Understand your rights as a cyclist! Bike Law is a network of independently practicing attorneys that passionately represent cyclists in a variety of legal matters. In this episode, Rachael Maney, the National Director of Bike Law, explains what to do if you find yourself involved in a crash. Also learn the best practices to ride responsibly and increase your odds of having a safe ride.
TriDot Podcast .049:
A Crash Course in Cycling Safety with the National Director of Bike Law
This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together.
Andrew: New show today and it's going be a great one. We’ll be talking bike culture, safety, and advocacy with a special guest from an organization called Bike Law.
Rachael Maney serves as the National Director for Bike Law, a network of independent bicycle crash attorneys. She is a multiple time Ironman finisher who has represented Team USA at the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships. She is passionate about bike safety and cycling advocacy, fighting for the rights of cyclists through the efforts of Bike Law and the Bike Law Foundation. Rachael, Thanks so much for coming on The TriDot Podcast.
Rachael: Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be here.
Andrew: Also joining us today is Coach John Mayfield. John is a USAT Level II and Ironman U Certified Coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona Qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. What’s up John?
John: I’m excited for this one. I feel like every podcast is going to be our best and I think this one is going to be right up there with them, as well. This one is going to be great.
Andrew: Every podcast we get a little bit smarter and today is no exception. I am your host, Andrew the average triathlete. Voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. Today we are going to get going with our warm-up question and then we’ll move on to the main set talking to Rachael Maney from Bike Law. Then we’ll cool down with Rachael telling us all about Challenge Daytona, a really great race in Daytona, Florida, that Bike Law is a proud partner of. It’s going to be a great show. Let’s get to it!
Time to warm up! Let’s get moving.
Andrew: The sport of triathlon is famously swim, bike, and run with a history that traces back to the city of San Diego in the 1970’s. But John, Rachael, there are a ton of different sports out there… What if we added just one of them and created something new, let's call it a quadathlon! If you are in charge and it’s your pick--what sport would you add into the mix of swim, bike, and run to evolve the triathlon into the quadathlon? Rachael, it’s your first time on the podcast so I’m going to make you go first. What’s your pick?
Rachael: Thinking about this, obviously it would have to be an individual sport and I actually think that quadathlon might be an organized sport or collection of disciplines already, so I would probably go with kayaking, maybe?
Andrew: Okay. So we already start in the water so why not return to the water in another way? That one makes sense to me. I’m thinking this is a creative idea, maybe someone out there has already created it and already in organization for a quadathlon and I’m going to have somebody emailing me saying, “We are already doing this and it’s swim, bike, run, kayak!” So, John, if it’s up to you and you’re creating your own quadathlon organization, what sport are you adding to swim, bike, and run?
John: I famously struggle with these warm-up questions, but I actually have two answers for this one.
Andrew: And you’re happy with them?
John: Yeah, I think so. Prior to my life (I was going to call it career, hobby, whatever) in triathlon, now my life in triathlon, I was almost this involved in golf and I have gone from being completely immersed in golf and playing every week and living that lifestyle just like I live triathlon now. So maybe a marriage of my two sporting passions. I always say when I retire golf will be there waiting for me some day, so I’ll get back. But if it’s a thing--swim, bike, run, then go play golf. But that would be a really long day. So my other thought, and probably what I would actually go with...
Andrew: You could do speed golf. Just one hole, maybe?
John: I think what is the best fourth “discipline” for the quad would be...here in Texas we love to tube our beautiful, famous rivers.
Andrew: Float the river?
John: It’s kind of what Rachael was thinking, mine is just a little less involved. No rowing. Just sit back in your tube and chill. There’s a great race in Kerrville, Texas, right on the Guadalupe River. You run right along the Guadalupe. They actually have tubes at the finish line. The finish line is like 50 yards from this beautiful river. So that’s it. They have a beer garden. You can grab your beer, grab a tube, and chill in the river. That is the best finish line ever. So I’m going to say swim, bike, run, tube.
Andrew: John, that doesn’t even sound like a race. Rachael, does that sound like a race to you?
Rachael: I don’t know, race recovery sounds good to me.
John: You can set up a start and finish line.
Andrew: John is getting us to the finish line experience--the post-race beers and relaxation part a little bit quicker.
John: It just mixes it all in.
Andrew: Hey, it’s your pick. Who am I to tell you it’s a bad pick? I actually struggled with this one. A lot of times I come up with these questions and I have a particular answer in mind, knowing the question in advance. I was kind of like Rachael--it needs to be something that’s a race inherently. You’re on the clock for this. So it can’t just be any sport because it has to be a sport that you’re racing and there’s a time frame to it.
John: Yeah, swim, bike, run, basketball doesn’t really work.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. Swim, bike, run, tennis isn’t quite...It’s got to be something where you’re on the clock and trying to finish something. I think Rachael’s pick is fantastic. John, your pick is questionable, but it’s yours. I went back and forth. Did you guys ever watch on ESPN (I don’t know if they still air this) but when I was a kid ESPN would air the lumberjack games.
Andrew: Do you remember that, Rachael?
Rachael: I do. I do.
Andrew: So they would have competitions for log rolling where guys are trying to knock each other off the same log. They would race up and down telephone poles with essentially lumberjack crampons their feet. They would have competitions where they’d axe wood. See who could chop the most wood. That was the first thing that came to mind that was like a race, that’s something different.
John: And my pick is questionable?
Andrew: Right? So maybe you get out of the swim and you have to axe 10 logs before you move on the bike leg. I would be terrible at it because I’m just a small dude. So I’m putting myself at even a further disadvantage, further deep into the middle of the pack. But that was the first thing that came to mind that was different, that was a race.
