Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Insure Thyself: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Today I am going to post a little something about insurance. Sorry to pull the lawyer thing but this is Boston Bike Law, and I am a lawyer after all. Ok here goes:

If you own a car and have registered it in Massachusetts, then you probably have auto insurance. Some of the coverage is mandatory (so if you don't have it you better get it) but some of it is optional and not all drivers have it (or if they have it they don't have enough of it). If you ride bikes, there is a type of optional coverage you really need to look into called underinsured motorist coverage. The coverage potentially applies whether you are in your car, on your bike or hoofing it through Boston traffic on foot.

Why should you consider buying additional underinsured motorist coverage? Because if you get hit by a car while riding your bike, you don't get to choose the net worth of the person who hits you. See all those taxicabs, beaters and tuners out there? Assume they only have $20,000.00 in liability coverage. Medical bills alone can eat up $20,000.00 pretty quickly. If you beef up your underinsured motorist benefits your own insurance policy can make up some or all of the gap in liability insurance coverage which would otherwise exist.

So you may want to go and review your policy declarations page to see the coverage you have, and then talk to your agent about what it would cost to add some additional underinsured motorist coverage. If you ride a bike in Massachusetts, you may find that it's worth it to pay a bit more in premium for some extra coverage.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Must the Fixie Have a Handbrake? Musings on "The 15/30 Rule".

I got a call from a newspaper reporter today asking about the proliferation of fixed gear bikes over the last few years. An interesting question came up during our discussion, about whether it is unlawful to ride a fixie without a front handbrake.

(The question is timely in light of Berlin, Germany's recent crackdown on fixed gear bikes):


Coming a bit closer to home, Massachusetts G.L. c. 85, sec. 11B(7) deals with the issue of "braking systems", and reads as follows:

"Every bicycle operated upon a way shall be equipped with a braking system to enable the operator to bring the bicycle traveling at a speed of fifteen miles per hour to a smooth, safe stop within thirty feet on a dry, clean, hard, level surface." (Click the title link for the whole statute.)

So that clears that up, right? All the bike needs is a "braking system" that complies with the "15/30 rule". (I believe I just made that last term up by the way, so make sure to credit me if you use it.) But what constitutes a "braking system" under Massachusetts law? Presumably, a brake lever and caliper constitute a braking system. Also a disc brake such as those found on a mountain bike would seem to fit the bill as well.

So how about the drivetrain of a fixie? If someone riding a fixie can reverse pedal the bike to a stop as required by the statute, would this qualify the drivetrain as a "braking system"? Is the fact that the drivetrain is also used for propulsion significant in analyzing whether it is a "braking system"? What if only a few riders possess the skill and power to stop the bike as required under the law? Is it a "braking system" for them, but not for other less capable riders?

Sorry to go all Socratic by asking questions but not giving answers, but this is only a blog and I can't give legal advice over the "world wide web". The question is important, though, because there are lots of fixies out there now and there are many legal implications (especially if you get hit by ca car while riding a fixie with no brake), which I won't get into here. Gotta come see me for that.

But if you are riding a fixie right now, maybe it's worth heading out to a parking lot and seeing how you stack up on the "15/30 Rule".

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ted King at Landry's Tonight

Ted King of the Cervelo Test Team will be at Landry's Boston tonight to discuss his racing experiences and his views on next season. Ted is an up and coming pro who is originally from New Hampshire. Should be a good time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Kylie Bruehler Trust Fund

This is a jarring image of 7 year old Kylie Bruehler at the funeral of her parents, who were killed when the tandem bicycle they were riding was struck by a Ford pick up truck. (The title of this post is a link to a slideshow.) According to reports, the couple was riding in the shoulder and the driver swerved into their lane, dragging them 200 feet. No criminal charges have been filed against the driver, with police describing this as "just an accident". This accident happened in Texas, and while I would like to think that charges would be brought against the driver if this happened here in Massachusetts, I do wonder. Some states have a "3 foot rule" under which motorists must remain 3 feet away from the bike when passing. Massachusetts handles it differently, requiring drivers to maintain a "safe distance" under G.L. c. 89, sec. 2.

In a case like this, the driver likely would have been violating either a 3 foot rule or a "safe passing distance" law. Where the Massachusetts law falls short is in situations where the driver doesn't actually hit the cyclist, but only "buzzes" him at a close distance.

A trust fund has been established in Kylie's name. Donations should go to the Kylie Bruehler Benefit Fund, c/o 24165 IH-10 West, Ste. 217-720, San Antonio Texas 78275-1160.

Friday, October 2, 2009