
  • Not be doored (32:283)

Safe passes

  • Louisiana requires a safe pass and minimum of 3’
  • There is a reluctance to cite, even when violations result in serious injury
  • Fine: not to exceed $250

People on bikes have a right to be able to take the lane

  • Edge hazards
  • Dooring risk
  • Passing risk
  • It is permissible to ride on the shoulder (32:296)

What to Do If You’re Harassed
1. Get the license plate number
2. Detail exactly what happened – who, what, when, where, how.
3. Email Bike Law: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
4. They’ll send a warning letter and/or a letter to their insurance co.
Consider riding with cameras – Garmin, GoPro, Cycliq – shuts down the he-said/she-said.

Distracted Driving is Getting Worse

  • Crashes 23x more likely to happen with distracted driving
  • There are difficulties with enforcement
  • Anti-Texting Law (La. R.S. 32:300.5) prohibits operating a motor vehicle and texting

Keep following Bike Easy to find out about future bike safety classes and presentations. For more information about Bike Law, insurance, or what do if you’re involved in a crash, contact Charlie Thomas at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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