Rachael: I was just thinking about the athlete waivers for your lumberjack portion.
Andrew: Somebody would be dehydrated coming off the bike and would just totally miss with an axe and there’d be accidents. So let’s end this warm-up conceding that John’s idea is probably better than mine. I probably had the worst idea of the three of us.
John: Let’s just go with kayak.
On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1…
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Andrew: Every time we hit the road on our bikes enjoying the ride might be at the forefront of our minds, but thoughts of staying safe are always lingering in the back. With cyclists being so vulnerable on the road, it’s great to know an organization like Bike Law is ready to have our back if something unfortunate happens. Today we are talking through what to do if you find yourself involved in an accident and how Bike Law is fighting to raise awareness for cyclists’ rights and safety. We are so glad to have Rachael Maney from Bike Law joining us for this conversation. Rachael, before we even get to Bike Law and bike safety, give us a little peek into your own tri journey. How did you get involved in the sport?
Rachael: I’m not really sure how common this is, especially for long course triathletes, but I have a lot of friends who made a segue into triathlon in a very similar way. I was a runner just recreationally that then became interested in running competitively. Distance running was something that, at least for me, it was just me and the pavement or me and the trail. It almost became therapeutic or cathartic in some ways depending on what was going on in my personal life. I’ve always been an at least mediocre swimmer. I never swam competitively, but always felt very comfortable in the water, so it just seemed like a natural progression to add the bike. I had a lot of friends who were racing triathlon. I’ve heard it said before that when you stand at the finish line or in the finishing chute of any Ironman race you have one of two responses--it’s either they’re absolutely crazy or that’s something I have to do. I found myself very strongly in the latter category. I get goosebumps even thinking about the first Iron distance race or Ironman race at which I was a spectator was Ironman Arizona. That’s such a special race, I think. It became this long-term goal that then very quickly became a short-term goal. So that’s how that came to be.
Andrew: So you actually specialized in long-course ITU events, which is so unique and so cool. You had the opportunity to represent Team USA at ITA Worlds up in Canada. What was that experience like for you?
Rachael: It was really special. There are...I think different tiers or potentially goals for age group triathletes. Some people aspire to go to Kona. For me, this was a goal that I set for myself that I felt was attainable for being at the time slightly better than mediocre. Slightly better than average. I think one of the biggest draws for me...what was so attractive was the race location, for sure. British Columbia, the Vancouver area, and then north of Vancouver in Penticton is one of the most special places on the planet. It is absolutely breathtaking. The people are so welcoming. The changes in topography, the water, everything was really magical. So it was a great experience.
Andrew: What was maybe...from an Ironman race day...I believe your time was very impressive, just under 9 hours if I am remembering correctly. So from that 8 hours and something on course, what was a standout memory from that race day?
Rachael: I think fellowship is a really big part of what makes the triathlon community special. We come from so many different walks of life. We’re such a diverse community like the cycling community, but we have this thing in common. Different dispositions, different personalities, but the same predilection to be committed and work hard. It was nice seeing friends that I knew personally and ones that I had connected with over social media on course. There’s that sense of instant gratification or accomplishment that you train for something for what could be 6 months to a year and it’s over relatively quickly. But what you’ve done is something pretty significant that less than half of 1% of the population will ever be able to say that they’ve done.
Andrew: So with you loving that race location so much I believe Ironman is bringing the Ironman race back there. Should our athletes in Canada be expecting to see you going back to race that course again?
Rachael: It’s a great question. It’s kind of funny that you ask that. I retired from Iron distance racing a couple years ago.
Andrew: So did John!
Rachael: When they brought Ironman Canada back to Penticton last year, I did register. It was cancelled--well, postponed--until next year in 2021. But I am actually registered for Ironman Canada 2021.
Andrew: It will happen eventually and we’ll be rooting for you! Going back and getting into your history with Bike Law. Back in 2015 you were out on a training ride prepping for Ironman Arizona, which you mentioned earlier. On a training ride for IMAZ you got hit by a car. Walk us through that accident and tell us what happened out there.
Rachael: The first thing is it certainly wasn’t an accident, it was a crash. The reason that I point out the difference between those two words and why that difference is so significant is because an accident would imply that it’s either an act of God or something that was unavoidable. What we’re seeing nationally or even globally is when we look at the prevalence of bicycle crashes is that there is a significant deficiency amongst motorists to be attentive when they are behind the wheel. There is a sense of entitlement to the roadways that I think is a very large contributing factor to why we have so many crashes. I was almost finished with this training ride when I was merging from a separated bike path coming over a bridge. This is in Charleston, South Carolina. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the topography there, but to get from one place to the next you have to cross over some body of water. So there’s lots of rivers, lots of bridges. I was coming over a bridge. I was on the bike path and I, of course, signaled and waited for a really substantial break in the vehicular traffic. It’s a two-lane contraflow road, one in each direction. As I was merging from the separated bike path onto the road I was just about over a few inches to the left of the white fog line when I could hear the engine, the acceleration from the vehicle that was approaching. The driver of this Mercedes attempted to pass me by crossing over the double yellow. Unfortunately there was a white pickup truck coming in the opposite direction and so, of course, she had to make a decision. Head-on collision with an F-250 or take me out in the lane of traffic. So she took me out. As I was holding on to the side view mirror...it all happened very, very quickly. But what happened afterwards, I think, is more egregious than the crash itself. We see that pretty often with motorists who have collisions with bicyclists or other vulnerable road users.
John: So can you share some of that egregious experience?
