Archive for category law

Garmin sues Bryton for patent infringement

Over Bryton’s new Rider 30 GPS Unit, Garmin files and seek injunction on U.S. sales. The Bryton is alleged to share the same GPS navigation, traning data and lap results as the Garmin Edge series. Way to go Bryton…

Garmin Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against Bryton Inc., claiming that the Taiwanese technology firm built its bicycling computers to copy the design and functionality of Garmin’s cycling products.


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Lowenthal introduces “3 feet” law for cyclists

The posters in support of the bill

Democratic state senator Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach last week introduced a bill that would mandate a three-foot passing distance for drivers when overtaking cyclists on California streets. If passed, the law would give bicycle traffic legal protection for the first time against aggressive and negligent drivers who routinely assault cyclists on California highways.

S.B. 910 seeks to define what is a “safe distance” for drivers to pass cyclists, and the bill has received early support in the form of a poster campaign in southern California. The “Give Me 3” posters have been cropping up around bus stops in LA, and have drawn attention to a growing demand from non-profit and advocacy groups for greater focus on the issue of car-on-bike violence.

Los Angeles has hosted a number of recent high-profile events in which cyclists have peacefully demonstrated against what they consider a hostile environment for cyclists: the downtown Los Angeles area.

So-called “safe-streets” legislation has traditionally had a difficult time making passage in Sacramento, which is susceptible to lobbying from the California Highway Patrol, as well as the trucking industry. Institutional opposition to bicycle advocacy is a major problem in California, where the roads represent a final frontier bitterly fought over by conservative groups who seek to maintain a motor-only advantage, and progressive, eco-friendly proponents of zero-impact transportation solutions.

Arguments against a 3-feet passing law are weak, and include assertions that such a mandate would be difficult to enforce under current conditions. This law, however, would provide cyclists with some degree of legal standing when they felt they had been bullied off the road by inconsiderate drivers. No such law currently protects cyclists, despite the fact that 16 other states have functioning 3-feet laws.

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Anger and frustration for family of slain cyclist

At just after 7.00pm on a hot, clear September evening last year, 27-year-old Patrick O’Conner was riding his bike west on Fulkerth Road in Turlock when he was struck from behind by a 1999 Toyota traveling at 55mph. The force of the impact threw Patrick off his bike, causing him to suffer severe and ultimately fatal injuries. The driver of the Toyota, Vanessa Carrillo, reportedly paused momentarily before speeding away from the scene, leaving Patrick to die in the road.

The 21-year-old Carrillo continued driving until she reached her home in Patterson, a few minutes west of Turlock. Upon arriving, she waited for an hour before telephoning 911 to report that she thought she may have hit a dog in the road.

After further questioning, Carrillo divulged that, in fact, she realized she had hit a person when she saw the body lying in the road behind her.

But it wasn’t until December 22nd, more than three months after Patrick’s death, that an arrest warrant was finally issued in the case. Carrillo was charged with Felony Hit and Run, and Vehicular Manslaughter without Gross Negligence, which is a misdemeanor.

But in the weeks immediately following the accident, in the midst of his grief at the sudden violent loss of his son, Patrick’s father, Jim O’Conner recognized that something wasn’t right. Why hadn’t the driver who killed Patrick been arrested or charged? On October 6th, a month after the accident, O’Conner wrote to the Department of Justice questioning why, despite her own admission of responsibility, Vanessa Carrillo was still free.

He was particularly dismayed by what he felt was a “cavalier attitude and lack of action” shown by assistant District Attorney, John R. Mayne, whom Jim O’Conner had expected would pursue more serious charges against Carrillo. Angry and frustrated, O’Conner researched the criminal history of Vanessa Carrillo, and discovered four recent convictions for moving traffic violations in Stanislaus County. Notably, Carrillo had been convicted twice of driving at unsafe speeds, a pattern of behavior which witnesses claim may also have been a major factor in the death of Patrick O’Conner. Carrillo’s last conviction for speeding occurred less than a year before she hit Patrick with her car.

