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A Bike Lawyer is Here to Answer All Your Cycling-Related Legal Questions

Illustration for article titled A Bike Lawyer is Here to Answer All Your Cycling-Related Legal Questions

Biking is a beautiful thing until you get doored. Or hit. Accidents are scary and it can be tough to know your rights as a cyclist and what to do after you pound the pavement. Josh Zisson is a Boston-based bike lawyer, and he's here this afternoon to answer your questions.

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Before we get into the webchat, here's a bit more about Josh.

How did you get into bike law?

In 2009 I was studying for the bar and working at a personal injury law firm and a friend of mine called from the scene of a dooring because she didn't know what to do. I started doing research on it, and it turns out that only a few months before, Massachusetts legislature had passed a sweeping overhaul to the bike laws in the state—before that, we really had nothing on the books. I thought that someone could start a law practice just taking bike cases.

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Is Boston a bike-friendly town?

It's fantastic geographically, but the infrastructure was such garbage for so many years. In 2004 and 2005, we were voted back-to-back worst bicycling city in the country. When Mayor Menino started Boston Bikes in the fall of 2007, there wasn't a single contiguous mile of bike lanes, and now there's over 50 miles.

So if it's getting safer for riders, what kinds of cases do you usually take?

They're almost entirely people who get hit by cars. When you get in a car-to-car accident, there's some established protocol, but there's sort of a grey area for bicyclists. I represent them when dealing with insurance companies, and try to get them compensated for damages.

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What would you say is the most common question you get asked?

'Are drunk cyclists subject to the same rules as drunk drivers?' (It varies state to state.)

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Anything you wish more people would do on the road?

It drives me nuts when people don't ride with lights at night—it's required by law in every state.

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Okay, bottom line: You just got in a bike accident. What do you do?

There are two things to remember to get on-site.

Here they are in order of importance:

1) The driver's information

2) Witness accounts

It's also good to know the Ten Commandments for City Biking.


Josh is here for the next hour or so answering your questions (you can also follow him on Twitter here). Ask away! But please note: Bike laws vary from state to state. The Kinja below does not count as official legal counsel.

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DISCUSSION

It really bothers me that bikes are supposed to be on the road and not the sidewalk. Maybe if it's a busy city street, with tons of pedestrians, that makes sense. But if there's a completely empty sidewalk, it's much safer for everyone if they get up on the sidewalk. I know as a driver, that if it's a road without much of a shoulder or anything, it's incredibly annoying to have to slow down, maybe stop entirely to wait for oncoming traffic to pass, and then carefully go around the bike, when there's all this nice space on the sidewalk just being wasted. If the road is busy, it can cause quite the unnecessary disruption in traffic flow. On the other hand, when I'm on a bike, I know I feel MUCH safer up on the sidewalk and completely out of the way of cars.