Rachael: The driver was incredibly aggressive with me. She was not only defensive in justifying her behavior, she was yelling at me that I had actually hit her, not the other way around. I guess it becomes one of those the cyclists just came out of nowhere. As if we just materialize out of thin air. Luckily for me there was another bicyclist who was coming in the opposite direction on the path who witnessed the entire crash, called the police so that we could get it documented. Of course the police officer found her responsible both for the causation of the crash and for liability in resolving the crash. But there are things that happen to somebody that’s riding a bicycle if they’ve been involved in a crash that can only be resolved with fortitude and with time. It’s a very difficult thing to go from being on a bicycle, which engenders feelings of freedom, empowerment, independence, autonomy, to immediately assuming the role of a victim. One of the things that I think we all have in common as cyclists, as triathletes, is that we have a very staunch sense of independence and fortitude, for sure. So it is really really tough to be paralyzed, not physically, but just in general by the circumstances of a crash over which the cycling victim has little to no control.
John: I think even hearing you speak is something that’s important for us to adjust our mindsets and our vernacular. It’s not an accident. It’s a crash, just like you would describe a car crash. In that scenario if you had been in a vehicle and she had been in a vehicle and she hit you, it would have been a car crash. Even for us I think that’s somewhat of a mentality shift. I think sometimes we even have that sense of obligation of, generally, it is the vehicles that are on the road. Are we infringing? I know we have the legal right to be. But what part did we play? You’re right. We have the right. We have every opportunity. We should be on the road, as well, and they should respect that. It’s on them when we’re doing what we’re supposed to be then obviously it’s their fault.
Andrew: Rachael, what were your injuries?
Rachael: I was very, very lucky. I ended up walking away with a couple of broken ribs. Lots of soft tissue damage. A ton of road rash, of course. A mild concussion. But nothing life threatening. So I consider myself to be very, very lucky. I think going back to what you just said about the importance of words--when you call it a bike accident you are taking the agency or the accountability or responsibility away from the motorist. As a vulnerable road user--whether you’re a cyclist, a pedestrian, a construction worker, someone in a wheelchair, on a scooter, even a motorcyclist--the burden or the onus of responsibility to exercise a greater duty of care when on the road as a motorist is one that should be taken seriously. Riding a bicycle by definition is imperfect. When you’re in a vehicle you don’t have to worry about debris in the road. You don’t have to worry about crosswinds. You don’t have to worry about small potholes or roadkill. You don’t have to worry about rumble strips. There’s just a myriad of variables or circumstances that create obstacles for people on bikes that don’t exist when you are behind the wheel of a car or a truck. So the responsibility is and should be greater for the person who has more power. With greater power comes greater responsibility. So I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind. It’s important to recognize that bicyclists had a right to the road long before the invention of the car. We are expected to follow the same rules and laws. We’re expected to ride predictably and responsibly and lawfully. Just because we don’t have...we’re not encapsulated in a 3,000 pound death machine doesn’t mean that our rights are lesser than. So I think that one of the things that we can do as cyclists and as triathletes is to encourage people to denounce the idea that we are second-class citizens on the roads.
John: Oftentimes we’re treated that way or worse. So was this the catalyst that got you involved with Bike Law?
Rachael: Here’s the thing about Bike Law that’s really, really interesting and important to share with people. Bike Law was founded on the heels of a familial tragedy. My partner Peter Wilborn is the founder of Bike Law. He lived in West Africa for many years and then moved to Geneva and was practicing civil rights law for the United Nations before returning to the states. When he did his brother, Jim, was killed while riding a bicycle in 1998. Peter met with the attorney that was handling Jim’s estate. He asked Peter if his brother Jim had a DUI. Of course Peter was taken aback by that question and said, “No, why would you ask that?” This white collar, bulldog plaintiff’s attorney, the best in the state said, “Well, why else would a grown man be on a bike?” That train of thought...that inaccurate correlation between riding a bicycle and having done something in the past to warrant not being able to drive a vehicle is...we have to get rid of that. The idea that riding a bike is for derelicts, people with DUIs, or criminals. That’s just absurd. It was in that moment that Peter recognized that his very specific and highly developed skill set as a civil rights attorney could be used to represent and protect and advocate for another community of people who needed that particular service. We look at what we do, what the Bike Law Network does, what our foundation does as a social change movement. Not all too dissimilar from how we look at the civil rights movement. What we’re trying to do is level the playing field to make sure that in our pursuit for cycling justice our community is well represented and educated and that we have a seat at the table as opposed to being an afterthought.
John: I’ll just say even now as you’re describing that, I’m personally grateful for what you guys are doing and the fact that there is an organization that is out there advocating for me and my friends and my loved ones in this community that is so special to me. I think that’s, as you mentioned before...and I agree perhaps the greatest thing about triathlon is not swimming, cycling, and running, is the people that we do it with. So the fact that we are largely somewhat taking even our lives and placing those at risk every time we ride out there on the road, I’m even now reflecting on how grateful I am that there is an organization that is advocating for safety and education and rights that, as you’re saying there--the rights and laws are really already there. So it’s oftentimes a matter of just having the knowledge and the foresight to see that.
Andrew: It’s sad that knowing that you have your own friends that are cyclists out there on the roads on different days and sometimes you’re out there and sometimes you’re not. When you hear of a buddy, a friend, a colleague, a peer, someone you follow on Strava getting hit by a car or grazed by a car or knocked over by a car or routed off the road by a car, you’re never surprised, unfortunately. It’s always a reaction of well...as many friends that I have are cyclists, it’s bound to happen to somebody at some point. That shouldn’t be the case.
John: You mentioned that Bike Law was born out of personal tragedy with Peter’s family. Was he a cyclist at the time?
Rachael: Yes, Peter has always been a cyclist. He grew up in the D.C. area, had lots of friends that were bike messengers. When he was a little kid he came home and he shaved his legs after watching the movie Breaking Away.