Jim O’Conner claims that, in a phone conversation he had with Mayne, the assistant DA stated “that he was aware of Vanessa Carrillo’s driving history, and of this Vehicular Manslaughter case”. O’Conner went on to express his frustration that Carrillo had not been detained or charged, adding that he hoped the case would receive immediate review.

Shortly after Carrillo was finally arrested in December, Jim O’Conner met with the Stanislaus County District Attorney, Birgit Fladager. In the meeting, he expressed his consternation at the formal charges, which he and his family felt did not accurately reflect the severity of the crime.

O’Conner suggested that he thought Carrillo should face charges of Second Degree Murder with Implied Malice, a more serious charge which involves an “unintentional killing caused by extremely reckless behavior”. Specifically, the Implied Malice contingent assumes that “the defendant knew about the danger of the acts (in this case reckless driving), yet consciously and deliberately disregarded the danger to human life”. According to Jim O’Conner, Mayne refused to consider the more serious charge of Implied Malice in the death of Patrick.

The program given out at Patrick O’Conner’s memorial in September shows several pictures of a handsome, athletic young man with a disarming smile. The services, one in Northridge where he was born, and one in Sacramento, where he lived and worked as a tax consultant, were attended by friends of Patrick from all over the country. The assembled mourners reflected upon a promising life cut short, and a warm personality who would be terribly missed.

As Jim O’Conner revealed in an email to Talking Treads:

“Pat had a lot of great friends in Sacramento. He loved that city and had many friends there. He was training for the Iron Man competition.”

Vanessa Carrillo is due to be arraigned on 3rd March in Stanislaus County.


Your bike path is unconstitutional

In case you missed it DC Streetsblog did an interview with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) that included this gem:

SB: I was just in an EPW Committee hearing and there was some talk about the fact that some small amount of money in the reauthorization historically gets used for things like bike trails. Some people think that’s waste; some people think biking is a mode of transportation. What do you think?

DH: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.

SB: But you’re OK with mandating highways?

DH: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.

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Superbowl Sunday car/bike hijinks

Intoxicated you say?

SACRAMENTO, CA – A high speed chase along Interstate 5 ended when the driver crashed just north of Sacramento Sunday night.

The chase started with the man driving the wrong way down “L” St. in downtown, police said. Police said an officer on a bicycle tried to pull him over, but the driver took off and turned on to I-5.

Police chased the man north through the city of Sacramento before he exited the interstate at Garden Highway before losing control and going over an embankment, leaving his car totalled and the driver himself hospitalized.

Police on the scene tell News10 they believe the driver was intoxicated.

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Treating bikes like cars: will California follow New Jersey?

A proposed bill making its way through the legislature in New Jersey would require all bicycles in the state to be officially registered through the DMV. Could a similar law be passed in California?

Assembly Bill 3657, introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, creates a legal obligation for bicycle owners to file paperwork with the Department of Motor Vehicles. Registration is renewed every two years, or when a bike changes ownership through sale or otherwise. Owners who fail to register their bike will be subject to a fine, as is currently the case for owners of motor vehicles.

In California, where cycling is popular, no such regulations exist, and cyclists are free to use the public highways in accordance with local restrictions (most freeways are off-limits to bicycles).

Whether or not the New Jersey bill is passed, it raises interesting questions about the rights of cyclists on the nation’s roads. In California, while cyclists theoretically enjoy the same rights as drivers of motor vehicles, the reality is that bicycle-users are second-class citizens on the roadways, and law-enforcement does little to protect riders or prevent abuse by drivers. Indeed, a great many roads do not have adequate cycle-lanes. Where lanes exist, they are frequently used as on-street parking spaces by ignorant drivers who unfortunately enjoy the legal freedom to do so.

If California introduces such a bill, perhaps it would include new protections for cyclists, such as enforcable rights to occupy the roadway without fear of harm, intimidation or assault by drivers. Perhaps the license fee will generate adequate revenues to fund protected cycle paths, alternate routes and secure bicycle-parking. Would the passage of such a bill exclude bicycles used exclusively on cycle-paths such as the American River Parkway?

