02

Blog

The Tennessee Lifesavers Conference

Bike Law Amy speaks about vulnerable road users

I was asked to speak on the topic of vulnerable roadway users at this year’s Tennessee Lifesavers Conference, hosted by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office (“GHSO”).

The GHSO is a branch of TDOT, and is most well-known for its extensive PSA campaigns statewide in Tennessee: “Click it or Ticket” and “Booze it and Loose It”. My audience was almost entirely made up of law enforcement officers. The Annual Lifesaver’s Conference includes an awards luncheon to recognize officers, and it was a special moment to be able to watch these public servants receive recognition for their work in the field saving lives. The exhibit booths at this conference included the latest in radar detection and breathalyzer technology.  Maybe future Lifesaver’s Conferences will see a Bike Law booth.

StateBadges_Web_TN

The timing for this presentation seemed ripe, coming on the heels of Bike Law Ann’s recent blog post about the continuing serious issues we are all facing dealing with law enforcement officers, both as Bike Law attorneys and cyclists.

My goal going to the Lifesaver’s Conference, was to build a few relationships and make progress on the monumental task of ensuring that officers who respond to a motor vehicle collision involving a bicycle create thorough police reports , collect all the evidence, and ask the right questions. I also wanted to make those who might have a bias towards cyclists begin to reconsider their stance, or at the very least, realize that they have a duty to protect cyclists under Tennessee Law, despite what their personal views may be.

I co-presented with the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for TDOT, Jessica Wilson.  Jessica and I know each other from the Tennessee Bike Summit, and it was great to be able to present alongside a familiar face. The name of Jessica and I’s presentation was “Every Life Counts: Protecting Our Roadways’ Most Vulnerable Users.”  Jessica detailed the new Tennessee Strategic Highway Safety Plan’s emphasis area on vulnerable roadway users.  She explained who vulnerable roadway users are, and why current statistics give cause for concern: In Tennessee, overall accidents are going down, while the number of vulnerable roadway user victims is increasing. Cyclists share the title vulnerable roadway user with motorcyclists, pedestrians, and the elderly.

My presentation called for audience participation. I needed for each officer in the room to walk away with a few new items to include on their checklists when investigating a crash involving a bicycle, and to take the message back home with them that cyclists need to be protected by law enforcement.

I gave the officers the big picture: I defined the term complete street, gave several examples and broke down the Chattanooga Complete Streets Ordinance.  I spoke about bike tourism and USBRS 23. I unpacked TDOT’s policy requiring inclusion of bike and ped facilities in resurfacing, and redesign projects.

I touched upon municipal leaders from across the state’s pro-bicycle stance, including the exciting news that the Green Lane Project is coming to Memphis, thanks in large part to Mayor A C Wharton, Jr.  My bottom line was that, “in your role as a law enforcement officer, you are going see an increase in bicycles and bicycle facilities on the roadways for a multiplicity of reasons.  You have to adapt to these changes that lie ahead in Tennessee and protect our vulnerable roadway users.”

Then, I used a recent case of mine to educate and spark debate.  I gave the facts of the case:  two cyclists were riding single-file on a wide, smooth road, with reflective gear in daylight.  A driver pulls alongside the rear cyclist and has a verbal altercation, demanding that the he get on the sidewalk. The driver is towing an empty trailer. The driver moves alongside the front cyclist, and there is a heated exchange. The driver pulls away and the empty trailer strikes the cyclist, sending him catapulting straight into the emergency room.  Multiple eyewitnesses call 911. The driver does not stop and alleges not to have known he struck the cyclist. No hit and run charge was filed.  I filed a civil lawsuit against the driver.  I had my mechanical engineer inspect the damage to the bicycle and trailer to determine if it was possible that the driver didn’t feel the impact, as he claimed to the investigating officer. My engineer found that the driver would have heard and felt the contact. I shared the engineer’s report and a few highlights from my deposition of the driver with the officers I presented to at the Lifesavers Conference. As I was hoping, the officers had questions for me.  My favorite question was, “why did the driver yell at the cyclists?” The officer hit the nail on the head.  WHY DID the driver yell at the cyclists?  This was the “ah-hah” moment I was looking for.  One “ah-hah” moment down.  There are a lot more to go.

After my presentation, once the room had cleared out, a Murfreesboro Officer approached me and shared photos of his brand new road bike with me. He recently rode the metric century in the Murfreesboro Bicycle Club’s Hot 100.  Take heart fellow cyclists, things won’t be as they are for much longer, but we do have a lot of hard work advocating ahead. In her post, Ann outlined what our goals need to be; now we execute.

Comments

Biking After COVID 5
Ann Groninger May 28, 2020

What will biking after COVID be like? Before COVID, it seemed like there was a handful of people in my city who rode bikes to get places, and we all knew each other. We’ve always had a robust recreational road riding community of people who gather after work and on weekends to head out to […]

Read More
Bike Advocate
Bruce Hagen May 26, 2020

If you’ve ridden a bike anywhere in Atlanta, chances are you’ve met Atlanta bike advocate Angel Poventud.  If you’ve stopped for a post-ride beer, been to an important advocacy event, or to any major Atlanta gathering, chances are you have met Angel Poventud.   It may only seem that Angel is everywhere, but when you […]

Read More
Bicycle accident lawyer group riding in COVID
Kurt Holzer May 15, 2020

Idaho’s Governor Little has issued the State’s planned staged transition away from his Stay-at-Home health order.  Road cyclists continue to wonder how we should engage in group riding under COVID. As a bicycle accident lawyer who deals with the negative aspects of cycling, I have been thinking a lot about when and how to ride safely […]

Read More
Felix Mayer Cyclist killed by car. NO VRU law
Bruce Hagen Apr 30, 2020

On May 1, 2020, the City of Dunwoody’s new Vulnerable Road User (“VRU”) ordinance will take effect, the first such law to be enacted anywhere in the State of Georgia.  Hopefully neighboring municipalities like Sandy Springs, Roswell and Chamblee will follow suit, and more importantly, the State of Georgia.   VRU laws recognize and prioritize […]

Read More
Minnesota Cycling
Daniel Brazil Apr 23, 2020

On March 6, Minneapolis released a 252-page Transportation Action Plan. The plan’s ultimate goal is to expand transportation options for those walking, biking and taking public transit to get where they need to go.  Through this expansion, Minneapolis hopes to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. One of the […]

Read More
Bike to Work Corona
Daniel Brazil Apr 14, 2020

Not long ago, I published a post highlighting the great efforts being made by the co-chairs of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. One of the co-chairs, Andy Singer, has garnered attention not just for his work for the Coalition but for his policy-based cartoons.  I asked Andy if he’d oblige to another interview to highlight […]

Read More
Load More