Andrew: So he’s a real cyclist?
Rachael: By real cyclist, I think that’s...each of us would define that differently. But at Bike Law, our belief and our ethos is that anybody who sits in that saddle, anybody who pushes the pedals around is a cyclist. So it was a very, very personal experience, of course, losing his brother, but an even more personal experience because you then begin to think, “Am I next? What happens if it’s somebody else that I know or love?” As you had mentioned in the context of how you would respond to hearing that a friend or someone you follow on Strava or whatever has been involved in some sort of cycling injustice, whether a crash or a punishment pass or a close call or just harassment on the road...that it’s not a matter of if, but when. So for all of us at Bike Law, not only are these crashes or do these cycling members of our community or victims become our friends, a lot of them were friends to begin with. So there’s an added layer of sense of responsibility and desire to help the best that we can.
Andrew: So the structure of Bike Law in itself is really unique. Instead of having full-time staff lawyers...Bike Law is a network of independently practicing bicycle crash attorneys. They take on cases at little to no cost to the client. Talk us through how the system works.
Rachael: That’s correct. So Bike Law is not a law firm. Bike Law is a network and it is a network of multiple independent firms in which either one or more of the lawyers in those firms are bicycle crash attorneys. The reason that we do that is...it’s multifaceted...but what we want to do is provide every cyclist wherever they are with a comprehensive resource in which they’re going to get consistent representation and where the crash victim is going to get as close as possible to the most desired outcome. That requires embracing and celebrating the differences between these attorneys, but also the differences in the bike laws from state to state, even within one municipality to the next. We believe that the pie is big enough for everybody. We want to...there’s no pride of authorship or sense of...what we want to do is say, “Hey, if you come to Bike Law there are things that you know you’re going to get. You’re going to get incredible client outreach and communication.” The idea a lot of times, people complain about lawyers, and I understand why. The idea of being involved in a crash and having to call a law office and speak to a secretary who says, “Yeah, in 3 days we can get you a 15-minute appointment or a consultation.” That doesn’t work for us. We recognize that bike crashes don’t happen Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. We are reachable and available 24/7. We look for lawyers who are willing to help every cyclist, regardless of what the circumstance might be. Sometimes there’s not much that we can do. Sometimes it’s a matter of providing information and offering support. Sometimes there’s a lawsuit that has to be filed. Other times...every circumstance and situation is different. The reason I want to stress that we want to help everyone is because these lawyers, of course, they have to make a living. We have to make a living. So not every case that we do is at no cost. However, we don’t turn people away simply because there isn’t a huge insurance policy or because there’s not a lot of money to be made. That’s not what we’re looking to do. What we’re looking to do is provide whatever assistance in whatever capacity is needed to the cyclist that is in need. So we do a lot of pro bono work. Peter actually received the Pro Bono Publico Award in 2007 from the American Bar Association. We have several lawyers in our network who are consistently helping cyclists at no financial cost or burden. One of the reasons that we’re not a completely pro bono network or firm, specifically, is because if we look at the way that nonprofits operate and some of the challenges that they have, a lot of their time is spent fundraising so that they can compensate the people working for the organization or just get their mission off the ground. The great thing about the Bike Law Foundation, which is our nonprofit organization is it’s self-funded. So we’re never asking for money from people. What we’re trying to do is we take what we have and we pump it back into the bike advocacy world.
Andrew: So what are a few examples of recent cases in which Bike Law was really able to get a favorable result in court?
Rachael: That’s a great question. If I go back a few years, I don’t know...I’m not sure how many of your listeners are familiar with a young man named Patrick Wanninkhof. He is originally from south Florida. He was a physics teacher at the Bronx School for the Arts. At 25 years of age he was volunteering for a nonprofit organization called Bike and Build. Fantastic group of human beings that bike all over the country. This particular ride was a cross-country ride beginning in Maine and ending in California. They build homes for the socioeconomically disadvantaged along the way. In Oklahoma he was killed while riding by a woman named Sarah Morris, who was checking a notification on one of her apps on her smart phone. It is very, very, very difficult and it is disappointingly rare to see criminal charges filed in bike crashes even when they’re catastrophic or when there is a death involved. In this particular case she was charged with first degree homicide, which is a felony. She was convicted and found guilty. That was a pretty significant check in the win column for us. But even more so for Patrick’s parents and sister. There is nothing that we can do to alleviate the weight of the grief that a family experiences when they lose a husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother in a bike crash. What we can do is work as closely and cooperatively as possible with states’ attorneys, prosecutors, police departments all over the country to dovetail to the best of our ability the civil side of things, which is your bodily injury and property damage claims with the criminal side of things, which is making sure that a driver who kills a cyclist is brought to justice within the parameters of the existing laws. We have lawyers in the network that practice law in what are called contributory negligence states. What that means for those who are unaware--it means that if you are found in a contrib state to have contributed 1% to the causation of the crash then you are barred 100% from any civil recovery. It makes it very, very hard for lawyers, for plaintiff’s lawyers. I’m going to use Ann Groninger as an example. She is our North Carolina Bike Law lawyer. She used to practice civil rights law, as well. She’s a fantastic lady and an incredibly strong and accomplished cyclist. She most recently was able to get a 4+ million dollar jury verdict for the widow of a cyclist that was killed by a distracted driver in North Carolina. That is a precedent setting jury verdict. Those things don’t happen, especially in North Carolina, which is a contrib state. So those are two examples of positive outcomes, one on the criminal side, the other on the civil. I’m sure that you guys heard about the young man, Javier Lopez, who, here in Florida, was thrown in jail and arrested on two felony charges for rolling through a stop sign.