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Honk at me, flip me the bird, write me a cheque

In Los Angeles, where there have been several recent high-profile incidents, the city council is examining proposals for a new law that would make harassment of cyclists a civil offense. The council met last week with attorneys and began drawing up outlines for the ordinance, partly in response to the criminal proceedings involving Dr Christopher Thompson. Thompson faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon after he purposefully hit two cyclists with his car. The LA doctor is also accused of mayhem and reckless driving.

The council will have the chance to consider the new proposal in as little as two months, giving Los Angeles area cyclists broad new rights as road-users. Specifically, the ordinance would provide cyclists with the ability to easily sue drivers whom they accuse of reckless endangerment. Plaintiffs could then collect a cash settlement. The city council formally adopted the proposal, subject to reconsideration, on November 10th.

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you know what else could jeopardize a person’s job?

Getting hit by a car and being left in the road…maybe?

A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face felony charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardize his job, prosecutors said Thursday.

Martin Joel Erzinger, 52, faces two misdemeanor traffic charges stemming from a July 3 incident when he allegedly hit bicyclist Dr. Steven Milo from behind then sped away, according to court documents.

This probably isn’t news to most of you (I’m not listing the hundereds of places I’ve seen this today) but there’s a petition to sign.

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helmet safety?

At the LA Bike Summit, Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, called for a mandatory helmet law in California. On the surface a helmet law seems like a reasonable way to improve the safety of cycling – I’m sure I’m not the only cyclists that taught a helmet equals less chance of a massive head injury – but it’s not as cut and dry.

Helmet laws have been on the books in Western Australia since 1992 and the data shows the benefits aren’t that clear and that the biggest impact helmet laws have is to discourage cycling:

Injuries to cyclists follow a clear “safety in numbers” relation; injury rates per cyclist are lower when more people cycle. Data for cyclists in collisions with motor vehicles (see show helmet laws increased the risk of death or serious head injury relative to the risk for pedestrians and the amount of cycling. This implies helmet laws are counterproductive.

Collisions with motor vehicles cause nearly all deaths and debilitating head injuries among cyclists. A UK emergency department study found that such collisions caused 58% of head injuries to adult cyclists and 50% of all head injuries to cyclists. The large benefits from the road safety campaigns should be contrasted with the lack of obvious effect on head injuries from helmet laws. Yet helmet laws were far more expensive. All published cost-benefit analyses of injury rates before and after helmet laws show the cost of helmets exceeded any estimated savings in healthcare costs.

In addition to those who feel that helmet laws are counterproductive when attempting to improve the overall safety of cycling, some in the “anti-helmet” camp question the safety benefits of helmets. Earlier this month an Australian woman managed to have a fine she received for not wearing a helmet overturned based on the idea that, “she would be at greater risk of brain damage from ‘diffuse external injury,’ an injury similar to shaken baby syndrome, than if she fell on her bare head.” Below is a video of Sue Abbott talking about her case:

The data on the effectiveness of helmet wearing I’ve reviewed is weak and often relies on the theory that people who wear helmets might feel safer and act more reckless. Obviously, there are certain types of accidents that will result in serious injury or death regardless of headwear, but, anecdotally, the few times I’ve crashed my bike I’ve been happy to have had a helmet on.

Should there be a mandatory helmet law? No. Should people choose to wear helmets? Probably.

Hat tip to @kelseyp for getting me thinking about this and sac cycle chic for linking the Sue Abbott story.


don’t hit me with your car, even if I stole your beer

Salt Lake City police say Ronald Wayne Lindsley’s decision to ram the man with his car was excessive.

Police say the 61-year-old Lindsley was working at a Salt Lake City gas station when he saw a man take two beers and leave the store without paying. Police say he chased the suspected thief, who was riding a bicycle, and hit him.

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