NYBC Bike Lawyer responds to death of Fulton County, NY bicyclist; August 14, 2013
BPAC poster | August 14, 2013 | 4:29 pm | Uncategorized | No comments



What follows is an op-ed written by NYBC Board Member Jim Reed of Elmira in response to the death of Fulton County resident Ed Lakata, who was killed on June 25 in a collision with a motor vehicle while riding his bike.  New York Bicycling Coalition believes strongly that there are options for updating NY’s vehicle and traffic laws to include provisions that would be more effective at preventing motor vehicle-bicycle collisions; more easily enforced by police; and more easily understood by the general public.  

Bicyclists in New York State are given the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle drivers, and yet too many people are being seriously injured or killed while bicycling on our roadways.  

While NYBC will always work hard to encourage cyclists of all ages and abilities to Share the Road by riding lawfully and responsibly, we also recognize the role of our state government to enact good laws that protect all road users, and the role of law enforcement in reinforcing good bicyclist and motorist behavior through education and respectful enforcement of those laws.   ~Josh Wilson, Executive Director

By Jim Reed

The recent death of a bicyclist in Fulton County is a tragic reminder of how New York state needs to sharpen its safe passing distance law to better protect bicyclists.

As an avid bicyclist and an attorney who has represented hundreds of bicycle accident victims and their families, I was saddened when I learned that a county sheriff misunderstood state law in reaching the wrong conclusion in the accident.

Fulton County musician Ed Lakata was riding his bicycle on June 25 when he was struck from behind by a pickup truck driven by 48-year-old John Damphier, according to the Schenectady Daily Gazette. Lakata was killed instantly. He was 55.

Damphier, who was not charged, told police that Lakata was struggling to ride his bicycle up a steep incline, and Lakata’s bicycle “wobbled right into the side of the truck,” Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey told the Daily Gazette.

“It was an accident in the truest sense of the word,” Lorey said.

Lorey also said the white line between the shoulder and driving lane, called the fog line, is used to determine fault in bicycle accidents. “The accident happened very near the white line, but we couldn’t gather proof that anyone crossed over,” he said.

The sheriff is wrong in two ways about a white line analysis of fault in New York state cycling cases:

First, state law does not determine fault based solely upon which side of the fog line a collision occurs.

Second, because state law treats a bicyclist like any other vehicle, there are many occasions when a cyclist has a legal right to be to the left of the fog line, and is not at fault for being in the travel lane, if they need to use it for their own safety.

In addition, state law is clear that any motorist approaching a cyclist from behind may only pass that cyclist when there is a safe distance to pass that cyclist. Vehicle and Traffic Law Sec. 1122-a says, “The  operator of a vehicle overtaking, from behind, a bicycle proceeding on the same side of a roadway shall pass to the left of such bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear.”

Motorists are required to slow or stop behind a cyclist if there is not a reasonably safe distance to pass a cyclist.

Even though the state law providing for a safe passing distance was a great first step for cycling safety when it was passed in 2010, I believe that New York would be better served by a law adopted in many other states that mandates a specific passing distance – usually three feet, but four feet in some states, rather than the more abstract “safe passing distance” standard applied in New York.

As a member of the board of directors of the New York Bicycling Coalition, I am urging the coalition to advocate for an amended passing law in New York.

James Reed is managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira.



Posted by Daniel Keough

Attorney Jim Reed really helped me out when I was harassed and then knocked to the ground by an off-duty IPD officer in March 2013—and had received two tickets from the officer. If you’re in need of bicycle related legal assistance, give him a call!

Draft NYSDOT sharrow policy
Andrejs | March 6, 2013 | 6:23 pm | Sharrows | No comments

NYSDOT Shared-Lane Markings (SLMs) Policy


The purpose of this policy is to explain how Shared-Lane Markings (SLMs, sometimes referred to as “sharrows”) will be used on highways under the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of Transportation. Information about this traffic control device can be found in Section 9C.07 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). It is expected that this guidance will be ultimately be incorporated into the NYS Supplement, thereby making the policy applicable to all highways in New York State open to public travel.

Ped crashes & bike crashes in Ithaca
Andrejs | March 6, 2013 | 6:10 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

The following are Excel data files:

I just got these (linked above)  11 years (2000 through 2010) of basic crash data for pedestrians (173 of them) and for bike riders (121 of them) in the City of Ithaca, along with revised rankings of where they happen most. Because of the way IPD’s crash reports are organized and currently accessed, this information has been difficult to compile. Not even City engineers can get general ped or bike crash info – they must know the date and location of a crash in order to get a single report. The information I got was input by IPD and other sources to the state DMV, which was accessed by ITCTC, where Tom Mank last fall did the first long-term compilation of crashes in Tompkins County, also sorting by municipality and other criteria, and he provided this subset with, I believe, all the info he has on them.

I hope to be able to use this information to improve safety. Maybe there are patterns we can glean from this data. Maybe we can use this data to get crash reports from IPD with additional relevant information – diagrams and descriptions of how the crashes occurred. The goal is to find patterns and ways to address them.

Some work has already been done to help a couple of the worst areas: The mid-block crosswalk with a traffic light on Green Street by the Commons is in what was the #1 worst place for pedestrians. The upgraded traffic light with pedestrian crossing lead time at College & Dryden was the #2 worst place for pedestrians. It would be good to find out if there’s a reduction in crashes in these places since the changes were made.

Let me know if you want to help with this project, or if you just have ideas about it. I think we should be organized before asking IPD for records rather than lots of different people making requests.