John: I did, yeah. I saw that video. That was maddening.
Andrew: John and I both follow Bike Law on Instagram, on Facebook, and so we’ve seen that case. I would encourage any of our listeners out there, if you want to stay up to date with the fights and the legal victories that Bike Law is winning, go follow them on social media, as well.
John: Following up on that jury verdict, I guess the real win there is saying that what they decided was based on the evidence was that the motorist was 100% liable for that and the cyclist had 0% contribution to that. I was even thinking that’s got to be so difficult to prove. Because in almost any interaction of anything, how could it be where you didn’t play a 1% role, but I think maybe that’s the power of that is saying that the cyclist had 0%. They contributed nothing to this. It was 100% the fault of the motorist.
Rachael: Really, really spectacular results. That’s one of the differences between the lawyers that are part of the Bike Law network and other attorneys that are competent and that care. There’s just something about having that specific area of practice that requires a skill set and a level of experience that other attorneys just don’t have. In reference to the Javier Lopez case, that was a completely different type of work that we did. We’re not defense lawyers. The network...they’re plaintiff’s lawyers. But we were able to work cohesively and we partnered up with one of the best criminal defense lawyers here in central Florida. A guy name Dave Webster. Phenomenal human being, did a great job working with us to not only get the charges dropped for Javier, but to have his record expunged. He came from Puerto Rico after graduating high school to go to college. He works at a bike shop. He’s never been in trouble before. His mom is a nurse who works in the COVID unit as the Osceola Regional Medical Center. This is a wonderful family. They are the embodiment of the American dream. So to have this boy who just turned 18 with a criminal record was just absolutely absurd. So that’s a very recent example of something that we did at Bike Law that was kind of different than what we typically do. It goes back to...if you ride a bicycle and you need help, we will do everything that we can to help.
Andrew: So the two crash examples that you gave--both of them involved a distracted driver. The one that was texting and the other that was distracted. When a crash happens, what is it that usually goes wrong that leads to the cyclist getting hit? Is it normally a distracted driver or are there any other trends that we should be aware of?
Rachael: What we see most of the time is a driver that is impatient or feels entitled. That believes that the 5-10-15 seconds even 2-3-5 minutes that they might have to wait to safely pass a cyclist is not worth it. Whatever their thought process is that their need to get where they want to go is more of a priority than the consideration that should be given to the person on the bicycle with whom they’re sharing the road. Distracted driving is probably the number one cause of crashes. The only reason I say probably is because it’s incredibly difficult to prove. Distraction comes in three forms--it can be manual, visual, cognitive. Having a conversation with a passenger in your vehicle if you are deep in thought and engaged in that conversation then that is a form of distraction. Obviously I don’t think it’s a reasonable thing to say you can’t talk to the person with whom you’re in your vehicle. But just to look at how much our behaviors as motorists can impact our ability to drive safely, to operate our vehicles as safely as possible. How many times have you seen women applying makeup while they’re driving? Or texting? Or trying to hand a kid in the back seat of the minivan a sippy cup while they’re throwing Cheerios at you? All of it has become pretty normative in our everyday lives, but all of it is distracting. When it comes to texting and driving or Facebooking and driving, that is cognitive distraction, it’s manual distraction, and it’s visual distraction. So when you see people when you’re driving...That’s the other thing--most of us that ride bicycles also drive cars. So when you see somebody that slams on their brakes in the middle of an intersection or blows through a red light or misses a stop sign, those types of things--those are usually indicative of cognitive distraction. They’re just not paying attention to what’s going on. When you see the lane departure, those type of people driving off the road and course correcting really quickly, those are usually indicative of a visual distraction. Most crashes and most fatal crashes are occurring in low-light conditions. So dawn and dusk or late at night. Most of those drivers I would feel confident saying are either distracted or are intoxicated. If you’re paying attention on the road then you’re going to see the cyclist. You’re going to see the pedestrian. You’re going to see the traffic cones or whatever it is.
John: I would say that from what I’ve heard and seen is a common...defense...is I just didn’t see the cyclist. It’s a person. And it’s a person sitting on a bicycle.
Andrew: What if it was another car and you rear-ended another car and said I didn’t see the car. You’re still at fault for hitting the car.
John: Yeah, because you should have. It’s not like we’re hiding or camouflaged. We obviously can’t control what the motorists are doing or their attitudes or to a certain extent their understanding of the laws and all. But as cyclists, what can we do to maximize our own safety? What are those best practices that we can implement to ride responsibly and ride safely?
Rachael: That’s a great question. We’re living in a very interesting period of time for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is because there seems to be this celebrated belief that our rights are our rights. To some degree, sure, that’s true and applicable to all different facets of our lives. But we believe and I, personally, believe that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That just because it says you can ride on that particular road, if you know it’s rush hour traffic or a high-speed road where people tend not to follow the speed limit. Let’s say there’s problems with visibility or the condition or the surface of the road is subpar. There are all of these different things that I think about before I get on or in the saddle on my bike to go out for a ride. There are a couple of things...as far as preventing an actual, physical collision, there are very few things that we can do as cyclists. But one of them...there’s no way to, you can’t prove a negative, so this has just been our anecdotal experience. One of the things I do when I’m on my bike is if I’m coming up to an intersection, if I’m making a right or a left hand turn, if there’s any question...if I have an opportunity to interact with a motorist on the road, I do it. Whether it’s a wave, whether it’s making eye contact. There’s something about that human recognition that softens the oftentimes tenuous dynamic between motorists and cyclists. That recognition and acknowledgement should be reciprocal. It’s not that because we’re more vulnerable we expect to not show the same type of courtesies we would do if we were in a motor vehicle. Of course we want to receive that from the drivers, but we also want to extend that to lead by example. That’s one of the things. The second is predictable riding. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in groups in which I’ve chosen not to finish the group ride because there’s no semblance of organization. It’s very difficult for somebody in a car or a truck to anticipate what a swarm of people on bikes are going to do if they’re 3-4-5 abreast. If they’re not holding their line. If they’re not signaling. So that creates...that does not help to bring everybody closer together to recognize that we’re all in it together. It becomes a more divisive behavior on the part of the cyclist or cyclists. So predictable riding is really important. Visibility--making yourself as visible as possible is important. Knowing the laws or ordinances for the geographic location of where you are riding. Those things are all preventative and proactive, preventative measures. Is there a guarantee? Of course not. But those things certainly are a net positive and help.