-Dave Nutter

Feb 2013 Report
Andrejs | February 11, 2013 | 9:31 am | Uncategorized | 1 Comment
From Dave Nutter: Below please find a report on behalf of BPAC which expands on the brief statements I made at the BPW and Common Council meetings last week. (or download as PDF: BPAC Report 2013-02-11)
Topics include:
  1. support of ending minimum parking requirements for motor vehicles in development
  2. support for option 2B for the design of the East State/MLK – Mitchell Street intersection
  3. support for a “Complete Street” design for Old Elmira Road, including sidewalks on both sides and other recommendations
  4. support for changing the financing system for sidewalks to be broader and more fair instead of burdening the adjacent property owner
  5. recommendation that streets on hills be striped wider going uphill than downhill to reduce bicycle – motor vehicle conflicts
  6. support for a climbing bike lane on Maple Avenue linking to East Hill Recreationway per the Ithaca Bicycle Plan
  7. progress toward getting crash information to analyze for safety recommendations
  8. working through ITCTC toward completing the pedestrian link on NYS-96B
  9. recommending the Black Diamond Trail for a funding opportunity for multi-modal, economic, social,, and environmental projects.  Read more »
Two documents
Andrejs | February 1, 2013 | 3:50 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

These are two documents provided by Kent Johnson prior to the February BPAC meeting:

Bike Boulevard proposal review, by Dave Nutter, chair BPAC
dnutter | July 1, 2012 | 6:56 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

I went through the latest version of the Bike Boulevard proposal, quoted sections in italics, and raised issues. Then I added comments about specific places along the proposed routes. Finally, I recommended some route changes. It’s included both as text below and as an attached word document which I sent to bpac@icycle.org
We will be discussing this proposal at the BPAC meeting this Tuesday 3 July at 5:30pm in the second floor conference room of City Hall.
–Dave Nutter
chair, City of Ithaca Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Council

These comments refer to the 21 June 2012 draft of a City of Ithaca Bicycle Boulevard Plan which was prepared by the City of Ithaca Engineering Office and presented to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council
–Dave Nutter

Ithaca tried something like this before: In the 1980s the City put up signs along a route between the Commons and Stewart Park. The route wandered. On back streets it had many stops. On busier streets it did not make room for bikes alongside motor vehicles. It did not deal with bad sightlines at intersections. Read more »

Defining boundaries
Andrejs | March 28, 2012 | 5:20 pm | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I was in DC last week and rode down the most improbable bike lane I’ve ever seen — right down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, with traffic on both sides. It was like a fashion runway for bikes. But it felt really great to be there with a view of the Capitol dome ahead and the cars really respecting the bike space. There were points where it would have been easy for turning traffic to cut the turn short and encroach on the bicycle lanes. At those points, they had a row of skinny bollards that kept things straight. They weren’t strong enough to keep anything back; just enough to let people know that this boundary was for real. It worked very well as far as I could tell. This would work great on the turns of East State Street where cars erase the lines of the bike lane.

City of Ithaca sets internet boundaries
Andrejs | July 26, 2011 | 3:34 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

The city has recently enacted a new policy regarding what it calls “social media” — it turns out to include any and all uses of electronic communication, including email, blogs, and facebook. This puts the BPAC in a peculiar position, as I see it at least. Most of the members of BPAC have their legitimacy precisely because they are not officially employees or representatives of the city. At the same time, the Council is a creature of City government so, to some extent, its members might have occasion to speak “officially.” My hope is that this email list can remain a neutral ground where all can discuss the issues without looking over their shoulders or holding back for bureaucratic reasons.

Here’s the official document: Social media policy adopted 7-6-11

The complete text is below Read more »

BFC Application: LAB feedback
Andrejs | June 21, 2011 | 12:22 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

This update from Kent Johnson:

Back in April, I received a phone call from a Bicycle Friendly Community representative indicating that Ithaca did not meet their standards to receive recognition. My understanding from that conversation was that the review team felt that Ithaca possibly could meet their standards for an “honorable mention”, but with some tweaking of the application we could possible get to the “silver” level (the level ranking is bronze, silver, gold, platinum) – which they felt better represented the level of ‘bike friendliness’ in Ithaca. Based on that conversation, I thought that we could revise the application and re-submit it this July. I have now received the review team’s actual written feedback (see attachment) … and it seems quite different from the phone conversation. In summary, they have provided a lot of suggestions, but none of these can be suitable addressed in time for a July re-submittal .. and probably not even in the next year or so. I’d like to have a discussion sometime with whoever is interested about what our strategy should be … my impression at this point is that a number of additional bicycle-related improvements need to be implemented before Ithaca can be competitive for BFC recognition.

- Kent


Text of the feedback document is below: Read more »

Bicycle Friendly Community application
Andrejs | January 11, 2011 | 12:51 pm | Uncategorized | No comments

This is the final version of Ithaca’s Bicycle Friendly Community application (PDF):
Ithaca BFC application – final

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) has established a program of evaluating cities, states, and other entities with respect to their “bicycle friendliness.” Those that are certified as bicycle friendly are also ranked at various levels (platinum, gold, etc.). The LAB summary of the Bicycle Friendly Community program is this:

“The Bicycle Friendly Community Program (BFC) provides incentives, hands-on assistance, and award recognition for communities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle Friendly Community welcomes cyclists by providing safe accommodation for cycling and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation.”

More information about this and other programs is on the LAB website: Bicycle FriendlyAmerica.