John: Those are all things, too, those are great. I think to a certain extent, we oftentimes are, and should be, our own police ourselves. I know I get...one of my biggest frustrations is when I see a cyclist out riding on a road that they have no business riding out on. Because I’ve had these experiences and I’ve had friends who have been hit by vehicles, they’re not…
Andrew: You get nervous for them.
John: Yeah! It’s like why now, why here? There are so many good roads you could go ride. Why are you riding on this busy road? Or the major pet peeve is when we see them blowing through stop signs, red lights. It’s one of those things where one person looks bad makes us all look bad. Even for me, I know I get frustrated, and same thing--I’ve not ridden with people because of the way they’ve acted on a ride. I’m not going to associate with that person. One, they’re putting me at risk. I don’t want to be side by side with that person on a bike because it’s too important for me. I want to do all I can to dispel some of those myths that we have as cyclists, that we don’t follow the law. So I think that’s a huge one.
Rachael: You bring up a really good point. We could probably talk about this stuff for hours and hours and hours. The reality of it is that even within our cycling community there are disparities between how we are treated and our access to the type of resources to which we’re entitled even within our community. So I hear you talking about the kind of stuff that I...just piggy-backing on what I had mentioned. The interesting thing is that when I see those behaviors and they’re things that are being practiced by recreational cyclists--you see somebody who’s on maybe a $10,000 bike and they’ve got a $500 kit and they’re just, like you said, making us all of us look bad. That works cooperatively with another situation that just doesn’t get enough attention. It’s something that we at Bike Law are very focused on changing, which is that we have a very significant percentage of our national bike population and community that lives at or below the poverty line. That are invisible. Literally invisible, not just to motorists on the road but even to our cycling community as a whole. These are people who don’t have access to the type of educational information that all of us have. At least the three of us have had access to. The resources, the seat at the table to participate in some of the decision making at the engineering or the policy level. So those disparities contribute to the crash fatality numbers that we’re logging every year in this country. They also contribute to the frustration that we as cyclists and even as motorists feel and that tenuous dynamic or relationship between us. If someone doesn’t have access to a bike shop or the information or the education to say, “Hey, unlike running you need to ride with traffic. In the same direction.” When you ask cyclists or people, whether they’re utilitarian commuters, just people who depend on the bike for its original intended purpose to get from one place to the next, they’ll tell you, “I ride against traffic or into oncoming traffic.” Because they want to see what’s in front of me. They want to see what’s going on. If they don’t have the same access to an education about best or the safest bike practices and how to ride, they’re kind of left to their own devices. So we have to look at the delta that exists among us within our own community before we can expect things to change. I do believe that the cyclists like you guys and like me that are recreational, we’re age groupers, we’re doing this because we love it not because we have to. We have a responsibility to help elevate and teach those who might not be as lucky as we are so that with everybody that’s out there riding safely, we become safer as a collective whole.
Andrew: So you’re actually doing a lot of that bicycle safety and education through the Bike Law Foundation. What are some of the initiatives that you have through the Bike Law Foundation that you’re using to spread bicycle awareness through community engagement?
Rachael: When I say that we want to be as much of a comprehensive cycling resource as possible, I mean that very genuinely. There’s a lot of work with local and state legislators to make sure that we have the best progressive and protective bicycle laws. We do a lot of education through seminars and talks at local bike shops and with local cycling clubs. We like to sponsor different organizations or donate/contribute more cohesively with other nonprofits. There’s a lot that we do and it really is based on the need in the local community. As Americans we don’t have nationally consistent legislation. If you are an interstate truck driver carrying hazardous material, there are laws that are consistent from one state to the next for sure, on a national level. Even wearing a seatbelt--those things are determined at the state level. So it’s difficult to affect change on a scale that is that big. So what we aim to do through the direction and the leadership of the independent Bike Law attorneys from state to state is create initiatives and our calls to action in those places are predicated upon the specific needs of those communities.
Andrew: So something you mentioned earlier that’s a big part of staying safe on the bike is being visible to motorists. I gotta say this while I can--Bike Law just teamed up with Wattie Ink to put out a very visible and a very slick looking cycling jersey. John is an all black, monochrome, one color kit kind of guy. I love the bright pops of color so when I saw that jersey come out, Rachael, I was like, “Oh, man! That’s so nice looking.” Even just beyond the brighter jerseys, what are your top tips for increasing visibility out on the road?
Rachael: I’m going to circle back and put a pin in that. I want to say is Bike Law partnered with Wattie Ink several years ago. That partnership was built on a personal relationship and friendship with Heather Jackson who I know you guys know and her husband Shawn Watkins. That partnership was cultivated over the fact that we share...we have the same ideas and priorities. They are the most incredible, generous, committed, selfless people that have done really, really incredible things for our triathlon community and we thought it was a very symbiotic relationship for us to partner with them. So talking about how John likes the monochrome, the black kits...I tend to skew more toward that side, as well. My belief is that we should be able to ride our bicycles wearing whatever makes us most comfortable. I do not believe that you should have to be dressed like a disco ball covered in Christmas lights…
Andrew: John is fist-pumping this right now. He’s having a good time hearing this.
Rachael: There are so many other cyclists or triathletes that feel exactly the same way. Is that the recommendation to go out in all black and make yourself as camouflaged with the asphalt as possible? No. Do I think you should be able to? Yes. Are those the circumstances in which we’re living and riding today? No. Do we take any issue whatsoever with a cyclist who’s been involved in a crash where somebody wants to comment, “Well, they were wearing black or dark blue.” I don’t care if you were wearing pink with purple polka dots. That has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Neither does wearing a helmet, by the way. But the most recent bright colored kit that you’ve seen was a collaborative design effort between myself and Wattie Ink. We called it the Dusk & Dawn Collection because 70% of bicycle crash fatalities occur in low-light conditions around dusk and dawn. We released it last year at the end of Daylight Savings time because of course losing that hour of daylight not only impacts visibility for motorists, but it also impacts our circadian rhythms. We don’t realize how much an hour’s difference really makes. I’m sure for everybody who works an office job, come 5/6 o’clock after Daylight Savings is over, you’re exhausted. So that was the reasoning behind that particular kit design. Our first kit with Wattie Ink was black. It is still my favorite of the three that we’ve done. But to answer the question about what else can be done to make yourself more visible--the single most important device for a cyclist, regardless of whether you’re a triathlete or not--is the red rear blinky light. It is absolutely a non-negotiable. It is very, very important, and in most states it is a legal requirement to ride your bicycle in low-light or in nighttime conditions. It is the best way to make yourself visible to other people on the road. As far as wearing a black kit goes, I think people should wear what they’re comfortable in. People drive black cars every day of the week. So it’s really about what makes you feel most confident and comfortable while you’re in the saddle.
John: So I think we’ve seen a proliferation of the lights on the bikes, which is great. I remember my lightbulb moment, so to speak, of when I realized I needed a light on my bike. I was out working a training camp down in Galveston on the 70.3 Texas course and it’s just miles and miles and miles right along the Texas Gulf Coast. I remember seeing a cyclist. There’s no telling how far they were. It was easily a mile down the road, but I could see the red blinking light. There was no chance I could actually make out the bike or the person or anything like that. He was so far away, but I could see that blinking light. It was a lightbulb moment for me to say, “That thing works.” It’s so cheap and so easy. I absolutely am getting one of those today. It’s been a priority ever since to have that light.
Andrew: I’ve had moments where you see that and you can see somebody so well from so far away that I’ve been tempted to slow down next to them and be like, “Hey, what light are you using!?” Because I want to know--is mine that visible? If mine’s not that visible then I want to make sure it is.
John: I can only imagine it’s that much more visible in those low-light areas that you’ve mentioned that were so risky. Even doing our best with ride safety and visibility to motorists and education, inevitably there will be things that are going to happen. So when an athlete gets hit by a vehicle, what steps should they take afterward?
Rachael: If you’re involved in a crash while riding your bike, the most important thing is to get as much documentation as possible. Obviously this advice that I’m about to give is...you have to consider the specific conditions of any crash. If you are physically able, call the police immediately. If you have sustained any injuries accept the ride in the ambulance to get checked out. When you’re involved in any sort of collision whether it’s driving your car or riding your bicycle, there are endorphins, there’s adrenaline, there’s shock. There are all of these chemical things that are happening in our brains and bodies that you can’t really account for in the moment, but I can guarantee you that 24-48-72 hours later when you’re feeling worse than you were when the crash or the moments after the crash occurred, you can’t go back. You don’t get a second chance to do it the best way that you can. Of course it’s another indicia of why things are so unbalanced for us because suffering that injustice to begin with--the crash itself--is a burden big enough to start, but to have to manage things afterward can become increasingly more tedious and difficult can sometimes feel insurmountable. But if you have the ability to call 911, do it. If you have the ability to get and accept the medical care and to get checked out, do it. Get everything documented. Those things are really important. Take as many photos as you can. Make sure to get the driver’s information, witness information. It sounds like a really long list of things to have to do after suffering a crash, but if you can, then do them, for sure. Stay away from social media. A lot of times the natural inclination is you’re sitting in a hospital room or in an ambulance and you want to take a selfie and you want let people know what happened. That is completely normal. Not only is it normal, but it’s natural and understandable that you want your community, your friends, your family to not only know what happened, but to rally around you for that support. It can come back to bite you in the ass if in some circumstances. You just want to keep your powder dry as much as possible. So no posting on social as difficult as that might be. And give us a call. It doesn’t have to be because you’er looking to hire a lawyer. It could be just to say, “Hey, I’ve never been involved in this situation before. This is your area of expertise. I need help.” And we’re there for any circumstance that involves a bike.
Andrew: So before we move on to our cool down...for folks that have listened to this conversation...you mentioned if you’re in that scenario, you’ve been in a crash, give Bike Law a call. Even beyond that, how can we as members of the cycling and multi-sport community, how can we support the efforts of Bike Law and where can we go to buy some of that sweet Bike Law merchandise that we already talked about?
Rachael: I think that supporting Bike Law means doing your part as a contributing member of our cycling and multi-sport community. I think that if you’re an experienced or an avid rider, consider taking an hour a week to offer your experience to somebody who might want to get in the saddle but feels intimidated or might be a novice rider that just needs somebody to teach them what we’ve been taught through group rides, through experience, through time in the saddle. I certainly would never turn away an offer to promote Bike Law, our mission, the work that we’re doing. You can go to our website, which is www.bikelaw.com and on the website, you have access to look at our network lawyers. We have a blog page that is something that I really, really love because this is something lawyers and some of our ambassadors are able to share what they’re doing in respect to their local communities or the cases that they’re working or the victories that they’ve had or the things that they’re experiencing or noticing within their community or geographic location. That’s also where you can purchase Bike Law merchandise. So t-shirts, cycling caps, water bottles, kits, kit items, things like that, can all be found on our website.
John: So, speaking of, I am actually currently looking at the website and seeing the one and only Rachael Maney modeling...looking super dope in the 9FIFTY Bike Law cap and I am destroyed that it’s sold out. So you’re going to have to let me know when that cap is back in stock.
Rachael: Yeah! And one of the things...we’ll be doing a limited edition merch drop on the 21st of every month around the calendar year. The reason for that is there are 21 stages in the Tour de France.
Andrew: Good reason!
Rachael: You can find restocked merchandise as well as limited edition merchandise. These next few months are pretty special. I encourage everybody to take a look or stop by on the 21st. One of the things that I’m very passionate and proud about is that Bike Law has recently partnered with as the exclusive legal benefit to Women’s Cycling Day. It’s a pretty big deal considering the role that women on bikes play and have played in not only the scalable growth, but the celebration of riding a bike. It is the first, the inaugural National Women’s Cycling Day this year 2020 on October 10th. It will be the second Saturday of every October moving forward. So over the next couple of months there’s going to be a lot of specialty limited edition merchandise that we’re releasing as we look forward to Women’s Cycling Day this year. Check back. We’ve got caps coming and bottles and t-shirts and a very special women’s only kit.
Great set everyone! Let’s cool down.
Andrew: So I want to start our cool down today by acknowledging something that Rachael said earlier. I didn’t want to make this joke during our more serious interview about bicycle safety. Rachael, you referred to cars as a 3,000 pound death machine and the joke I wanted to make is that would be a killer rock band name. You could definitely picture a band called 3,000 pound death machine opening for Metallica or something. Anyway, terrible joke aside, to cool us down today, we’re going to spend a few minutes talking about a really, really cool race in Rachael’s home state of Florida. The Challenge Family is a race production company that puts on top-shelf multi-sport races all around the world. A few years ago they added a really cool event to their portfolio called Challenge Daytona. It just so happens that Bike Law is a sponsor of Challenge Daytona and, Rachael, you’ve done this race yourself already. Talk us through the event and what makes this race in Daytona a great one?
Rachael: Yeah, so we partnered with Challenge Daytona for their inaugural year, which will be 3 years ago this December for a variety of reasons. Number one, I am a huge supporter of the Challenge Family race organization. When they say that they are focused on the athlete and the experience for that athlete it is a true statement. I think that all of us have at least once experienced some frustration when you pay what can be an exorbitant amount of money to participate in an organized race and you just feel like a bib number. For whatever that reason may be--maybe it’s personal attention, maybe it’s the safety of the course, maybe it’s the finisher medal, or the $800 book bag that falls apart...I don’t know. But the experience with Challenge and at Challenge Daytona is a different one. It’s very unique. It is family oriented, there is something for everybody. I cannot stress that enough. There really is something for everybody. The way that they integrate the pro race with the age group race is something that’s pretty special as well. I have to say I am not a NASCAR person. I don’t know, for me, I just can’t watch vehicles go around in a circle like that. However, it’s a very different experience doing that while on your own bike. Riding on the racetrack at Daytona on the International Speedway…
Andrew: It’s a massive facility. It’s a massive track.
Rachael: So cool, guys. So fun. And because of the time of year, I don’t really know too many competitive triathletes that are necessarily looking for a December A-race. However, and especially this year with all of the race cancellations, it is a stellar option. It’s something...we just have such a good time. We have a group of what could be anywhere between 25 and 40 ambassadors and friends, members of our Bike Law family that race and support. You can find us at the expo the last couple of years. We’ve put on the after party and provided the band for the after party and the entertainment and stuff. It’s more like an end of year celebration, you know. Challenge Daytona does a really, really good job of championing that and providing a really fun environment and safe race course for everybody to participate.
Andrew: So I remember when Challenge Family...I follow them on social media...and Challenge Roth is a bucket list race for me that I’m determined to do eventually. So when they added Challenge Daytona...I grew up an hour and a half from Daytona. My family had season tickets to not to the Daytona 500 but to the Pepsi 400 at the time. I’m sure it’s sponsored by somebody different now. I’ve been to a couple NASCAR races there. So when I saw that they...for our listeners to know that the swim is in the lake that is in the infield of the Daytona track. It’s such a big facility that the lake in the infield is big enough for a 1.2 mile swim. On the bike you go around the track...is it one time, Rachael, before exiting and heading to the Florida coast?
Rachael: They just released the new bike course for the year. They’ve changed it. This is, like you mentioned, for the middle distance or for the half Iron distance athletes, but there’s also the sprint option. If you do the sprint option, which is what I did when I raced it, your entire race is contained within the Speedway. It’s in the infield. You are riding on the Speedway and then you are running inside of the facility, as well, so it’s a completely enclosed race course.
Andrew: Rachael, I’m going to do this race eventually. I haven’t done it yet. I do have triathlete friends in Florida. When I sign up for Challenge Daytona I will come visit you guys at the Bike Law expo tent.
Rachael: Yes, that would be wonderful.
Andrew: That’s it for today, folks. I want to thank Rachael Maney from Bike Law and Coach John Mayfield for talking about bike safety and advocacy with us today. Shout to Garmin for partnering with us on today’s episode. Head to garmin.com to see what Garmin tri tech could be your next upgrade and could make you a little bit more visible out on the roads.
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